How to use the customer effort score

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Think back to your recent experiences with customer service. What made certain experiences better than others? For many, the answer is getting their questions answered both quickly and easily. That makes sense. After all, you probably don’t want to spend more time than you need to figuring out how to do or use something. Furthermore, if you’re measuring the success of a customer interaction, the ease of the experience may actually be more telling than the customer’s overall satisfaction. Customer satisfaction experts have addressed this idea by a new metric for customer satisfaction surveys: the customer effort score.

We’ll review what, exactly, the customer effort score is, why it matters, and how you’d use surveys to measure it during different stages of the customer lifecycle.

Customer effort score overview

The customer effort score is a good metric for measuring the success—or ease—of an isolated interaction with a customer. Here’s an example of what it might look like:

“Overall, how easy was it to solve your problem with our company?”

a. Very easy
b. Easy
c. Neither easy nor difficult
d. Difficult
e. Very difficult

Once responses come back, you can get an idea of how much effort customers feel like they have to put forth to get their issues resolved. In the context of customer experience, your customer effort score carries significant business value. According to the Harvard Business Review, 94% of customers who report a low level of effort would repurchase products from the business while 88% would spend more.

The customer effort score also influences your business’ reputation. Only 1% of customers who experience a low level of effort would share bad things about your business—compared to 81% of those who’ve experienced a high level of effort.

Measuring the customer effort score

At this point, you might be asking yourself, “When is the right time during the customer management process to measure the score?”

The answer is often.

You’d measure the customer effort score to identify and address any obstacles in the customer experience. This means asking the customer effort question at various points of the engagement. Here are some key touchpoints to consider:

  • Following individual interactions with customer support/success
  • Once users complete a certain task on your product
  • After users consume comprehensive information from your business independently (e.g. reading one of your help center articles)

Try to ask the customer effort question immediately after these events (or as soon as possible). That way, the customer’s experience stays top of mind and you’ll be able to collect actionable feedback that’s timely.

And how might you measure the customer effort score? By using a survey, of course!

The customer effort question can be formatted as a simple multiple choice question. We also recommend asking a follow-up, open-ended question that asks the customer why they gave that rating.

For example:

1. On a scale of 1-5, how easy or difficult was it to resolve your issue today with our customer support rep? (Where 1 is the easiest level and 5 is the hardest)
a. 5
b. 4
c. 3
d. 2
e. 1

2. Briefly describe why you selected the number.

When you decide it’s time to send the survey, you have a bunch of options to choose from. You can simply have the customer support/success rep give the customer a link to take the survey, you can send it to several customers at the same time via email, or embed it on your website.

Is measuring it worth the effort?

There are a lot of customer experience metrics to choose from, and measuring customer effort score might not always be the right option for your company. Consider the following pros and cons to help decide whether to use it:

Pros

Cons

  • Only tracks one aspect of the customer experience, which risks oversimplifying a complex, multifaceted issue
  • Only works if you ask customers for feedback soon after the experience

Customers are busy. They expect and want their interactions with your product and service to be easy, fast, and valuable. Use the customer effort score to ensure you’re meeting their expectations and to identify new opportunities that’ll improve their experience. As your organization invests in measures that reduce your customers’ level of effort, you’ll see a big payoff in the things that matter most to your business—like customer retention.