Monitor Your Customer Effort Score (CES) to Determine Customer Loyalty

Customer Effort Score (CES)

The Customer Effort Score (CES) is a metric that quantifies customer loyalty. It measures how much effort a customer has to expend to obtain an answer or solution to a problem. The CES metric is used in two ways. The first asks how much personal effort the customer expended to resolve his or her issue. It’s often reported on a scale of one to five, where one refers to the least effort and five the most. Using this format, you want as low a number as possible.

The second format of the CES metric asks customers to agree or disagree with a statement that solving the problem took little effort. In this format, customers who choose five “Strongly Agree” that it took little effort, while those who choose one “Strongly Disagree.” Here, your goal is to achieve the highest number possible.

The rationale behind CES is that customers become loyal when the service desk helps them solve a problem quickly and easily. The Corporate Executive Board conducted studies of some 75,000 customers who had interacted with a service desk to understand the links between services delivered and customer loyalty. Their findings, reported in the Harvard Business Review (Matthew Dixon, Karen Freeman and Nicholas Toman) in 2010, suggest that “Service organizations create loyal customers primarily by reducing customer effort – i.e., helping them solve their problems quickly and easily – not by delighting them in service interactions.”

Two major findings emerged from the study. First, the research, which included structured interviews with service desk leaders around the world in addition to the 75,000 customer interactions, found that delighting customers does not build loyalty. However, decreasing the effort they have to expend to resolve an issue does correlate to loyalty.

Second, when an organization acts upon that fact, it can decrease customer churn, costs of the service operation and improve the quality of customer service. Industry-leading customer experience experts, like Justin Robbins, Founder, JM Robbins & Associates, also agree.

From what I’ve seen of organizations, the ones who are successful aren’t focused on how their customer experience will help them beat the competition. They focus on how it will best meet the needs, and resolves the current problems, that their customers have. It’s shifting the focus from ‘what can be done to be the best’ to ‘what do we need to do to best serve those who trust us with their business…

What Is the Customer Ease of Service (CES) Definition?

The CES metric is a number that measures loyalty and reflects the aggregate choices of customers who respond to a survey. Early users of CES surveyed customers with a 5-point scale. For example, if the company was asking about the amount of effort each customer had to expend to solve a problem, a scale like this could be used.

  1. Very low effort
    2. Low effort
    3. Neutral
    4. High effort
    5. Very high effort

As CES became popular, many organizations began using a 7-point scale.

  1. Extremely easy
    2. Very easy
    3. Fairly easy
    4. Neither
    5. Fairly difficult
    6. Very difficult
    7. Extremely difficult

More recently, organizations have simplified the scales even further. Some use a 3-point scale…

Unlike CSAT surveys that are given periodically, CES needs to be gathered immediately after a customer touch-point. For instance, the customer should receive a CES survey at the close of an interaction with a service desk agent. Then, as scores are returned by each customer, management needs to proactively seek out reasons for every less-than-excellent response. By asking customers to take a survey that many require only one click, then by following up with displeased customers, CES becomes a fast, simple and effective way to measure and increase customer loyalty.

What is the Customer Ease of Service (CES) Calculation?

The survey asks a question in either of two formats:

How much effort did you personally have to put forth to resolve your issue?
– Or –
Please rate your agreement with the following statement:
(Company Name) made it easy for me to resolve my issue.

The simplest way to calculate the CES is using the average of all responses.
CES = (Sum of all responses) ÷ (Number of responses)

Some organizations use a formula similar to that used for the Net Promoter Score(NPS).
CES = Promoters – Detractors

Those companies that use a 3-point scale can use either the average of all responses, or may choose to subtract unfavorable from favorable, ignoring the neutral center cell (yellow smiley-face).

Because various companies each use different scales it’s not meaningful to compare CES scores across companies. The “ultimate question” is what gives meaning to CES, not the choice of scale to quantify it.

Impact of a Poor Customer Effort Score (CES)

Companies with low CES metrics suffer because they don’t have a solid base of loyal customers. A loyal customer refers friends and associates, which cuts the cost of customer acquisition. Loyal customers spend more and buy more frequently, which helps cash flow. These and other benefits of customer loyalty diminish as the metric falls in the “high effort,” “not easy,” or “Strongly Disagree” CES ranges.

How Best to Monitor Customer Effort Score (CES)

Once you have established a method for collecting customers’ perceptions of your company, product or service, you should have CES displayed in real-time as well as track it for trend analysis. Additionally, you should track CES along with other measures of customer perceptions—metrics like CSAT and NPS.

Service support managers need a real-time understanding of support center performance and their associated personnel and activities. Additionally, reports on service support performance need to be generated on a routine basis, standardized across multiple support centers and be made available between multiple levels of management.

Therefore, utilizing a performance analytics tool you can proactively monitor the effectiveness and efficiency of your service support centers and make confident business decisions based on real-time data and trending. By connecting to multiple technologies and centrally monitoring all your support centers and staff with a single prescriptive dashboard, you can make proactive decisions to minimize risk and maximize your budget. The customer experience will continually improve by monitoring your resources and the impact they’re making.

Ultimately at the end of the day it’s what you do with the data that matters most.

Observation and data are crucial to crafting an experience that will delight your customers and help your organization become a “can’t live without them” company. Processes and data that anticipate needs, and modifies the customer’s experience of your company based on those needs, is the key to phenomenal CX…

shared Pat Perdue, Founder of Socialicity Media, YCASTR and host of Pat Perdue’s Customer Experience Podcast.

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