For many years, organisations the world over have been grappling with the best metric to reflect the way their customers feel about their brand. From the age-old call quality to first call resolution, through to Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) and the ubiquitous Net Promoter Score (NPS), there is a measure for every angle.
In the last few years however, the Customer Effort Score (CES) has become an increasingly popular approach for measuring customer satisfaction and is worthy of consideration for your company.
So what is 'Customer Effort'?
Unlike the traditional view of overall customer satisfaction with a brand or a transaction, the Customer Effort Score (CES) focuses specifically on the amount of effort a customer undertakes in their interactions with a company.
The CES is based on conducting a survey with customers where only one question is asked:
"How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your question/request/issue?"
The response is on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is very low effort, and 5 is very high effort.
What is the difference between Customer Effort and NPS?
NPS tells you how you've performed - it's a lagging indicator.
A limitation with NPS is that despite giving you a sense of how your brand is perceived, it doesn't guide on you on where you can improve your customer service standards.
While CES also reflects performance, it also serves as a much stronger predictive metric of customer loyalty. Research conducted by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) has indicated that 96% of customers with high-effort experiences became more disloyal ongoing, in comparison to only 9% of customers with low-effort experiences.
Research conducted in 2010 by the Harvard Business Review of 75,000 B2C and B2B customers indicated that 94% of customers with low-effort experiences had interest in repurchasing.
Why should I measure Customer Effort as well?
NPS is focused on how happy the customer was with the result of the overall interaction, and is a useful measure in assessing the customer’s view of your brand.
CSAT gives a good sense of overall satisfaction with the interaction but does not give any indication of the effort the customer expended for their enquiry to be resolved.
Customer Effort reflects the unvoiced element that sits behind each customer enquiry, regardless of service channel: to not just have their issue resolved, but to have it sorted out quickly and easily.
Evaluating your customers’ experiences on the basis of how they feel about your brand overall doesn’t necessarily give you a complete picture of customer satisfaction. When you're thinking about which metrics are most valuable for assessing the strengths and weaknesses of your customer experience, measuring all three – CES, NPS and CSAT – can provide the most rounded perspective across effort required, brand perception and overall satisfaction with the customer experience.
Who is measuring Customer Effort?
In short, many companies around the world. To give you some examples:
A North American energy utility achieved a CES result 26% lower than the industry average as well as a 6% increase in FCR after developing a set of programs to reduce customer effort, including greater use of webchat and usage alert tools to reduce the likelihood of callbacks, a major contributor to customer effort.
A US-based financial services provider has made Customer Effort a core component of contact centre agent quality assessment. Results across customer satisfaction and retention improved significantly once the program was introduced, and employee satisfaction also increased by over 10%.
More recently, the question has been revised by CEB (creators of the CES) as:
"The company made it easy for me to handle my issue"
This has been applied by British Telecom (BT) as a "net easy" score. Subsequent research indicated that their introduction of the Customer Effort Score was a better predictor of loyalty than using a CSAT approach.
Measurements like NPS and CSAT are certainly important ways of assessing the extent of advocacy your customers are willing to provide for your brand. Understanding how efficiently you’ve been able to deliver these satisfaction measures is the missing link; customers could easily be leaving thinking that it was hard work but worth it. How much more powerful would both their advocacy and their loyalty be if it was easy too?
CES is the balancing measure, and coupled with your existing metrics it could change the way you think about your customer experience – and the way they think about you.