What is CES (Customer Effort Score) in B2B Business?

Written by Yuya Takada, Founder & CEO at Commune

There are many metrics to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty, but did you know that there is an approach that dares to focus on “dissatisfaction” instead?

In this article, we would like to give an overview of CES (Customer Effort Score), which has been gaining attention recently, and explain why it is important and how to measure it effectively.

What is CES (Customer Effort Score)?

CES is a measure of < the “effort” or “labor” required by a customer to achieve their goal (problem solving, purchases, use, etc) >.

It is an abbreviation for Customer Effort Score.


How are GCR, CSAT, and NPS related?

CES is used to measure customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Other metrics used for the same purpose are GCR, CSAT, and NPS.


GCR (Goal Completion Rate)

Metric that measures the extent to which a company meets the goals and needs of its customers.

CSAT (Customer Satisfaction Score)

Metric that measures the level of customer satisfaction with a company’s products or services.

NPS (Net Promoter Score)

Metric that measures the degree to which a customer would recommend a company’s service or product to others 


These metrics have a hierarchical structure in terms of customer experience. Ultimately, it is desirable for a company to have customers that actively promote the services to other customers, i.e., a high NPS score.


The key to improving NPS, the top tier metric, is to improve the lower level ones.


First level: GCR (Goal Completion Rate)

The prerequisite for improving customer satisfaction and loyalty is that their goals and needs are fulfilled. If that is not the case, customers are likely to leave immediately. Therefore, when GCR is low, it will be difficult to improve higher level metrics.


Second level: CES (Customer Effort Score)

In order to optimize the customer experience, a high GCR score is not enough. The amount of effort and labor required by customers to satisfy their goals and needs is also a major factor in determining their satisfaction and loyalty.

By lowering the amount of “effort” in each phase of the customer experience, you can improve the overall customer satisfaction.


Third level: CSAT (Customer Satisfaction Score)

CSAT can measure the overall satisfaction of the customer experience.

Customer satisfaction generally increases when their goals are achieved (high GCR score) and the experience through its process is smooth (low CES score).


Fourth level: NPS (Net Promoter Score)

The ultimate goal of measuring satisfaction and loyalty is to improve NPS, which not only encourages customers to keep using your service or product, but also to actively spread the word to others.


You need to keep in mind the order that improving GCR and CES leads to improvement in satisfaction, and then recommendation follows.

Why is CES (Customer Effort Score) important?

CES is a metric that should be given special emphasis in order to improve customer satisfaction and loyalty.

It can be used to determine which points in the customer experience are likely to result in negative emotions.

When compared to CSAT and NPS mentioned above, CES has the following characteristics.


1) Evaluates customer experience in each phase, not in its entirety

There are various phases in the customer experience, from recognition of the service to actual use and feedback. However, since CSAT and NPS measure satisfaction and loyalty throughout the entire customer experience, it is difficult to identify the cause of the score.

 If your NPS score is low, what are the possible causes? For example

・Dissatisfaction with sales communication

・Problems with the onboarding process

These may be easy to identify since you are communicating with the customer directly.

・Annoying email newsletters

・Slow response to email inquiries

・Ineffective website content, complicated FAQ pages

The problem may not be something that is easy to tell from customers’ reaction. In those cases, you can only guess.


When it comes to CES, it makes clear the points where the customers feel uncomfortable, such as “I didn’t know where to ask for help when using the product” or “The amount of explanations was overwhelming and hard to comprehend. As a result, it is easier to find the causes of the decrease in satisfaction and loyalty and build effective improvement measures

2) Focuses on negative emotions instead of positive ones

To improve customer satisfaction and loyalty, it is not enough to focus solely on their positive emotions such as “great,” “impressed,” and “want to recommend this to others” as in the case of CSAT and NPS.

This is because negative emotions such as “difficult to use”, “hard to understand”, and “uncomfortable” have actually been shown to have a greater impact on satisfaction and loyalty.

According to the Harvard Business Review’s “Stop Trying to Delight Your Customers“, a survey of more than 75,000 customers and interviews with customer support representatives at major companies around the world revealed the following two facts

  • Providing a delightful customer experience does not lead to increased loyalty, while reducing the time and effort required to resolve problems does.

  • Consciously providing support based on this insight can reduce churn.

By nature, humans respond more strongly to discomfort than to comfort. Therefore, even if you provide impressive support in their customer experience, having one part that is frustrating or troublesome would end up leaving a lasting impression.

Since CES focuses on negative emotions, it can clarify the points that cause discomfort and lead to effective improvement measures.

How to reduce CES (Customer Effort Index)?  

1) Improve self-service channels to minimize the back-and-forth between them.

Customers’ discomfort increases when they have to go back and forth between multiple channels, such as websites, chat functions, emails, online communities, and phone calls.

When a problem occurs, the first place customers would visit is most likely the website. Therefore, you need to improve the design and content of it so that they can solve their problems through self-service and avoid moving between channels.

2) Predict and solve the next problem that will arise.

Many customer issues are similar and can be categorized and systematized. Organizing and grasping the issues that occur most often will give you an idea of what’s likely to happen next after the initial inquiry, and can be used to recommend the next step in your website’s self-service content, which would result in preventing problems from occurring.

3) Make the most of customer feedback.

In order to reduce customer effort, you need to pay attention to “customer emotions”, not “customer behaviors”. Even if you minimize the back-and-forth between channels and prevent next problems from occurring, a customer’s satisfaction and loyalty will decrease if they feel a lot of time and effort were spent to solve problems.

It is very subjective whether they feel that an effort was made or not and cannot be judged by looking at their objective behavior. Therefore, you need to listen carefully to their voice.

In order to increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, you need to eliminate negative emotions such as “hard to understand” and “frustrating”. In fact, it has been reported that an effortless experience leads to greater loyalty than an impressive one.

Measuring CES can clarify the points where customers have negative emotions, which makes it a powerful tool for optimizing customer experience.

So what can we do?

Again, Health Score is important for enhancing Customer Success.

But Health Score is not where you should start with.

You should have a solid customer infrastructure to communicate with your customers in a scalable and personalized way.

Don’t worry, Commune gets you covered.

Commune is a Customer Communication Platform for Customer Success teams that enables “one-to-one quality communication in a form of the tech-touch, scalable way”.

Commune works as a one-stop shop for your customers to do all digital CS communications in one place.

You’re able to have integrated and holistic customer action data across features, such as viewing the Knowledge base, completing E-learning, answering survey questions, and helping other customers.

It means you can provide personally optimized customer success communication across features, based on customer segment and behavior.

Our customers enjoy 14% improved retention rates, #of inquiries reduced by 20%, 900% of ROI, and more.

If you wanna learn more, let’s have a 15 min quick demo session with us!