Dec 7, 2018

Prevent High-Effort Experiences with CES

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The following is a guest blog post by Jakub Slámka, CMO at Nicereply. 

Something that may seem trivial to you may be a serious friction point for your customers. The worst thing is they probably won’t let you know.

When’s the last time you tried a new service or a product? How was the setup experience? Was it simple and easy, or frustrating and hard? If you answered the latter, chances are you’re probably no longer using that service. And you wouldn’t be alone.

96% of customers who’ve been through a high effort experience report being disloyal (as opposed to only 5% of customers in low effort experiences). But what exactly are these high-effort experiences? A high-effort experience is that feeling of banging your head against a wall when talking to a customer support rep. It’s like swimming through mud or running through sand. It’s whatever should be simple, but is for some reason really difficult and frustrating.

By now you probably get the gist of what a high-effort experience stands for. We all know it when we go through it. The problem is, when we try to gauge the difficulty for someone else. Especially when it comes to something we happen to know very well – like our products. Something that may seem trivial to you may be a serious friction point for your customers. The worst thing is they probably won’t let you know. For every customer who bothers to complain, 26 other customers remain silent.

So a simple “I know it when I see it” method of finding and reducing high-effort experiences won’t work. What other options are there?

Measuring Customer Effort Score

CES is a customer satisfaction metric that measures how easy it is for customers to get a resolution to their issues.

The underlying principle is that clients will stay with companies longer if it is easier to do business with them.

Customer Effort Score is measured transactionally – which means customers get surveyed after their conversation with the business ends. The survey itself consists of the main question developed by CEB based on their research:

How much do you agree or disagree with the following statement?
“[The organization] made it easy for me to handle my issue.”

Customers then reply on a likert scale of very difficult (1) to very easy (7).

Second part is a further feedback question, where you can ask what to improve.

To calculate your CES score, average all results to give you one number out of 7. It’s also important to look at the distribution of the scores received. For example, an average CES score of 5.4 looks pretty good, right? Except if you find out that it’s made out of mostly 7’s and 1’s. While most customers are finding it really easy to solve their issues, there’s a handful of customers who are pulling their hair out trying to get help.

Analyzing distributions can help identify if all customers are having a generally effortless experience, or if there’s a small subsection of customers who are really getting stuck. By identifying that small group of customers, teams can take action and proactively prevent churn.

But isn’t CES a customer support metric?

Not necessarily. While CES is most often measured and owned by customer support teams, there are several ways how customer success teams can benefit from its feedback.

The CEB found that CES is 1.8x more predictive of customer loyalty than CSAT and 2x more predictive than NPS. This makes Customer Effort Score a solid churn indicator.

Based on the research, a customer who has gone through a high-effort experience is clearly at risk of churning. One way to prevent it is to notify customer success automatically whenever a high-effort experience gets measured. This way they can pick up the conversation and proactively approach the customer to rectify the situation. Will this work 100% of the times? Probably not, but it’s a start. What else is there to do?

Preventing High-Effort Experience before they occur

Even better than reacting to high effort experiences is preventing them from happening at all. Customer success often owns onboarding. As a part of this important touch point on the customer journey, success teams ensure that users can understand and adopt the product quickly.

Feedback from CES can help you pinpoint where are your customers getting lost in the process. Your success team can then use this knowledge and address these issues via in-product tutorials, drip email campaigns, webinars, one-on-one calls and more to prevent high-effort experiences from ever happening in the first place.

So what CES am I aiming for?

According to the CEB, moving a customer from a score of 1 to a 5 boosts their loyalty by 22%. Returns diminish after that, with customers who responds with a 7 being only 2% more loyal than customers who responds with a 5.

With all that being said, you should be looking for a bell curve with most responses around 5 or 6.

How to measure CES?

As mentioned above, CES is a transactional survey, so your best option would be to get a tool (like Nicereply) to automatically survey your customers after a support ticket is closed. Another option would be to reach out to customers manually with a custom email.

Eliminating effort drives growth

While “making customers sweat for it” may work in rare cases (looking at you IKEA), for most of us focusing on providing an effortless customer experience will result in more satisfied and loyal customers. After all, 55% of consumers are willing to pay more for a guaranteed good experience and this number is likely to go up in 2019…

About the Author:

Jakub Slámka is a CMO at Nicereply, customer experience management platform that measures CSAT, CES and NPS to delight and retain customers. Jakub loves books, travelling, rock music and everything geeky.


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