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How Do You Make Customer Effort Score Data Actionable?

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It's one thing to measure a customer's effort using your products or services but how do you take that data and make it actionable?

Customer experience metrics without action are as useless as the holidays without overeating. You’ve got to be able to take action on what your CX numbers tell you, naturally.

That certainly goes for the Customer Effort Score (CES), a CX metric used to determine the amount of effort it takes customers to accomplish a specific task within a brand experience. Customer Effort Score is one of several customer experience metrics that place hard values on a brand’s CX and often works in conjunction with metrics like Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Churn Rate (CCR) and Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT).

“Data is only as valuable as the action you take from it, and the best actions to take with CES follow the steps: recover, repair and reimagine,” said Dave Mingle, VP and global practice head of customer experience at Reputation. “Repairing and reimagining require innovation, where recovery is table stakes for an effective CX program.”

So, how do you make customer effort score data actionable?

Customer Effort Score Can Trigger Immediate Action

How can you put CES into action? Mingle cited the example of an automotive company he worked with that set up a trigger for CES in its CX management process. It alerts the team and opens an urgent ticket to send to customer service, which allows someone to directly respond to a customer and work to recover that business. “Using CES to eliminate extra effort on behalf of the consumer gives a business more of a competitive advantage,” he said.

Additionally, CES can be useful when evaluating the experience within contact centers. Customers have a problem to solve and might be starting from a negative perception. “CES is, therefore, more appropriate in this environment than NPS,” Mingle said. “However, it doesn’t measure the overall relationship between business and customer; thus, it is often used in conjunction with NPS.”

Related Article: A Look at Customer Effort Score and How It Can Help Build Better CX

Customer Effort Score Creates Onboarding Action Plan

Hadrien Legoupil, director of customer experience and insights at Aircall, said his company built a dedicated customer experience and insights team that uses CES as a key component in the architecture of Aircall’s CX measurement. “CES is a useful transactional metric that provides key insights in conjunction with other industry standards such as CSAT or readiness assessments,” he said. Aircall utilizes CES in the company's post-onboarding survey, which assesses the effort it takes customers to set up their Aircall account.

In the months ahead, they’re also planning to incorporate CES in additional customer service surveys for post-support and post-billing. “Aircall uses CES as one of many indicators to measure, analyze and create an action plan to improve customer satisfaction,” Legoupil said. “The metric is included in the company’s performance dataset that derives from in-app surveys and standard email surveys.”

Incorporating Customer Effort Score Into Business Decisions

Customer onboarding managers review survey results daily for insights to identify areas of improvement or opportunity. When relevant, CX team members proactively reach out to a customer to initiate an immediate solution. “The metric allows us to track for monthly and quarterly customer-related trends that drive strategic high-level actions,” Legoupil said. “We're still in the early days of this CX measurement journey but we're fortunate to have executive buy-in and support.”

To date, the measurement system is still very recent. Therefore, there aren't numerous strategic actions initiated because the CX team needs more data to make these scores more statistically significant. But there's a firm belief that strong improvements in onboarding CES will further drive product adoption overtime and ultimately result in greater net retention metrics, according to Legoupil.

Related Article: 4 Ways to Improve Your Customer Effort Score

Customer Effort Score Through the Lens of Relationships, Journeys, Transactions

Paul Hagen, principal director of CXM at Alida, said his company’s Corporate Executive Board created CES intended for use as a call center metric. It clearly has applications beyond the contact center, he added, but much of the groundwork and history for the metric is there.

Learning Opportunities

When thinking about applying customer perception metrics like CES, Hagen’s CX teams look at three levels to determine if it's appropriate:

  • The relationship
  • The customer journey
  • The transaction or touchpoint

Using CES as Relationship and Brand Health Metric

Hagen said his teams usually don't recommend using CES as a "relationship" or "brand health" kind of metric because of its transactional focus — as compared to something like NPS, value or trust.

“That said, it's happened,” he added. “In the words of the CX leader at a health insurance company that used CES as a company-wide beacon metric: ‘If we can just be easy to work with, we'd be differentiated in our industry.’ We've seen B2B enterprise software firms rally CX and partner experience efforts around ease of doing business as it was a simple concept to communicate internally to employees. Many firms use Forrester's Customer Experience Index (CXI), which has customer effort as one of three key components, as a high level relationship metric.”

Customer Journey Is a Strong Place to Measure Effort

Hagen said his teams have seen certain customer journeys that cross multiple touch points as excellent places to monitor customer effort: a returns process (how easy was it to return your item?); order and pickup curbside; finding a doctor and scheduling your first appointment; enrolling in this program.

Deploying CES in Specific Transactions or Touch Points

According to Hagen, the most prolific places to deploy CES are within specific touch points, such as call center, mobile apps, websites, etc. How easy was it to use our website? Use our mobile app? Get your problem resolved? Pay your bill? Check out?

“Regardless of which of the levels a company deploys CES, follow-up actions particularly for systemic process issues — closing the ‘outer loop’ — is critical for improving the scores,” Hagen said. “Problems with CES typically point to process or policy issues, which means firms need to have some kind of cross-functional governance council or steering committee that can prioritize fixes, deploy teams to fix issues, make business cases and monitor outcomes. It will make or break the success of using CES, like any customer perception metric.”

Navigating Toward Positive Experiences

Businesses should continuously strive to minimize friction experienced by customers, and CES is a revealing metric that exposes friction levels, according to Legoupil. Aircall uses it to help ensure our customers are having a positive experience when they interact with a product or representative.

“Customers that enjoy a simple and seamless experience when using a product or service are much more likely to maintain brand loyalty in the long-term,” Legoupil added, “which is why CES is one factor in our strategy to provide great service.”

Make use of both qualitative and quantitative data from CX metrics, Mingle said, Qualitative data in the form of customer reviews and comments should guide a business’s journey in much the same way a navigation system would tell a car driver which route to take. “While there are pros and cons to all CX metrics,” he added, “it’s important to remember that they’re only as good as the actions they enable you to take. Think of CX metrics as acting like a car speedometer — they can indicate how fast you’re going, but they don’t tell you where to go.”