What is a Customer Effort Score: Everything You Need to Know About CES Surveys

Written by Moritz Dausinger, CEO of Refiner

Do you wonder what customers think when using your product? Good news – There’s a super easy way to find out, and it involves measuring the customer effort score.

In this guide, you’ll learn exactly what customer effort score is, what questions to ask to measure it, and even when to send the survey to get the maximum responses. 

So, let’s take it from the top.

What is a Customer Effort Score?

Customer Effort Score (CES) is a survey that measures how easy it is to use or interact with your product.

In the CES survey, customers rate the effort it takes to use your product or use specific features and reveal whether your product is easy or complex to use. 

But CES can go beyond product features. 

You can use the survey to evaluate interactions with your support team, your sales process, and more. 

The survey looks like this:

Customer effort score survey example.

Contrary to the Net Promoter Score (NPS) that measures the likelihood of someone recommending your product to others, CES surveys are focusing on the customer effort, or else the ease of using your product.

Why Should You Launch a CES Survey?

Let’s look at three key reasons to launch a CES survey.

#1. Reduce friction points and improve the product experience

A big reason to launch a CES survey is to identify friction points in your product experience. 

A CES survey can help you spot the touch points you need to improve either in your customer service or your product to ensure that you don’t lose your customers once they start using your product. 

For example, many of your users may be confused during the onboarding phase about how to connect their accounts to your product. Or there may be a growing number of users who are unhappy with your services simply because they couldn’t find the answers they were looking for.

You don’t want to hear their feedback when they are about to churn, do you?

#2. Collect more insights to improve your customer service

CES surveys make it easy to collect feedback about your users and how they feel about your product and service interaction.

As with all customer feedback surveys, it’s important to be mindful of the timing you are launching them while still making sure that you ask the right questions at the key touch points for each user.

The more insights you collect, the easier it becomes to understand their needs and improve the customer experience.

You can use a platform like Refiner to organize the insights and segment users based on their CES score to track your overall progress and make it easier for each segment to enjoy using your product.

#3. Close the customer feedback loop

A good way to boost your customer engagement is to ensure you act on the customer feedback you receive.

A CES survey helps you connect with your customers and close the customer feedback loop without disrupting the product experience.

Let’s say you send a CES survey to a customer who just used a new feature. You ask them how easy it was to use this feature. Their response indicates that it was a bit confusing for them.

You can launch a follow-up question to find out more details about their experience. The next step is to act on the feedback and personally follow up with the customer to acknowledge the feedback and share the next steps you are working on.

This way, you are able to improve your product with valuable feedback and improve customer engagement at the same time.

Examples of CES Questions

A CES survey is based on a question or a statement that focuses on the ease of use of the product or service.

Compared to other customer feedback questions, the question is not about the overall customer satisfaction so it should be specific and easy for your audience to understand what you’re asking.

The range of answers should also make it clear that the focus is on the ease of use for your product, a specific feature or your customer service.

Here are some examples of popular CES questions and how to use them.

How easy was using [Product] so far?

CES survey example.

This is a common CES question to ask everyone who’s been using your product for a while. It’s easy to answer and it gives you an idea of the effort your customers need to use your product.

If most replies are closer to “Quite difficult”, then it’s time to explore why it takes a lot of effort for your users to use your product and what you need to change to aim for a low-effort experience.

Overall, how easy was it to solve your problem today?

Another example of a customer effort score question.

This is a CES question you can trigger after a user interacts with your customer success team. 

It gives you an idea of how helpful they’ve found the response and what you need to do next with their feedback.

To what extent do you agree with the following statement: [Product] made it easy to handle my issue.

Customer effort score question 2.

Not all customer effort score surveys need to ask a direct question. You can get your users to agree or disagree with a statement. 

In this question, you get your users to rate whether the company made it easy to solve their issue. The responses can range from ‘strongly disagree’ to ‘strongly agree’ and the insights can help you improve your product experience.

How to Measure Customer Effort Score

Curious what your customer effort score is? You can use this formula to make the average of all responses.

CES = Total sum of responses / Number of responses

Let’s say you choose a 7-point scale CES survey and you’ve had 100 people responding to the question:

How easy was it to solve your problem today?

The total sum from the responses was 565.

Your CES would be 565 / 100 = 5.65

This is a good customer effort score if the options ranged from ‘quite difficult’ to ‘super easy’ as it means that many users found it easy to solve their problems.

Choosing the Right CES Survey Type 

There are three different ways to present CES surveys.

Likert scale


The Likert scale is a popular CES survey type at a five or seven-point scale and the answers tend to range from “strongly disagree” to “strongly agree.”

The numbers are linked to the customer effort and how easy it is for a customer to perform a specific action.

Emoticon rating

CES survey example.

You can launch a CES survey that associates the level of effort with different emojis, such as smiley faces, thumbs up or hearts.

This is a simple and quick way for customers to respond to the survey in just a few seconds.

Numbered scale 

An example of a CES survey using a numbered scale.

Another way to aim for simplicity is to launch a CES survey on a numbered scale, let’s say from 0 to 10 to ask your customers about the level of effort it takes to complete a specific action.

It’s up to you to choose the survey type that works best for you but the ultimate goal is to use a survey that makes it easier to gather the insights you want without disrupting the user experience. 

When to Send a CES Survey

What’s the best time to send a CES survey?

Here are four user cases to consider.

#1. After onboarding

This is the perfect time to launch a CES survey to measure the level of effort it takes to follow each step in the onboarding phase.

Your users may not know much about your product yet, but they can still answer how easy it was to complete the process. This is just the beginning of future loyalty and customer retention. 

When it comes to timing, the best time to send a CES survey is two weeks after the onboarding process is complete.

#2. After an interaction with the customer success team

There are two different types of surveys to run after an interaction with the customer team. You can launch a CSAT survey to measure customer satisfaction or you can send a CES survey to measure the effort it takes for a customer to find an answer to their problem. 

A CES survey can lead to straighter answers and more practical insights and the best time to run it is 20 minutes after the interaction.

#3. After a new feature or design

Launching a new product feature? 

You can trigger a CES survey after a customer uses the feature a couple of times to measure the level of effort it takes to use it.

Or if you are redesigning the product experience, you can track how effortless the change was.

#4. After consuming educational content 

Let’s say you’ve run a webinar. You want to find out whether it was easy for your audience to understand the resource.

You can send a CES survey to those who attended the webinar to measure the level of effort it took to understand the content. Make sure you send the survey to the right segment, those who attended the webinar, to keep the survey relevant to them.

6 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your CES Survey

Just before you send your next CES survey, here are six tips to consider to improve your response rate.

#1. Confirm your objectives

Every survey you are planning to launch should have clear objectives. Think of what you want to get out of it and plan the questions accordingly.

For example, if you want to launch a CES survey to check how easy it is for customers to interact with your business, you need to be specific with your question. 

Once you confirm the objectives, it’s time to plan your survey’s content and its design.

#2. Keep it simple

Your survey should be simple and easy to understand. You don’t want to confuse your customers by asking too many questions.

The more complicated the survey, the higher the chances to reduce your response rate by having more customers who are not sure what you are asking them.

Be clear and keep the question as simple as possible.

#3. Be direct

Your survey questions shouldn’t be too long. Aim for direct questions that are specific and easy to understand.

Here are two examples of questions.

Question 1 – “Overall, how easy was it to solve your problem today?”

Question 2 – “We want to hear from you! How easy was it to solve your problem today when you interacted with our team?”

As you can imagine, the first question has more chances to get more responses since it’s simple and clear.

#4. Pick the right time to send the survey

The objectives of your survey should be linked to the timing you decide to send it.

Let’s say you want to find out what your users think of your new feature and the level of effort they need to put to use it.

In that case, the right time to send the survey would be right after a customer uses the feature at least a couple of times. You don’t want to launch a survey to an audience that has never used this feature, do you?

#5. Segment your audience

The best way to get a high response rate in your surveys is to keep them relevant to your customers.

You can segment your audience based on their level of engagement with your product, their loyalty, or even their existing CES or NPS score.

Once you organize the different segments, you can launch different CES surveys based on their level of interaction with your product or the specific needs each segment may have. 

#6. Don’t overuse CES

There’s no need to send too many CES surveys in a short period of time. 

Let’s say you release new product features every week. You don’t need to send a new CES survey for each feature as you are risking overwhelming your users.

Focus on the features that are more important to you or plan your CES surveys in a way that you’re not impacting the user experience.

There You Have It…

Everything you need to know about Customer Effort Score and how to send effective CES surveys.

Before you plan your next CES survey, define your objectives.

What do you want to get out of the survey?

Segment your audience to reach the most relevant customers to improve your response rate.

Use all the learnings to explore what you need to change to make it easier for your customers to use your product.

Good luck!Looking to run a customer effort score survey? Check out Refiner – the no. 1 dedicated CES survey platform for SaaS.

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