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What is Customer Effort (CES)?

In recent times we have encountered a new concept, especially in customer services and customer experience management fields: Customer Effort and the significant performance criterion that is based on this concept, the Customer Effort Score...


Customer effort (CES) signifies the effort a customer has to spend to complete a task or to reach a goal while interacting with an organization. The reason the customer is trying to reach the company could be a task such as solving a problem, purchasing a product or service, meeting demand, or acquiring information. Organizations and companies aim to reduce customer effort by making it easier to meet customer expectations through clear and simple processes, easy-to-use interfaces, and knowledgeable/competent customer service representatives.

How to Measure Customer Effort?

The most common way of measuring customer effort is to use CES - Customer Effort Score. This score is generally based on a questionnaire that asks customers to scale the effort that is required to complete a task or interaction between 1-5 or 1-7. This score is later used to determine the general customer effort level for the company and areas of improvement.

For example, the most practical way of calculating the Customer Effort Score is to get the arithmetic mean of the answers from customers to the “Would you like to rate your effort to reach the service you just received from us between 1 and 5?

Why is Customer Effort Important for Enterprises?

As businesses recognized that focusing on customer effort reduction could enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty, the interest in the concept of minimizing customer effort has naturally grown. Studies have shown that customers with low-effort experiences have higher chances of returning to a company and recommending it to others, while customers with high-effort experiences have higher chances of switching to a competitor.

What are the Benefits of Reducing Customer Effort?

One of the most important benefits of reducing customer effort is the possibility of raising customer loyalty. When customers have to spend less effort to accomplish a task or to reach a goal, their chances of returning to a company and recommending it to others are higher. This is because they perceive the company as more user-friendly and easy to work with. Additionally, reducing customer effort allows customer satisfaction to increase. Customers with lower effort experience have a higher chance of being satisfied with a company. This increases both revenue and profit.

How to Reduce Customer Effort?

It is not always easy to reduce customer effort. It requires companies to understand the tasks and interactions that require customers to spend the most effort and then design solutions that will make these tasks and interactions easier. This requires constantly redesigning interfaces, updating interfaces or improving the competence of the customer service representatives constantly by providing them with more training.

The first step to reducing customer effort is to understand where they are having difficulty. This is the exact point where Customer Effort Score takes the spotlight. The score is used to determine certain kinds of tasks and interactions that cause the customers to spend the most effort. After determining these fields, companies should prepare a solution design to facilitate these tasks and interactions. Solution design can encompass redesigning processes after review, rearrangement of interfaces after evaluation, or increasing the solution capacities of the customer services representatives.

Another way to reduce customer effort is to provide customers with self service options. Allowing customers to acquire information or solve their solutions by themselves over self service portal may help the customers to find the information they require in a quick and easy way without having to talk to a customer services representative. Self service also may allow customers to save time and effort and can also help companies to reduce their costs.

What Should We Look Out for When Measuring Customer Effort?

Customer Effort Score (CES) is typically assessed through customer questionnaires. The timing of these customer effort questions, their formulation, and the content of the questionnaire play a crucial role in enhancing customer participation rates and ensuring accurate customer effort calculation.

Administering these questionnaires immediately after a customer receives a service or completes a task ensures evaluation based on 'fresh' information. Nevertheless, anticipating customers to provide objective feedback about the effort they invested, especially following a negative experience, might be an unrealistic expectation.

The method of the questionnaire should be determined per the communication channel choice of the customer. For this reason knowing the communication channel which the customer feels most at ease, communicates easier, and uses the most while having the questionnaire over this channel will affect the questionnaire’s success.

Another subject is the content. The language that you use in your questionnaire and the question that you ask should not cause another customer effort. You should present a scale that will not confuse the customer in their evaluation while using clear, understandable, and plain language. Also, conducting a questionnaire with conditional questions based on the customer’s response via a dynamic questionnaire infrastructure will help you conduct a more in-depth Customer Effort Analysis.

As a result, customer effort is an important concept with ever-increasing value in customer services and customer experience management fields. If reaching the services and products that your enterprise -or your organization- provides becomes another “problem” for your customer then, let alone having a place in your customers’ hearts you will become a brand address that the customers run away from. By having an idea of your customer’s effort to buy your service or product, you can recognize the development areas of your business and secure your commercial continuity with the measurements you will take.

Gürkan Platin
Gürkan Platin, a graduate of Hacettepe University Management and Organization, worked as a manager in various positions at Mensan, Citibank, Garanti Bank and Credit Registration Bureau, respectively. Platin has been blogging since 1996 and his articles are published in various national and international publications.
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