Customer Effort Score: A Customer Experience Metric You Should Measure

Person mapping in-app experience

Nowadays, you can do almost anything online. Whether it’s starting your search for a new vehicle, booking that long-overdue vacation, or buying new camping equipment, we’ve become accustomed to doing most of our daily tasks online. As our knowledge and expectations of different websites have evolved over time, it is no longer enough to simply be able to do most of our tasks online. There is a growing desire to reduce unnecessary steps to complete a task online, or rapidly find the content or products we are looking for. Many of us seek out the same capabilities online that we look for when we have something to do in-person. Among these capabilities – we want to be able to do it easily, and with as little stress as possible.

The ‘Effort’ metric looks at how hard your visitors have to work to accomplish what they came on your website to do. Whether it’s the complexity of your website’s navigation or the steps required to extract the level of detail they’re looking for, this metric gauges the level of friction your visitors meet throughout their website session.

How you can measure ‘Effort’

There are many ways you can measure Effort. For example, the CEB, a best practice insights and technology company, developed the Customer Effort Score (or CES for short) which helps gauge how much effort the visitor had to expend to handle a request they had with the company.

At iperceptions (now Astute), we have tackled Effort in different ways over the years. We have often focused on overall website experience, and as such the focus has been to collect feedback from visitors who have a variety of reasons for visiting the site.

Over time, we shifted the question measuring Effort to focus on visitors who said they were able to do what they set out to do during their visit, as our research was already extensive on diagnosing failed visits. By targeting the question to visits that were deemed a success, we could find hidden friction points that other standard KPIs like Overall Satisfaction or Task Completion would not necessarily highlight.

Why you should measure ‘Effort’

1. Make the distinction between ‘successful’ and ‘easy’ website visits

Working with our clients, we have seen that visitors’ Effort scores are strongly correlated with their ability to complete their task. In other words, when a low level of effort was required, visitors tended to have had a successful visit, but visitors tended to be less successful when a high level of effort was needed.

However, correlation isn’t the same as causation. As such, we must keep in mind that just because one of your visitors said they completed their tasks, it doesn’t mean that they were able to do it easily. It is very important to make the distinction between a successful visit and an easy one, especially as you sift through your data to find ways to optimize your website.

2. Gauge the cost of a successful website visit

Difficult website experiences can potentially drive your visitors to do things that can impact your bottom line in different ways. A couple of examples:

  • If visitors find certain tasks too difficult to do on your website, they could turn to other, more expensive channels to complete them (e.g. phone-based customer support).
  • A difficult checkout process could potentially prevent visitors from buying everything they wanted to buy, or abandoning the purchase altogether.

Also, if there are few differentiating factors between competitors, high-effort experiences could lead visitors to go to competitors’ sites especially if these sites offer an easier way for them to do what they want. Based on their research, CEB believes that the Customer Effort Score (examined earlier in this post) not only helps evaluate your visitors’ experience during their current session, but also that it can provide a good barometer for whether your visitors will remain loyal to your brand in the future.

In other words, offering an easy experience focused on minimizing friction for your visitors can help breed brand loyalty.

Use Case: ‘Effort’ and Friction

As mentioned earlier, one of the ways we have found Effort to yield interesting insights is by looking at the experience of a visitor segment many may sometimes overlook – those who did complete their task. Since a successful visit is not always necessarily an easy one, Effort can help us identify visitor segments who experienced the most friction when completing their tasks.

Let’s look at a hypothetical example based loosely on an exercise we performed with one of our clients. Imagine that you are collecting the following metrics with your VoC survey:

  • Task Completion
  • Overall Satisfaction
  • Purpose of Visit (POV)
  • Effort

First, let’s compare the Task Completion rate for each Purpose of Visit group, and the Overall Satisfaction score for those who completed their task:

Chart showing Task Completion scores segmented by visitor intent

While there is some variation in the Overall Satisfaction scores, it can be difficult to determine which Purpose of Visit segment experienced the most friction when completing their tasks from this data alone. Now, let’s look at the Effort score provided by each of these groups:

Chart showing Effort and Task Completion scores segmented by visitor intent

As we can see, there is a more discernable difference in how each Purpose of Visit segment evaluated the ease at which they were able to complete their task. Specifically, we see a notable spike in this regard for POV B and POV E compared to all other Purpose of Visit groups.

By identifying the specific visitor segments who experienced the most friction when completing their tasks, you can now hone your analysis to determine the causes of this friction. Whether it’s digging deeper into these groups’ open-ended feedback, adding new questions to your VoC survey, or launching a separate, more tactical VoC survey, the insights from this exercise can provide you with a good starting point as you look for ways to optimize your website’s performance.

The Easier The Better

Every visitor comes to your website hoping to be able to do whatever they need to do easily and quickly. In today’s world where visitors have increasing amounts of buying power, the ability to complete tasks easily can be a competitive advantage.

This particular aspect of your visitors’ experience is becoming increasingly important to monitor, but it can only be accurately measured by asking your visitors. Whether you compare Effort scores for different visitor segments, or inject this data into your web analytics or session replay tools, it can help highlight friction points on your website that are crucial to understand when looking for ways to optimize the performance of your website.


This article was originally published on, and written by William Braün, VP, Insights at Astute.