What is Customer Effort Score (CES): The Ultimate Guide to Measuring and Improving CES

What is Customer Effort Score (CES): The Ultimate Guide to Measuring and Improving CES

Are you looking for an effective metric to measure user sentiment?

If that’s the case, you’ll find Customer Effort Score or CES the perfect metric for your SaaS business. Measuring CES helps you keep tabs on a crucial aspect of any business – customer loyalty.

But how can a single metric possibly help you monitor customer loyalty? You’ll have to read the rest of the post to find out.

In this article, you’ll learn all about Customer Effort Score including:

  • why you should measure it
  • how you can measure it
  • when to measure it
  • how to improve it

Let’s get right into it!


  • Customer Effort Score (CES) is a metric that measures the effort required by a customer to interact with your business.
  • Measuring your CES allows you to identify where the problem lies, leading to less friction and better customer experience.
  • Making your users feel listened to will increase the possibility of receiving more feedback and reduce the chances of bad word-of-mouth.
  • The Customer Effort Score surveys help you evaluate experience across different touchpoints and proactively fix any issues before users churn.
  • The most commonly used channels to send customer effort score survey is in-app or email.
  • Customer effort score calculation: (number of ratings of 5, 6, and 7/number of responses) x 100
  • Using CES surveys along with NPS and CSAT will offer you a better idea about the overall customer experience for your product.
  • Analyzing and segmenting your customer feedback data allows you to automate specific responses to CES surveys.
  • Building in-app interactive walkthroughs that guide users step by step engage users with your product better.
  • Offering in-app self-service support using an in-app resource center or a knowledge base allows users to get help within the app whenever they need it.
  • Some of the best customer feedback tools include Hotjar, Nicereply, and Typeform.
  • Userpilot not only allows you to add micro surveys to your product but also lets you build guides and a resource center to offer support directly inside the app.

What is Customer Effort Score (CES)?

Customer Effort Score (CES) is a  customer experience metric that measures the effort a customer has to put in to interact with your business. Those interactions include resolving an issue, requesting a feature, or simply asking a question.

Customer Effort Score CES
Source: Hotjar

History of Customer Effort Score

Customer Effort Score is a fairly new concept, which gained rapid popularity when HBR published an article on companies trying to “delight” their customers.

The article suggested that companies should make it easy for customers to use their products instead of constantly trying to surprise them. This is a better way of gaining customer trust and ensuring that they are loyal to your brand.

Research by the Corporate Executive Board (CEB) also shows that focusing on customer effort can help companies reduce customer service costs as well as churn.

A book titled “The Effortless Experience”, published in 2013 stated that 96% of customers who have a high-effort service interaction become more disloyal. This is a huge number when you compare it to just 9% of those with low-effort experience. And it’s not a secret that disloyal customers cost the company more by spreading negative feedback and discouraging some potential customers.

Benefits of measuring the Customer Effort Score

We’ve come a long way since 2010 when the HBR article shot Customer Effort Score to popularity. As SaaS businesses started measuring it to understand the ease of use, a few more benefits began taking shape.

Less friction and improved user experience

Measuring Customer Effort Score leads to less friction, as you can now identify where your users need help.

Are they facing issues engaging with a feature? How much effort does it take for them to contact support?

If you can identify where the problem lies, you can act on it and reduce friction. This, in return, improves the overall user experience and makes it easier for your users to move from one stage to another in their lifecycle.

user journey SaaS
Source: Userpilot

Proactively limit negative word of mouth and increase customer loyalty

When you ask for feedback from your users and then act on it, you show them that you care. Users who feel listened to are more likely to offer valuable feedback and be more patient when they encounter a bug.

These users will generally let you know first when they find a bug instead of spreading bad word of mouth.

The recipe for success here is not only to collect feedback but also immediately take action. Customers need to know their voice is heard, and it matters.

Evaluate and optimize the customer experience across multiple touchpoints

Customer Effort Score surveys are specific and focus on evaluating experience across different touchpoints.

This means you can identify specific issues and friction points. Evaluating experience across different touchpoints also allows you to proactively fix them before users churn, or simply drop off before they even get to the activation point.

This will result in a better user experience and getting consistent value at each touchpoint.

By now, you might realize how measuring CES can help you streamline the experience for your users and benefit your business at the same time. Let’s take a look at how you can start measuring CES for your product.

How to measure customer effort score?

CES is measured using a survey that asks a specific question related to the user experience after engaging with parts of the product or your team. The survey either uses a numerical scale from 1 to 5 or 1 to 7 or emoticons with angry to happy faces to make it more engaging and easy for the user.

The most commonly used channels to send a CES survey are in-app and email.

In-app CES surveys

As you might’ve guessed, in-app CES surveys are delivered to the users right inside the product.

This makes it more contextual as users see them right after they complete an action. The action can range from engaging with a feature, engaging with the customer service team, reaching a milestone, and more.

In-app CES surveys also allow you to automate responses based on the answers easily.

 In-app CES surveys
Source: Nicereply

Email CES surveys

Compared to in-app surveys, email CES surveys may not be relevant to the user by the time they see it. They might miss it altogether.

Besides, it’s unlikely that the user will see the email immediately after taking action within the app. This decreases the chances of actually answering the survey or giving an accurate response, as the experience is not top of their mind anymore.

It also becomes harder to get back to them or automate responses. Sending a delayed answer also reduces its effectiveness compared to the one sent instantly.

How to calculate the Customer Effort Score?

Customer Effort Scores measure the portion of your surveyed customers who found interacting with your business easy, the value of which ranges from 0-100.

The formula for Customer Effort Score calculation is,

Customer Effort Score = (number of ratings of 5, 6, and 7/number of responses) x100

For example, if you’ve surveyed 100 customers, and 55 have rated you 5+ on a 7 point scale, your CES will be (55/100)x100 = 55.

Customer Effort Score calculation
Source: Userpilot

When to use a CES vs. CSAT vs. NPS survey

Customer Effort Score (CES), Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT), and Net Promoter Score (NPS) are the most known customer satisfaction surveys. Each of these comes with its unique benefits, and you should use all to collect different types of insights.

While the CES survey is a very useful tool, it can be too narrowly focused in a single interaction, causing you to ignore the big picture. But if you use it along with NPS and CSAT, you’ll get a better idea about the overall situation of customer experience for your product.

CES surveys

CES surveys can be used to assess the perceived effort in completing a specific task. It’s best for collecting more granular insights.

CES surveys are best sent:

  • After engaging with a feature for the first time
  • After engaging with customer support or success
  • After reaching a milestone in the customer journey

CSAT surveys

CSAT surveys assess the short-term satisfaction with either your product or the service offered. It can give you an overview of how happy the customer is, while CES tells you what’s making them happy or not.

CSAT surveys are best sent:

  • After reaching a milestone in the journey (for example, reaching the activation point)
  • After engaging with customer support (a most common practice in SaaS).
hubspot CSAT survey
Source: HubSpot

NPS surveys

While CES and CSAT surveys focus on feedback on experience and satisfaction at specific moments in the user journey, NPS measures the overall customer satisfaction and loyalty by asking a simple question:

”On a scale of 1 to 10 how likely are you to recommend company X to a friend or colleague?”

nps survey
Source: Userpilot

It’s best to track NPS regularly and act on the feedback you receive. For best results, you need to:

  • Follow up with detractors before they churn.
  • Ask promoters for more in-depth feedback or reviews.

Customer Effort Score survey questions

Since CES is used to measure the perceived effort, you can either ask a question or make a statement that the user must relate to.

Here are a few questions you can ask:

  • How easy did [company] make it for you to solve your issue?
  • How much effort did it take [insert action: to set up the platform; to fix support issue; to upgrade account etc.] today?

Here are a few statements you can use instead of questions:

  • Setting up my account was easy/fast.
  • [Company] made it easy for me to solve the issue:
hotjar ces survey question
Source: Hotjar

How to improve the Customer Effort Score

Just collecting feedback will mean nothing unless you act on it. Acting on it doesn’t mean recording it. You need to look for insights that you can use to improve the overall customer experience.

Here are a few ways you can do it.

Analyze and segment your data

This is the first step to having a good Customer Effort Score. Not all customers are the same. You need to identify common patterns where users are facing difficulty and build multiple segments based on the answers.

For example, a lot of users have issues reaching out to support or completing a specific task. This can be due to a lengthy process in place or an understaffing issue.

You can also ask a qualitative follow-up question after the user has scored the effort.

Follow up question sample

This helps you gather more insights into what made them pick a score and makes way for more in-depth segmentation. Creating multiple segments based on common issues then allows you to automate very specific responses for each.

Build in-app guidance

Not all SaaS products are easy to use right off the bat. Some products have a steeper learning curve, which helps decrease the perceived effort in engaging with more complex product features. In such cases, you can build in-app guides that walk the user step by step in engaging with your product.

Here’s how Kommunicate guides users on how to personalize their chatbot for the first time. It engages the users with an interactive walkthrough that involves a series of tooltips that trigger after each action taken by the user.

This is a really smart way to use in-app guides that engage the user easily.

Kommunicate interactive walkthrough
Want to increase CES with in-app guides? Get a Userpilot demo and see how easy you can build them with no code.

Offer in-app self-serve support

The best thing you can do is offer help where the user is and needs it. This means you need to offer them contextual self-service support, preferably with an in-app resource center.

Having a knowledge base within your app helps you reduce friction and shortens the learning curve for the users. Not to mention that users will get help within the app whenever they need it.

You can include your in-app guides in the help center, link to documentation articles, and also add widgets like 1-click get in touch chat launcher and more.

For example, Postfity includes a guide that walks users through their new features using tooltips. Users get a hands-on walkthrough on how to use features like Posting on Instagram. They can launch this guide directly from inside the app’s resource center.

postfity resource center by userpilot
Built with Userpilot. Get a demo and offer in-app self-service support to your users.

Tools to collect customer feedback

Collecting feedback can take a lot of time, especially if you code your surveys yourself. Not only does it keep your developers busy, but it also doesn’t give you the flexibility to change when to trigger a specific survey, be it CES, NPS, or CSAT.

Then there’s the complex process of collecting and analyzing the feedback data.

But there’s an easier way.

You can use tools specifically built for surveys and either embed them in your product or send them via email.

Some of the best customer feedback tools include:

  • Userpilot: for collecting in-app feedback and automating in-app flows based on custom user segments
  • Hotjar: for collecting feedback on your website on in-app.
  • Nicereply: for measuring the users’ satisfaction with customer support.
  • Typeform: for long for customer feedback collection with embedded surveys.

Looking to build in-app surveys, analyze the data, and offer in-app guidance to improve the user experience? Check out Userpilot.

Build surveys and in-app guidance with Userpilot

Although it’s more popular as a user onboarding platform, Userpilot also offers brilliant feedback tools, including the ability to add micro surveys to your product. You can also start collecting feedback during the onboarding process.

With Userpilot, you can build multiple types of micro surveys and automate responses based on the user’s answer.

Apart from that, its dedicated NPS feature allows you to track and analyze NPS responses and segment users based on them.

More standard customer satisfaction surveys will be available soon! Get in touch to know more!

nps survey userpilot
Source: Userpilot

On top of collecting in-app feedback, you can also build guides and a resource center to offer support directly inside the app. This makes it easier for users to engage with you and your product, as they don’t have to leave the product to resolve the issues they’re facing.


Customer Effort Score, combined with other customer feedback metrics, can help you stay on top of the state of customer experience for your SaaS product.

It’s astonishing what tracking this single metric can do for your business – from reducing friction to building trust and loyalty among your customers. But you need to make sure that you’re using it right.

Make sure you’re analyzing and segmenting your data, building in-app guidance, and offering in-app self-service support to your customers and your CES score will start rising in no time.

Want to build product experiences code-free? Book a demo call with our team and get started!

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