4 Steps to Improving Customer Effort Scores (CES)

Posted by John Hooper

A relatively new concept, Customer Effort Score (CES) is challenging traditional customer experience metrics such as customer satisfaction and Net Promoter Scores (NPS).

CES is a measurement metric that was first presented in a 2010 Harvard Business Review article by Matthew Dixon and his colleagues. CES operates on the premise that rather than focusing on exceeding expectations to build loyalty, companies should make it as easy as possible for customers to resolve issues and get what they need. The CES is based on responses to one metric: “How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?” CES is scored on a scale from 1 (very low effort) to 5 (very high effort).

[caption id="attachment_713" align="alignnone" width="300"]Image removed. Improving Customer Effort Scores[/caption]


What’s the Value of CES?

Predictive: The predictive power of the CES is impressive. In a study by the above authors including 75,000 customers across a wide range of industries, 94% of customers who put in less effort to complete a transaction with a company said that they intended to repurchase a product or service from that company.

Actionable: The added value of CES is that it is transaction-based and much more actionable than broader measures like NPS. If your organization has poor CES scores, you know immediately that you have to find out which stages in the call flow or contact management process are serving as friction points and focus on ways to make it easier for customers to get what they need.

How Can You Improve CES?

If your business has high CES scores (meaning customers have to work hard to get their issues resolved), this straightforward strategy will provide a framework for improvement.

  1. Assess your current processes: Study customer interaction data, form a pattern of issues and create a plan to head off future issues in advance. For example, if you are moving customers from one department to another when they call or prompting customers to switch channels in the middle of an interaction, it is likely time to make some workflow changes.
  2. Use tools and technology to build a road map.
    • Start by ensuring your IVR menu contains specific options that will route inquiries to the right place.
    • Boost your self-serve capabilities so that your customers can resolve their queries without the aid of an agent.
    • Focus on channels that can help you reduce CES more easily than others. For example, studies show that it takes fewer phone calls to resolve complex issues compared to email conversations. Chat, as a real-time channel, generally helps solve problems faster.
    • Maintain an informative and rich database of customer issues to help contact center agents understand the issue quickly, sparing the customer the effort of explaining the issue in detail.
    • Implement an integrated system that allows agents to capture detailed notes and provide check boxes to easily document which resolution steps customers have already taken. This will prevent customers from having to repeat steps or provide the same information over again in subsequent contacts with different agents.
    • If you have implemented an omni-channel solution ensure that, regardless of channel, your agents have access to all channel data so they can provide a seamless customer experience without customers having to constantly repeat their issue if they change channel.
  3. Define your strategy to reduce CES and then execute that strategy one step at a time. Make increased sales, loyalty and reduction of CES a major focus point for your company that every employee can work toward. Lessen focus on KPIs and keep your customer focus as simple and personalized as possible.
  4. Focus on negative customer feedback. This is what will give you the right idea about the kind of problems customers faced which actually increased the amount of effort they had to put in to solve their problem.

A common sense approach to reducing customer effort will help ensure your customers remain loyal to your brand and repeatedly repurchase. In addition, reducing customer effort can also lower your total cost of operations by insuring faster issue resolution with fewer escalations, transfers and repeat contacts.