Outshining the competition using the Customer Effort Score

Happy customers are loyal customers. But how can companies keep hold of their customers in the long term? Service quality is the answer. And the Customer Effort Score is an effective tool for measuring that.

The Customer Effort Score – an important metric in customer management
Image: © fotogestoeber / Adobe Stock

Minimal customer effort equates to success

Automated chatbots are always giving the same answer, an order placement was interrupted for no reason, and a form won’t open – even the slightest inconveniences leave customers frustrated. Their natural reaction is to turn their backs on you and try their luck elsewhere.

To prevent that from happening, it’s important for companies to know exactly how satisfied their customers are and to respond to flaws in the customer journey. The eye-opening and frequently cited study “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers” by Matthew Dixon, Karen Freeman, and Nicholas Toman, published in 2010, was ahead of its time and showed that a positive customer journey shouldn’t just be based on the experience aspect.

Whether or not customers stay loyal to a company depends much more on how much effort they have to put in for their specific user expectation to be met.

What is the Customer Effort Score – and why is it important?

The aim of any sustainable marketing strategy is to increase the customer lifetime value. That only works when a lasting business/customer relationship is established. The key question is: how can you strengthen the loyalty to your brand or service from a sales and marketing perspective? That’s where the Customer Effort Score (CES) comes into play. To understand what your customers are thinking, you have to ask them.

The Customer Effort Score is essentially a metric that gives companies insight into how satisfied their customers are. It focuses on the measurable customer effort – an important value for the customer relationship. When a company optimizes the interaction between itself and prospective buyers, that in turn increases loyalty. Alongside overall customer satisfaction and the likelihood that customers will recommend the company in question (Net Promoter Score), the CES plays a significant role in customer relationship management.

Problems in corporate communication and how they can be resolved

The Customer Effort Score is usually calculated on the basis of a specific interaction process between a company and its customers. When putting ourselves in the customer’s shoes, the following questions, among others, are important in terms of the interaction:

  • Did I receive quick and informative advice?
  • Was the ordering process easy and clear?
  • Are complaints dealt with in my favor?

Those are typical examples of how inadequate or complex process steps can often lead to dissatisfied customers. Only by correctly identifying potentially existing problems can you also improve your service. For that reason, you should ask your customers how they rate the interaction. A digital survey created using online tools is one great way of doing this.

It’s common knowledge that ratings and results are only ever as good as the survey itself. That also applies to designing a CES survey, so take note of the following points:

  • Ask the right questions: In line with the CES philosophy, you should ask simple, yet targeted questions that don’t overwhelm customers – after all, they’re voluntarily taking part in the survey. Avoid asking leading questions, because it is obvious to see when results are being steered in a certain direction. However, neutral questions usually don’t produce useful results.
  • Integrate a scaling system: The questions you ask should always determine the level of effort and not focus on overall satisfaction. Asking customers how much they agree with a statement using the Likert scale and ratings from 1 to 7 is a popular method, e.g. “I was able to reach customer service without any problems or waiting time”, with 1 being “completely disagree” and 7 being “totally agree”.
  • The right timing: Since the Customer Effort Score measures the customer effort involved in a specific transaction, customers should be surveyed without too much of a time delay. For example, customers should be asked immediately afterwards how friendly they thought the interaction was.

Satisfied customers come back again and again

Quick processes and problem-free communication are the keys to success. You could have the best product on the market, but if you don’t meet the service expectation that customers have during the purchasing process or when seeking advice, you’ll lose them to the competition – for good in some cases.

In contrast, if your customers undergo a trouble-free, transparent, and effortless interaction process, they will always remember it as a positive experience and the likelihood that they will reach out to you again will be pretty much guaranteed.

The principle is simple: less is more. Less customer effort equates to more customer loyalty and thus a greater customer lifetime value.

But be careful not to overdo it with your customer service. Always giving customers an extra freebie ultimately misses the mark. Meeting customer expectations doesn’t mean wasting your customers’ time by being excessively attentive. All that matters is that they get what they came for.

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