Measuring Customer Experience: Customer Effort Score (CES)

Several methods exist that help companies and their call centers track and evaluate the quality of the experiences customers have when they interact with call center agents. Each of these methods examines a different aspect of the customer experience and can work together to provide insights that can lead to improvements in customer relationships as well as increased profitability.

The most common metrics, the Customer Effort Score (CES), the Net Promoter Score (NPS) and the Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) all contribute to the effort to satisfy customers to the point where they become brand advocates and lifelong customers.

Measuring, monitoring and improving each of these three metrics can contribute to effective call center management and ongoing performance improvements. Additionally, the use of customer experience evaluations can result in the lucrative repeat business that companies need to reduce selling costs and thereby create an edge over competitors.


Defining Customer Effort Score (CES)

When customers require a minimal amount of effort to deal with a brand, they have a high likelihood of becoming repeat customers. The CES uses a survey to measure, from the perspective of the customer, how much effort was required to deal with a company or brand. If too much effort is required, the customer will likely decide to shop somewhere else in the future.

Data collected while measuring the CES helps companies and their call centers to identify and remove impediments to a smooth customer experience. By continually monitoring the CES, managers can judge the effectiveness of the remedial efforts and take additional actions to create an effortless customer experience.

Unlike the CSAT, which predicts whether customers will continue to buy a product or service, the CES metric predicts future spending behavior. Another metric, the customer sentiment score, can add depth to the customer experience evaluation by uncovering customer feelings and predicting customer dissatisfaction.


Measuring CES

Two versions of the CES exist. The first asks the question, “How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?”. The customer response the question on a five-point scale, with five being the highest possible amount of effort.

The second version, which is the newest, asks the degree to which a customer agrees or disagrees with the following statement: “The organization made it easy for me to handle my issue.” Many organizations prefer the latter version because it simplifies both the wording and the response to the survey.

Calculating the CES for an organization means to simply take the average of all customer effort scores. For example, for a call center with three customer responses of 1, 3, and 5, the CES would be 3 ((1+3+5)/3).

Version 2 of the CES generates a score between -100 and +100, from the possible responses of “easy,” “difficult” or “neither.” The calculation first divides the number of “easy” responses by the total number of responses and then repeats the calculation for the “difficult.” After that, the percentage of “difficult” is subtracted by the percentage of “easy” to get the final score.

For example, if when using the second CES version, the firm received ten responses including five “easy”, two “neither” and three “difficult,” the percentage of “easy” would be 50 (5/10) and the percentage of “difficult” would be 30 (3/10). In this case, the score would be 20 (50-30).


Applying CES to the Call Center

Although the CES can apply to the firm as a whole, managers can also apply it as a key performance indicator (KPI) for the call center. After all, the contact center provides the primary interface between customers and the brand and, therefore, can have the greatest possible effect on the customer experience.

To begin with, the CES has a direct correlation with customer satisfaction. With this in mind, managers should understand that an exceptional and effortless call center experience can substantially affect the score for the entire organization. In other words, by improving call center customer satisfaction rates by reducing CES, the firm can boost its profitability and create an environment that promotes sustainable growth.

In the same way, the call center can benefit from the CES score because of its association with customer loyalty. In fact, reducing the effort required for customers to interact with a brand increased their devotion by almost 20 percentage points. At the same time, reducing customer effort spiked by more than 33 percent.

Finally, CES applies to the call center by embracing agent empowerment. When customers hear “yes” more often than “no,” the effort required to find solutions diminishes, resulting in substantial gains in customer satisfaction and retention.


CES and NPS as Complementary Measures

Companies and their call centers can reap additional benefits by interpreting customer effort data in the light of their net promoter scores. Research data shows that customers who can easily interact with a brand are likely to recommend that brand to their relatives, friends and associates.

In practice, NPS provides an overview of customer satisfaction and CES provides data that reflects how well the call center handles customer issues. Although the two metrics seem in some ways similar, they can combine to give organizations an improved view of the customer experience that they provide.

Generally, call centers can benefit by simultaneously measuring and assessing multiple customer experience metrics. Getting the maximum benefit from the practice, however, may require a certain amount of trial and error. Additionally, managers may wish to improve the efficiency of the measurement process by creating optimized surveys that can minimize the intrusiveness of data collection.


The customer experience evaluation can involve any number of relevant metrics but primarily depends on the CES, CSAT and NPS. In the case of the CES, managers can use collected data to simplify the processes that guide user interaction and subsequently encourage customers to promote their brand and remain loyal to it.


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