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by Emily Neier
on September 11, 2018

Your customer service strategy is the lighthouse for your customers, ensuring they stay on the right path and out of the rocks with your product or service. But how strong is the bulb in your lighthouse? Is it so bright that your customers hardly see the shore and keep sailing on, or is it not bright enough that some of your customers are still crashing into the rocks? One way to measure the brightness of your customer service strategy lighthouse is to calculate your company’s customer effort score.

What is the Customer Effort Score?

Your organization’s customer effort score (CES) is a measure of how much effort customers feel they put in to solve a problem related to your products or services. This one-question survey asks respondents, “To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statement: 'The company made it easy for me to handle my issue.'” As this can be a mouthful, variations exist, like, “How easy was it for you to solve your problem?” Customers respond with answers from “very difficult” to “very easy.” Your CES is an average of all the scores given by respondents, on a scale from 1 (very difficult) to 7 (very easy).

Since the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) first introduced the CES survey in 2008, the wording and scoring has changed for clarity and consistency with other customer survey scores. Originally, the CES survey asked, “How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?” and was scored on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 was “very little effort” and 5 was “very high effort.” As the newest customer loyalty and satisfaction metric, this conflicted with NPS and CSAT scoring practices, where higher scores are better. The CEB also found that the word, “effort” didn’t translate universally between languages.

When to ask a CES survey

While customer loyalty metrics like NPS are best to send out at regular intervals, CES is something customers should encounter more sporadically. As CES measures the level of difficulty a customer experienced trying to solve a problem, customers should encounter a CES survey following an interaction with a customer support team or support content. When working with phone or email customer support, it’s important to offer this survey immediately after the customer’s problem has been solved.

CES surveys can be sent in follow-up emails after a phone call or support ticket has been resolved, but they can also be placed on self-service content like knowledge base articles or video tutorials on your company’s website. Attaching CES surveys to self-service support content will gauge if customers are finding that content useful and relevant to their problems, a core idea of inbound content creation.

The HubSpot Service Hub offers a Customer Feedback tool kit that lets you build and customize CES surveys. Customer Feedback also tracks all your survey responses and calculates your CES for you (as well as your other customer loyalty and satisfaction metrics), and results are displayed to you on the service dashboard.

How to use CES data

It’s much easier to stop a leak than save a sinking ship, and CES data can help you plug leaks in your customer support strategy before it’s too late. Nicereply points out that since CES is calculated as an average, it’s important to analyze the distribution of scores. For example, if customers receiving phone support are giving higher scores than those responding to surveys linked to knowledge base articles, your overall average might balance out to a good score (in the 5 range), but there’s a big discrepancy in the quality of support between channels. Offer a follow-up question for customers to explain their score and look for trends among these answers to identify where and why customers are struggling.

Using your CES results to fill gaps in your customer service strategy will likely improve your overall customer loyalty. Considering 60% of customers stopped doing business with a company after a bad service experience, CES is an effective tool for gauging customer loyalty. A study released by the CEB in 2010 showed the correlation between level of customer effort and loyalty, reporting that companies who successfully replaced high-customer-effort approaches with low-customer-effort ones saw a rise in their CES and a drop in churn rates.

Additionally, the CEB found that there was not a significant increase in customer loyalty between customers whose expectations were met and those whose expectations were exceeded. While raising a customer from a “1” (very difficult) to a “5” (somewhat easy) increases loyalty 22%, raising that “5” to a “7” (very easy) only increases loyalty by 2%. For your customer service team, initial efforts should be on turning pumpkins into carriages, not carriages into cars. Inbound is all about delighting customers, but it’s hard to go that extra step when the one before it isn’t there.

Providing helpful, relevant content for your leads, prospects, and customers is the heart of inbound methodology. The HubSpot Service Hub gives you all the tools you need to build your customer service lighthouse and shine a light that’ll keep your customers off the rocks.

If you’re ready to start saving your customers’ ships, click the link below to schedule a demo of the HubSpot Service Hub!

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