What is a Customer Effort Score (CES) ?


“How much effort did you have to put into making a purchase at a store?”  This is the underlying question behind CES, a powerful new indicator widely used by leading franchises. We haven't heard the last of this new score, so let’s take a look at some reviews.


A Customer Effort Score or CES is an indicator which measures the effort required by customers when they interact with a company. Such customers may be making an in-store or online purchase, or even registering a complaint, for example. 

The basis of the indicator is simple – less effort is important because customers are more likely to remain loyal to the company. As such, the indicator directly coincides with customer satisfaction and loyalty.


CES first appeared on the scene in 2010 when it was featured in the Harvard Business Review. Its creators called into question the notion of “customer delight,” a trend in exceeding customer expectations and charming them to win loyalty.

They referred to a study by the CEB Institute, which concluded that: “Customers want businesses to simply meet rather than exceed expectations or try to delight them in novel ways.”

According to these experts, customer loyalty depends mainly on how companies can minimise effort and optimise the customer experience. As such, CES appears ideal for finding the balance between customer expectations in terms of simplicity and the experience the business provides.

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A Customer Effort Score is determined by asking the following question: “How much effort did you have to put in while purchasing at a store?”  The answer to this question ranges on a scale from 1 to 7 (sometimes 5), with 1 indicating a low-level effort and 7 indicating a high-level effort. 

There are several ways to determine the score. You can either take an average of the scores, or, try something like the NPS method. In the case of the latter, customers are divided into three categories based on the effort evaluation. We will examine these methods in our upcoming article entitled: “How to Calculate and Analyse CES”. 


Although used relatively little here on the Continent, CES is proving to be a big hit in English-speaking countries as it comes with a host of benefits: 

  • A predictive indicator 

CES is a very effective loyalty and growth indicator. According to the Harvard Business Review article, 94% of customers who noted a low-level effort during a transaction also said they would buy again. Furthermore, 88% said they would spend even more next time. On the other hand, 81% of customers who noted high-level effort said they were likely to give negative feedback on the business to friends and family. 

  • A strategic indicator

CES means business decisions on improving the customer experience can be made quickly. The indicator quickly identifies transaction stages requiring a lot of effort on the customer’s behalf. This makes it much easier for businesses to make any necessary changes!

  • A concrete and objective indicator

By evaluating their own effort, the customer doesn’t need to evaluate any staff they encountered. This way, any emotional influences are set aside and as such, the customer’s opinion is less likely to be altered by thinking of staff members at a retail outlet, for example. By noting the effort level they had to put in, the customer’s evaluation will be more concrete and objective. 

  • An indicator that complements others

CES as an indicator focuses mainly on loyalty and in turn, it complements other satisfaction indicators like NPS and CSAT. Each of these indicators measures a different aspect of customer satisfaction so it would be wise to measure them all at some point.

Many studies have demonstrated a very strong correlation between NPS and CES – customers who have to put in high-level effort don’t recommend the business. In contrast, making life easier for customers has a very positive effect on recommendations. 

In 2010, we saw the introduction of the Customer Effort Score: a powerful customer loyalty indicator widely-used by leading enterprises. It has joined the legion of customer satisfaction indicators, complementing the continuous improvement approach effectively. And what if you were to start offering a fuss-free customer experience tomorrow ?

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