Customer Effort Counts

Customer Effort Counts September 15, 2010

By Mary Key

High performing organizations make getting customer feedback a priority. Listening to your customers is the key to service excellence. That being said, it’s very difficult to get customers to respond to surveys or take time for a quick interview. What do you do when you want to listen and your customers are too busy?

Many of our clients use the Net Promoter score to get quick input. The basic principle behind Net Promoter is that if your customer is willing to recommend or refer you to others, you know that they are pleased with your offering. Frederick Reichheld (The Ultimate Question (2006) and Bain & Company have done research on Net Promoter and have found it to be highly correlated to customer loyalty.

In the July/August issue of the Harvard Business Review, a new customer scoring idea was introduced that is supposed to be even more effective than Net Promoter in predicting whether or not a customer will stay loyal, the Customer Effort Score (CES). The CES is based on extensive research conducted by the Corporate Executive Board where over 75,000 customers across many types of businesses were surveyed and 700 interviewed. The big finding is that the amount of effort your customer has to expend in resolving an issue with your organization determines whether or not they stay, continue to spend money with you and say good things. The CES question to ask your customer is: “How much effort did you personally have to put forth to handle your request?”  The goal in collecting this feedback is to then look for areas where there have been consistent problems and find ways to ease the amount of effort your customer has to exert in solving their issue.

I think the CES is more likely to generate a response from a customer since it gives them the opportunity to let off steam regarding a difficulty they’ve had with your service or product. Everyone interacting with customers can ask the CES question and gather input to help improve your services to customers. People are much more likely to give specifics if they’ve just been through some time consuming irritation that required more effort than they wanted to expend. The CES can apply to the variety of channels that your customers use to resolve issues with you like your website, calls, email, phone, chat, etc.