What’s Your Customer Effort Score?

Reduce customer effort in service interactions to build customer loyalty in your service organization.

You recently moved to a new home and need to update the address on your checking account. A customer service rep makes the change, but before disconnecting, asks if you’d like to order new checks with your new address. You hadn’t thought about your checkbook yet, but luckily the rep did — which prevents you from having to call back.

Effort is the strongest driver to customer loyalty

Customer service reps who prevent callbacks reduce the amount of customer effort and callback-related costs. This is just one example of how service organizations can deliver a low-effort experience. Deliver cost savings while maintaining quality customer service experiences by training reps in forward resolution, or the practice of next-issue avoidance.

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Why efforts matters

“Exceeding customer expectations provides, at best, a marginal lift to customer loyalty,” says Andrew Schumacher, Senior Principal, Advisory, Gartner. “Our research finds that to win customer loyalty, customer service and support leaders must focus on consistently meeting customer expectations.”

Customer effort is the strongest driver of customer loyalty — or disloyalty. Boosting customer loyalty is good, but the larger opportunity is to keep customers from becoming disloyal. Customers are four times more likely to leave a service interaction more disloyal than when they entered. And disloyal customers are likely to impact the company negatively — they negatively speak of the organization to others and cease future purchases. 

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Ninety-six percent of customers with a high-effort service interaction become more disloyal compared to just 9% who have a low-effort experience, according to Gartner research. Indicators of high-effort experiences include channel switching, repetition of information, generic service, transfers and repeat interaction. 

By reducing customer effort, service organizations can deliver higher-quality interactions and lower costs. The benefits are many:

  • Positive word-of-mouth improves the Net Promoter Score (NPS), a widely used service metric. NPS is 65 points higher for top-performing, low-effort companies than for high-effort companies.
  • Repurchase rates increase. Ninety-four percent of customers with low-effort interactions intend to repurchase compared with 4% of those experiencing high effort.
  • Low-effort interactions result in lower costs. Overall, a low-effort interaction costs 37% less than a high-effort interaction. Low-effort experiences reduce costs by decreasing up to 40% of repeat calls, 50% of escalations and 54% of channel switching
  • Employee retention rises. When service reps provide better experiences to customers, they feel better about their jobs, and their intent to stay increases up to 17%.

“Customer effort is 40% more accurate at predicting customer loyalty as opposed to customer satisfaction,” says Schumacher. 

How to measure effort

The Gartner Customer Effort Score (CES) is a customer experience survey metric that enables service organizations to account for the ease of customer interaction and resolution during a request.

By tracking CES and what drives it, service leaders can make changes to improve the customer experience.

CES is measured by asking a single question and scoring the response on a scale from 1 to 7, with 1 representing the highest level of disagreement with the statement.

The Gartner Customer Effort Score (CES) Question

CES is calculated by the percentage of customers that at least “somewhat agree” (those who give a 5 or above) that the company made it easy to resolve their issue. There’s a much bigger opportunity to build loyalty if customers can move out of active disagreement or neutral territory.

Customer service organizations can use CES, along with operational measurements such as repeat calls, transfers and channel switching, to uncover high-effort pain points in customer interactions.

This article has been updated from the original, published on July 12, 2018, to reflect new events, conditions or research.

This article is based on insights that are part of an in-depth collection of research, tools, templates and advice available to Gartner clients. Gartner for Customer Service & Support Leader clients can read How to Measure and Interpret Customer Effort Score (CES) or access the on-demand webinar Service Essentials: Measuring Customer Effort.

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