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How Customer Effort is Measured

sighThe purpose of the column is to familiarize you with the KPIs that really matter to your organization and to provide you with actionable insight on how to leverage these KPIs to improve your performance. This month, I look at customer effort.

Customer effort measures how easy it is for your customers to do business with you. The metric is captured by surveying your customers and asking them the following question: “How easy was it to get the resolution you wanted today?”

Measured on a scale of 1–7, a customer effort score (CES) of 1 indicates an extremely difficult experience, while a CES of 7 indicates an effortless experience.

Customer effort, customer satisfaction, and net promoter score are the three metrics that comprise the customer experience. Increasingly, customer effort, customer satisfaction, and net promoter are combined into a single customer survey in which the customer is asked to rate their experience on all three metrics, thereby producing an overall customer experience score. In previous Metric of the Month articles, I have discussed not only customer experience, but also customer satisfaction and net promoter.

Why It’s Important

Customer effort was first introduced in 2008 by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB). CEB’s research demonstrated that a reduction in customer friction is a better predictor of customer loyalty than one exceptional experience at a single touchpoint. In fact, CEB found that 81% of customers going through a high level of effort are likely to share their bad experience with friends versus only 1% of those who went through an effortless experience. In other words, a reduction in customer friction is a better predictor of customer loyalty than one exceptional experience at a single touchpoint.

Before the introduction of CES, service delivery organizations were devoting too many resources to creating exceptional experiences at individual touch points (e.g., customer satisfaction on initial contact). These efforts produced no demonstrable ROI and did very little to improve the customer experience. CES is designed to address this shortcoming.

Key Drivers of Customer Effort

Customer effort is driven primarily by the six factors below:

  • Consistency and clarity of information
  • The need to repeat information
  • The length of time the customer is on hold
  • First Contact Resolution
  • IVR complexity and support structure navigation
  • Transfers and channel hopping

Several years ago, Support.com surveyed more than 2,000 U.S. consumers in an effort to understand what connected consumers were most frustrated with during their support experience. The survey (“Customer Effort and The Direct Impact on the Brand Relationship”) considered touchpoints throughout the entire customer journey—from purchasing and setup to troubleshooting and upgrading.

The survey revealed:

  • Nearly a quarter (24%) of all respondents were frustrated when they were forced to repeat information at each step
  • 19% were frustrated when they were forced to wait on hold
  • 19% were frustrated when a representative was not able to resolve the issue on first contact
  • 15% were frustrated when they were navigating the phone tree
  • 13% when they were forced to use their valuable time to fix an issue that they did not intend to have
  • 11% were frustrated when they were transferred to another representative to get the issue fixed.

Benchmark Data for Customer Effort

Twenty-nine percent of support organizations currently track customer effort. Of these, almost all track at least one other customer experience metric—either customer satisfaction, net promoter, or both. The average CES for IT service desks is 4.12, on a scale of 1–7, with 7 being the best score (i.e., the least effort), while a top quartile score is 6.2 or above.

Metrics are only useful if they give you actionable results. Follow these columns to see what metrics that might be worth your time, and how to best utilize them for improved customer experience (CX).

This article first appeared in HDI.

Topics: Best Practices, Customer Experience, Metrics