Seven Steps to Reshape Self-Service With CES

Customer effort score with rate from smiled faces.

Customer effort score, CES, is a great way to check for process-based frustration. With self-service touchpoints multiplying and customer opinion of service low, improving CES can boost loyalty.

Introduced in 2010 with a pivotal study of over 75,000 customers, CES is more than just a metric, it’s one of the best predictors of customer loyalty.

CES offers a direct window into the ease, or difficulty, customers encounter navigating touchpoints. It’s a golden opportunity to uncover and rectify loyalty-eroding issues.

When it comes to self-service, there are clear objectives: customer convenience and operational efficiency.

In this sphere, CES takes on special significance because a poor score suggests not only that the touchpoint has missed the target, but also that customer loyalty might be in jeopardy. So, here are seven steps to reshape self-service and retain customers using CES.

Step 1: Understand How CES Aligns With Customer Needs

Several factors contribute to enhancing customer convenience and optimising costs. These goals and needs align with CES and underscore the powerful role it can play in customer-centric strategy.

Autonomy and Empowerment

Customers crave control over when and how their queries get resolved, especially when juggling busy schedules.

Self-service options that cater to this need, and empower customers, have low-effort scores and low levels of escalation.

Expectations for Efficiency

Self-service users have one thing on their minds: quick convenient resolution. Low-effort scores align perfectly with these expectations. CES can also be teamed up with digital containment rates to really gauge effectiveness.

Experience and Design

To keep customers coming back, intuitive design, accessible vocabulary, and clear wording are crucial. Get these wrong, and even with successful issue resolution, poor design will result in high effort.

Low Friction Journeys

Awkward-to-use touchpoints and difficulty escalating can have a ripple effect on agent-led interactions, driving up costs rather than reducing them.

High-effort scores and soaring escalation levels should have decision makers diving into intent data, evaluating journey design and extracting insights from AI and agent interactions.

Maximising ROI

For new touchpoints, refining them in a continuous improvement cycle is the only way to maintain relevance and efficiency in dynamic conditions. CES should be a core KPI used in any panel for tracking performance.

Step 2: Set Up an Intuitive CES Survey

With a name like customer effort score, it would be easy to assume that a high score equates to high effort but this is far from true. For a single question survey there is an incredible amount of variation!

Question or Statement

  • How easy was it for you to……?
  • Our services made it easy for you to….

TIP: whatever the choice, make the wording as short and clear as possible. Ideally, the scoring scale should be so intuitive it doesn’t rely on the question to be used.


  • Numerical – depending on the question phrasing, a high number could represent high effort or a high level of ease!
  • Word-based
  • Extremely difficult – extremely easy
  • Strongly disagree – strongly agree
  • Emoticon scales are very intuitive and easy to use; however, for calculation purposes a numerical value still needs to be assigned to each rating.

TIP: universal conventions and previous experience mean users anticipate negative options or opinions to appear on the left AND for numbers to appear in ascending order. This means largely, though not always, a high score equates with a high level of ease.

Number of Options

  • An odd number of options is standard in order to provide a neutral option.
  • 3, 5 and 7 are all commonly used

TIP: Always provide an optional comments box for customers to leave a reason for their choice, as this can be a goldmine of actionable insights.

Step 3: Apply CES to Relevant Experiences

Regardless of intent or outcome, it’s easy to consistently apply CES and gather representative results on self-service channels.

It can even serve as an overarching post-interaction survey. However, while this approach is valid, it’s not necessarily the best tactic.

With several options available, including CSAT and NPS, to prevent survey fatigue consider the situations in which using CES might offer the most actionable insights.

Task Completion 

Customers have specific goals like a balance transfer or amending delivery instructions, so knowing how easy this was to accomplish helps maintain touchpoint functionality.

Post-Purchase or Renewal

CES is a predictor of loyalty, so knowing how easy automated purchasing and renewal processes are is important.

New Features and Touchpoints

Fine-tuning functionality is a necessity and CES helps track how changes and updates improve usability.

Remember, CES surveys are most effective when conducted immediately after a self-service experience to capture sentiment as accurately as possible.

Step 4: Calculate CES Consistently

There are several ways to calculate a trackable KPI. Depending on how the survey was set up, it’s essential to start by setting the ground rules for interpretation: does a high numerical score on the survey indicate high or low effort?

This then dictates whether the goal becomes high and increasing values or low and decreasing values. Below are three of the most common ways to calculate CES but other variations do exist.

Average CES

For this calculation, the result will lie somewhere on a scale used by the  customer to rate their experience:

Total of all Customer Effort Ratings ÷ Total Number of Responses

CES as a Percentage

This second technique provides a score in the form of a percentage, which is easier for external comparison where this is possible:

(Sum of all Scores ÷ Maximum Possible Total Score) x 100

NetEasy: a Variation on CES

“Overall, how easy was it to get the help you wanted today?” This variation developed because of the issues with traditional wording.

It uses a seven-point scale and a calculation similar to the net promotor score. Results can lie anywhere on a scale of –100 to +100 where +100 occurs if all customers choose very or extremely easy.

NetEasy Score = % Easy – % Difficult

% easy = (The number of customers scoring very and extremely easy ÷ the total number of responses) x 100

% difficult = (The number of customers scoring fairly, very or extremely difficult ÷ the total number of responses) x 100

Neutral scores and those scoring only fairly easy are left out of the calculation.

Step 5: Analyse the Results

Armed with CES data, there are plenty of ways to dive deeper into the findings to generate actionable data.

  • Segmentation breaks down data by demographics, intents and channels to identify trends.
  • Root cause analysis is a deeper investigation to identify the specific reasons behind particular scores. It may use Voice of Customer data, insights from the optional comments box and AI-analysis.
  • Data visualisation helps compare various metrics to look for patterns, indicators or potential pain points.
  • Internal benchmarking allows organisations to set service goals and absolute thresholds to trigger immediate action.

Step 6: Improve Self-Service and Track CES

Remember that optimising the design, content, and functionality of self-service touchpoints isn’t really about CES.

The goal is repeat users and customer loyalty, CES just signals when things are moving in the right direction. So, here’s a few ways to nurture repeat users by reducing customer effort:

Simplify the Navigation and User Interface

Menus must be clear with logical organisation and an uncluttered design. Reducing complexity and cognitive load will lower customer effort.

Prioritise Mobile Optimisation

Layouts and functionality should adapt seamlessly to smaller screens and touch-based interactions.

Search Functionality and Knowledge Bases

Content needs to be up-to-date and easy-to-find using a search feature. Check the relevant content is being offered for FAQs and common variations on query phrasing.

Chatbots and Virtual Assistants

Ensure any AI solution is trained on industry terminology and common customer phrases. There also needs to be seamless transition to live agents when needed.

Clear, Concise Content

Plain jargon-free language is the clearest way to provide direct actionable advice.

Act on Specific Feedback

Quite simply when customers provide pain points use that feedback to make improvements.

Don’t forget to track CES after any change to assess the success of the changes.

Step 7: Reduce the Effort for All Users With CCaaS

Contact Centre as a Service (CCaaS) solutions significantly reduce effort by integrating multiple channels into a single customer conversation.

Whether switching between digital channels or moving to the voice channel customers can blend automated and agent-led touchpoints without losing progress.

This unified history also breaks down silos and enables more detailed analytics and more accurate AI-generated next-step suggestions for agents.

This blog post has been re-published by kind permission of Odigo – View the Original Article

For more information about Odigo - visit the Odigo Website

About Odigo

Odigo Odigo helps large organisations connect with individuals through world-class, cloud-based contact centre solutions. Our cutting-edge, proprietary technologies enable a seamless, efficient, omnichannel experience for your customers and a satisfying, engaging experience for your service agents.

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Call Centre Helper is not responsible for the content of these guest blog posts. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect those of Call Centre Helper.

Author: Odigo

Published On: 20th Feb 2024
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