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What is Customer Effort Score (CES)?


What is Customer Effort Score (CES) from a marketing perspective? The Customer Effort Score (CES) is a survey used to determine how easily customers interacted with your company to meet their needs. This interaction could involve customer support, purchasing, sales, and more. Compared to other marketing research metrics like CSAT or NPS, CES is relatively ‘young.’ However, numerous studies confirm its direct impact on customer loyalty.

In our article, we will delve into what Customer Effort Score (CES) is, explore the formula for calculating CES, and understand how the values and interpretation of CES results influence call center operations. Read to the end not to miss the four most effective approaches to improving Customer Effort Score (CES).

What is Customer Effort Score (CES): A Bit of History

The Customer Effort Score (CES) metric was developed by the CEB Corporate Executive Board, now part of Gartner – a leading global research and consulting company in the field of information technology. The popularity of Customer Effort Score (CES) began to rise after the publication of an article in the Harvard Business Review in 2010 titled ‘Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers.’

Summarizing the article, the authors, based on research involving over 75,000 individuals, argue that reducing customer effort at each stage of interaction with the company is the true key to customer loyalty. What does this mean?

Customer Effort Score: A Bit of Psychology

Fact: people are more inclined to complain about products or services than praise them. Every extra second waiting in a phone queue, every call transfer to another agent, every mistaken response increases the chances that the customer will bid farewell to you forever.

Furthermore, over 81% of customers who had to exert significant effort to resolve their issues intend to spread negative information about their experience.

Customers want to resolve issues quickly with as little effort as possible. The Customer Effort Score (CES) index was precisely developed as a simple way to measure these efforts and address interaction pain points to enhance the Customer Experience.

How to Conduct Customer Effort Score (CES) Surveys?

Surveys regarding the level of effort customers had to exert in their interactions with a company are conducted in a question-and-answer format. Questions are framed in the form of ‘How easy/difficult…?’ For the response, customers are provided with a scale ranging from 1 to 5 (or 1 to 7), correlating with the following answers:

1 – Very easy;

2 – Easy;

3 – Neither;

4 – Difficult;

5 – Very difficult.

It’s clear that a lower score indicates a better outcome.


Customer Effort Score (CES): Calculation Examples

Let’s imagine that we want to find out from our contact center customers how easy it was for them to interact with our new IVR menu. Then, we ask our customers to rate the ease of interaction on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is very easy, and 5 is very difficult. Suppose 20 customers provided ratings from 1 to 5. To calculate the CES score, we need to sum up all the ratings and divide by 20 (the number of assessment participants).

2+3+1+1+2+4+3+3+2+2+1+3+2+1+4+2+2+3+4+1 = 46/20 = 2.3

In our case, the Customer Effort Score (CES) is 2.3 on a five-point scale. As per CEB Global, a Customer Effort Score above 2.0 is considered a good CES score.

Alternative Calculation Method for Customer Effort Score (CES)

The customer interaction experience with a company can be traced using various CES survey models. For example, Gartner recommends using a 7-point scale, asking questions like, ‘To what extent do you agree with the statement…’ where 1 means ‘completely disagree,’ and 7 means ‘completely agree.’ The question to customers would be formulated as follows:

Do you agree with the statement that getting help has become easier with the introduction of the chatbot on the website?


In this survey variant, the CES formula would be:

CES = number of satisfied customers (rating 5-7) / number of responses * 100%.

Let’s assume that 100 respondents answered the survey. Sixty of them rated 5, 6, or 7. In this case, CES = 60/100 * 100% = 60%

The higher the CES score, the better the customer retention level and overall loyalty (NPS). According to Harvard Business Review, businesses with a high CES have a 90% likelihood of customers engaging with them again.

Gartner’s research indicates that companies with a high customer effort score have, on average, a 65% higher NPS compared to those where customers have to exert a lot of effort. People simply don’t like to make an effort!

What is considered a good CES score?

The level of Customer Effort Score (CES) considered normal can vary depending on the industry and customer preferences. Generally, a high CES indicates that customers need to exert significant effort to perform a desired action or resolve an issue. On the other hand, a low CES suggests that customers easily handle tasks and achieve desired outcomes without significant effort.

Overall conclusions based on the Customer Effort Score (CES) index are as follows:

Customer Effort Score (CES)Value Interpretation
100%-80%Processes for customer interaction are excellent
80%-60%Customers make minimal effort in issue resolution
60%-40%Interaction needs simplification
40%-0%You are losing customers!
Interpretation of CES Survey Results

Each company or organization may have target CES benchmarks. To determine a normal CES level for your company, it’s essential to consider context, industry standards, and customer expectations.

It’s also crucial to view CES in conjunction with other customer experience metrics and customer feedback to obtain a comprehensive picture.

When should CES surveys be conducted?

The idea behind the Customer Effort Score (CES) is to immediately conduct surveys after someone interacts with your business. CES surveys should be conducted:

  • Immediately after interacting with the call center/customer service
  • Right after purchasing a product or service
  • After someone cancels an order
  • After someone completes a session with a chatbot, etc.

Importantly, conducting customer surveys immediately after interaction, while the customer still remembers the details and is willing to share them, is crucial. Marketing research for the Customer Effort Score (CES) can be carried out through email campaigns, automated chatbots, survey forms on the website, in a mobile application, or by conducting surveys through the call center.

Why is Customer Effort Score (CES) important for a call center?

The Customer Effort Score (CES) is highly important for call centers as it provides valuable insights into how easily customers achieve their goals during interactions with the contact center. Here are several reasons why implementing CES research is necessary for call center operations:

Predictive Function

CES significantly outperforms in predicting intentions for future purchases compared to Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) or Net Promoter Score (NPS).

Enhancement of Customer Experience (CX)

Minimizing the Customer Effort Score (CES) in the call center improves the overall customer experience, leading to increased loyalty.

Reduction of Customer Disappointment

High levels of effort lead to disappointment and dissatisfaction. By tracking CES, contact centers can identify pain points in the customer journey and take proactive measures to optimize processes, reducing disappointment and improving overall customer sentiment.

Opportunities for Service Improvement

CES surveys provide specific feedback on individual aspects of the customer journey that may need improvement. Call centers can leverage this feedback to identify problematic points or processes that can be streamlined or enhanced.

Boost in Operational Efficiency

Optimizing processes and reducing CES levels in the call center leads to increased operational efficiency. By identifying and addressing complex interaction points, contact centers can streamline workflows and allocate resources more effectively.

Cost Savings

Reducing the Customer Effort Score (CES) results in cost savings for both the customer and the call center. When customers can quickly and easily resolve issues, there is a reduced need for repeat contacts, lowering overall operational expenses.

How to Improve Customer Effort Score (CES) in the Call Center?

As we’ve discussed in our material on business process outsourcing, many large companies outsource their outdated and cumbersome call centers. Outsourcing a call center is an excellent opportunity to allow professionals to enhance KPIs and customer satisfaction indicators, including the Customer Effort Score (CES).

Otherwise, you can quickly improve the Customer Effort Score (CES) by implementing the following approaches:

Employee Experience (EX) Improvement

The call center agents’ experience correlates with the services provided to customers. Providing the contact center team with powerful digital tools helps extrapolate employee experience to customer experience.

For instance, the Sirius cloud call center platform allows agents to create ready responses to typical support requests. These user-friendly macros can be deployed with just one mouse click, ensuring a quick response in communication with customers. The platform also supports built-in knowledge bases, enabling agents to quickly search for information and provide solutions.

Additionally, the Sirius platform has built-in time management and shift management tools that help agents maintain high productivity, directly impacting all metrics, including CES.

Omnichannel Capability

Modern consumers expect multichannel support: the ability to smoothly transition conversations from one support channel to another. Providing such an experience is crucial for reducing the Customer Effort Score (CES).

The tools of our Sirius cloud call center platform allow easy switching between channels such as regular and IP telephony, email, messengers, and social networks, ensuring that the relevant context is never lost. Agents have all customer information in one workspace, making it easier (and faster) to resolve customer issues.

Self-Service Tools

IVR systems and AI-powered chatbots are used to handle common queries in customer support or contact centers. Considering that instant response has become the most critical factor for customers, self-service automation tools begin to play a crucial role in improving the Customer Effort Score (CES).

By reducing wait times and providing customers with sufficient resources for self-help, you eliminate unnecessary friction and enable them to find the solutions they need.

Feedback Analysis

Analyzing customer feedback helps understand the reasons for their CES rating. It is recommended to reach out to customers to inquire about the difficulties they encountered when contacting the call center or using the product or service.

Segmenting data regarding the Customer Effort Score (CES) allows identifying areas that need improvement. For example, it is worthwhile to compare the CES for each customer service channel.

In Conclusion

It is worth mentioning that the Customer Effort Score (CES) assessment is crucial for improving call center services as it provides a nuanced understanding of the customer experience. As companies strive to be customer-centric, the Customer Effort Score (CES) becomes a valuable tool for comparative analysis, goal setting, and ultimately achieving a seamless customer journey effortlessly.

By carefully measuring and minimizing customer efforts, contact centers not only quickly identify pain points but also shape a path of continuous improvement. Real-time measurement of the CES index with feedback and forecasting capabilities allows contact centers not only to meet customer expectations but also to exceed them.

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Фахівець з маркетингу компанії Global Bilgi
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