Customer Effort ScoreCustomer Effort Score is a customer service measurement created by a the Corporate Executive Board, a  firm offering research and advisory services to executives in large and midsized corporations, government, and financial services organizations worldwide. They have written a Harvard Business Review article which you can obtain for free describing this measurement and the study they used to derive it. They contend that this score is a better predictor of customer loyalty than any other customer satisfaction or customer service score.

Customer Study Conclusions

After  interviewing customer service leaders and studying more than 75,000 customers, the Corporate Executive Board concluded that

1. Exceeding expectations during service interactions has negligible impact on customer loyalty.

2. Service organizations create loyal customers primarily by reducing customer effort – i.e. helping them solve their problems quickly and easily – not by delighting them in service interactions.

3. In the customer service environment, Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) is a weak predictor of customer loyalty. Net Promoter Score (NPS) is slightly better. Customer Effort Score (CES), however, tops the charts with the highest predictive power.

Techniques to improve customer service interactions

Corporate Executive Board recommends the following to improve customer loyalty.

1. Don’t just resolve the customer’s problem. Be sure to head off the next one. I often hear customer service reps ask if there is anything else they can help me with before the call is ended.

2. Prepare reps to deal with the emotional side of customer interactions. Empathy training could be of value here.

3. Ensure that self service channels are working effectively. In their study, Corporate Executive Board (CEB), found that 57% of customers call customer service after trying to resolve their issue on line first and failing.

4. Use feedback from disgruntled customers to learn to to reduce customer effort. This useful to find where customers are spending unproductive time and energy.

5. Empower the front line to work effectively with customers. Be sure you don’t have the wrong metrics on the customer service reps.

What is the Customer Effort Score?

Basically the customer effort score is a question. How much effort did you personally put forth to handle your request?

There appears to be a high correlation between a high customer effort score and high levels of customer loyalty, where loyalty is defined as

a. Willingness to repurchase

b. Willingness to increase spending

c. Propensity to provide positive word of mouth.

Here’s a chart showing these results.



Not everyone is in agreement that Customer Effort Score is the best predictor of customer satisfaction or customer loyalty. Though the correlation is high,  Guy Fielding, Director of Research at horizon2, wrote an article in the magazine ‘callcenter helper’  called Debunking the Customer Effort Score. He claims based on his research that other factors are also involved, such as task resolution and emotional factors.

I have a broader view of this topic. Customer Effort Score focuses on customer service as the sole predictor of customer loyalty, future purchases and positive word of mouth. At IBM, we found that there were many more factors that customers considered when the determined who they wanted to do business with. In an article titled ‘When Customer Rate their Vendors‘, we found that customers measured factors such as

1. Service

2. Product Quality

3. Billing and Accounts Receivable Quality

4. Upgradability

5. Reliability

6. Maintainability

7. Track record of continuous improvement

8. On time delivery

Service is only one of several factors that customers used to determine the ‘effort’ or cost of doing business with a vendor. So while the Customer Effort Score is a valuable tool, every organization needs to look at its total value proposition to its customers and take a comprehensive view on what could cause dissatisfaction and impact customer loyalty.

What is your opinion? Leave your comments below.


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Adele Berenstein

Adele Berenstein is an Experienced Customer Satisfaction Executive, recently retired from a Large Global IT Organization after a long productive management career including Sales, Marketing, Services, teaching and education center management and most recently, 19 years in customer satisfaction management. She turned around divisions with customer satisfaction problems, implemented measurable improvements and management systems, and implemented programs to prevent problems from ever affecting customers.

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