What is customer effort score (CES) and how does AI help improve it?

Natalie Smithson
AI enthusiast | Tea addict | Focused on using AI assistants to win the working week

What is customer effort score?

The Customer Effort Score (CES) measures how easy or how difficult your customers find it to interact with your company’s products, services or support. It’s a customer satisfaction metric focusing on the effort customers have to put in to have their needs met.

Excellent CES implies a seamless customer experience, leading to increased satisfaction, loyalty, and customer retention, which helps lead to healthier profits.

How do you calculate CES?

Calculating CES is straightforward. Customers are asked a single question, like “How much effort did you need to make to get an answer to your query today?” Responses vary from “Very low effort” to “Very high effort,” with the average determining your CES.

Understanding customer experience through CES transforms your insights, so you can improve service delivery and delight your customers with effortless support.

Why does CES matter?

CES directly correlates with customer loyalty. By measuring the effort customers exert to resolve issues, companies can pinpoint pain points and make necessary changes to enhance experiences and encourage long-term, richer relationships.

What is a good customer effort score benchmark?

There is no set formula for measuring CES, but typically you’ll use a scoring system between 1-5 or 1-7 with low scores representing high effort and higher (better) scores representing low effort. For example, a low score of 1 could equal “Too much effort” and a high score of 5 could equal “No effort at all”.

Rethinking CES strategies to suit the age of AI

Speak to anyone who’s ever had to contact a customer service department about a problem and they’ll tell you a story about the time they spent ages in a call queue, got passed between departments, got cut off, were given the wrong information, or never received a reply to their email. Having to make repeated calls or send multiple emails, explain their situation to more than one or even two people, or have to start over thanks to incorrect information results in high effort for a customer to get their problem solved and, so, an entirely unsatisfactory experience.

Launch an AI assistant and much of that pain is removed:

  • Responses to queries are instant and readily available 24-hours a day in any time zone
  • With a high quality AI platform, customer responses are always the same, every time, so the quality and accuracy of information is consistently high
  • An AI assistant is mobile, accessible from anywhere and in any language, so there are no barriers to getting information
  • If your customers does need to speak to someone, handover via live chat is seamless whenever your teams are online
  • What’s more, you can connect your AI assistant to alI your favourite apps and platforms, so it can handle customer enquiries end-to-end without any help from your teams at all

Screenshot of a screen from AI Studio where you can connect your AI assistant to various customer service tools, like Zapier, Trello, Jira, Hubspot, Dropbox, ShipStation, Freshdesk, Campaign Monitor, Mailchimp, Make.com

Once you’ve introduced an AI assistant to help gather feedback, be sure to compare your CES results before and after to see what difference an AI assistant makes to your organisation. Only 20% of Barking & Dagenham Council customers were satisfied with having to find information on their website, yet when they introduced an AI assistant, customer satisfaction shot up to 67%.

“The ability to take information directly from our site and present that to customers has delivered major change. Our timetables and opening times change on a regular basis and we know our AI assistant will present the latest updates when the customers ask. I believe out of the huge range of customer digital transformation I have delivered that this has been one of the best projects and has delivered consistently since being installed.” ~ John Branigan, Director of IT and Transformation at Mytime Active

How to use AI Studio to collect CES data

Using our advanced platform, AI Studio, it’s easy to set up question and answer sequences ― we call them Flows, and add in automated questions to gather feedback.

Video shows a flow for questions about which laptop to use for gaming

Creating your own CES flow in AI Studio

  1. Sign up for or log in to AI Studio
  2. Go to the Content tab and check you’re on Flows
  3. Create a new flow called ‘Ask CES score’
  4. Add a Question: ‘How much effort did you need to make to get an answer to your query today?’
  5. Add Valid options 1-5
  6. Click Show options to user (so they can quickly choose a response)
  7. Hit Publish

You can go to any of your existing Flows and select Link to flow to add this CES request to the bottom of the conversation. Or if you want to filter your requests and only ask about CES at the end of any flow where the customer has given positive feedback, you’d go to the Universal content tab and add it to the flow called Positive feedback acknowledgment.

Why it makes sense to calculate CES using an AI assistant

There are many benefits to using an AI assistant to manage CES:

  • AI assistants can handle an extraordinarily vast amount of data, so it doesn’t matter how many tens of thousands of customers you have or how many millions of transactions you handle, an AI assistant can easily cope with data at scale
  • AI assistants are incredibly easy to set up and manage if you choose the right self-serve platform ― you don’t need any technical know-how or expertise (an experienced AI provider can even supervise or do it all for you)
  • You can use just one AI assistant across multiple channels, from your website or a mobile app to social media channels and smart speakers, but your data sits in one central place for you to analyse all at once
  • Information is being added to your pool of data 24/7, since your AI assistant is always on
  • Data is organised for you; you don’t need to set up spreadsheets or sums or manual automations, all the information you need is simply presented to you on a dashboard
  • No human agent, no matter how experienced or smart they are can handle data at the speed of AI, so calculations are made faster than lightning, which saves your teams the time
  • There’s no risk of human error
  • You can control when your AI assistant does or doesn’t ask customers for their score, so you don’t get unnecessary data that might skew your results

An AI assistant makes it effortless to get a full overview of all your customer data and metrics!

Launch an AI assistant today

You can get started with just your website URL and your AI assistant is ready in less than 10 minutes!


Can CES help identify opportunities for product improvement?

Absolutely. By tracking CES data, companies can recognise areas where customers face challenges or high effort, providing insights for product enhancement and development.

How can CES impact Customer Lifetime Value (CLV)?

CES plays a vital role in determining CLV, as lower customer effort typically leads to higher Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) and increased loyalty, ultimately boosting CLV.

Is CES the only metric needed for measuring customer satisfaction?

CES is valuable, but combining it with other metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) offers a more comprehensive view of customer satisfaction and loyalty.

What strategies can businesses adopt to improve their CES scores?

Businesses can focus on process optimisation, enhancing self-service options, improving response times, and ensuring personalised interactions to reduce customer effort and elevate CES scores. See also: Customer effort score.