Why successful technology companies focus on customer effort

Monitoring and lowering the customer effort score is crucial to delivering the type of customer experience that leads to loyalty.

Published ·May 8, 2023

Reading time·7 min

From never-before-witnessed market cap sizes to record levels of unicorn investment, there seems to be nothing that can hinder the technology sector’s forward momentum.

However, particularly for fast-growth startups, this acceleration could well lead to customer alienation, unless they continue to track their customer effort score. Racing forward into new markets and rushing out new products and services will only deliver the desired return on investment if the customer experience (CX) in support of these innovations continues to align with the expectations of existing, as well as potential, customers.

What’s a customer effort score?

As a metric, a customer effort score (CES) ranks how easy or difficult customers think it is to engage with an organization based on their most recent experience.

As with other direct feedback approaches to measuring CX, a CES survey asks customers to rate an interaction or experience using a five-point or seven-point numbered scale. A typical customer effort survey would pose a question or make a statement such as “It was easy for me to handle my issue as a customer,” then offer a choice of responses ranging from “I strongly agree” (a score of one) to “I strongly disagree” (a score of five or seven, depending on the number of points used within the scale).

An organization’s overall customer effort score is then calculated by dividing the number of positive responses by the total number of responses given.

Why is a customer effort score important?

A customer effort score is important because there is a direct correlation between effort and loyalty. Historically, organizations that manage to keep their CES score low enjoy greater customer retention than their peers. And, in an industry like technology, it is increasingly easy for a customer to move from one brand to another.

This isn’t to suggest that other metrics such as customer satisfaction (CSAT) and Net Promoter Scores (NPS) aren’t also business-critical benchmarks in terms of CX. However, a CSAT survey only rates an interaction in isolation (and can only be completed by a customer who has successfully achieved a resolution after engaging with a live agent). And, while NPS is a good indication of loyalty because customers who are willing to promote a brand clearly have a connection with it, it doesn’t provide insight as to why a customer is a promoter or detractor. Likewise, unlike with a customer effort survey, an NPS survey isn’t something a customer can be asked to complete following each and every brand interaction.

What are the best times to send a CES survey?

The beauty of the customer effort score survey is that it can be used across touchpoints. However, this can lead to a temptation to bombard customers with survey requests after every click.

Therefore, only request feedback following specific interactions. For instance, after a customer has read certain information on a website, especially if it pertained to troubleshooting or accessing detailed information.

Likewise, you can use it after a voice or online chat interaction with a live contact center agent. If the technology company offers a service rather than a physical product, a CES survey request should be sent following the initial sale to rate the purchasing experience.

Why customer effort is crucial for technology companies

In crowded marketplaces, where competition is rife, CX is often the only point of differentiation. Customers are willing to pay a premium for an identical product or service if it comes with a superior level of customer experience. Likewise, 52% of consumers are equally willing to walk away from a brand following a single negative example of CX.

And getting CX right is a real challenge, even for established tech brands.

For instance, attracting and retaining early adopters is clearly important — their initial experiences and validation of a product or service will ultimately give others the confidence to try it, too. But of course, even though both types of customer groups want similar things from a product or service, their needs and expectations in relation to the overarching customer experience can be very different. What a millennial finds frictionless could demand a huge amount of effort from a baby boomer.

Perform a customer needs analysis

This generational difference in relation to customer effort is why tech companies need to take a structured and methodical approach to understanding who their existing and potential customers truly are and their wants and needs in relationship to the organization’s brand.

Because unless CX positively aligns with brand perception and brand promise, retaining existing customers and attracting new people to products and services could become a huge and hugely expensive challenge.

The most effective means of finding the answers is the use of a customer needs analysis. It will highlight what motivates customers to choose an organization’s products or services over those of a competitor. Crucially, it helps build detailed customer personas that you can use to test the effectiveness of every existing aspect of CX.

Map the customer journey

The customer journey — every step a customer takes with a brand from the moment they discover it to after-sales service — can be a very different experience for different customers based on their persona. However, by using the personas established through a customer needs analysis, it becomes simple to test existing customer journeys from the customer’s perspective and map any changes that may be necessary in order to improve the customer effort score.

How to lower customer effort

From website navigation to online chat and from self-service to the effectiveness of the queuing system when customers phone a contact center, there are many touchpoints and possibilities for friction and frustration as customers exert effort in order to engage with an organization and achieve their objective.

And, as the number of ways in which a customer can interact or engage with an organization grows, so do the chances of making their lives complicated and demanding greater effort when attempting to resolve an issue. However, by focusing on three major aspects of CX, it should be easier to identify problems and apply changes that make a positive difference to customer effort.

1. Keep self-service current

Over half of consumers now consider an easy-to-navigate website as a key aspect of positive CX. So, make sure that as new products and services roll out, digital assets stay up to date and remain simple to use — specifically any content or features that relate to customer self-service.

Self-service is now a mandatory element of CX. Customers expect to be able to answer simple questions or solve common issues at the moment they arise and without making the effort of engaging with a live contact center agent. Likewise, for organizations, self-service is key to lowering the cost to serve and for reducing the number of customer contacts that would otherwise require handling in live channels. But only when it works.

Ensure that all FAQs, knowledgebases, and other assets are up to date. If a self-service portal also includes interactive elements such as chatbots, check their calibration and ability to handle interactions relating to new products and services and recently identified recurring issues.

2. Keep information flowing across channels

When self-service fails, customers need to move into live channels, and this transition needs to be as frictionless as possible. For example, if a chatbot is too limited in its domain expertise to deliver the resolution to an issue, then a customer needs to move directly into live chat. And, critically, all the information that the customer has already provided needs to move, too. Having to repeat information already provided is one of the biggest pain points for customers when using live channels to solve a problem.

And of course, this extends beyond chatbots. If an IVR system doesn’t offer the required menu, the transition to a live agent needs to begin with that agent acknowledging who the customer is and, ideally, the type of issue requiring attention.

For organizations that offer asynchronous channels such as messaging, social media, or email interactions, it’s imperative to clearly state expectations in terms of the time that will usually pass before consumers receive a response to the initial contact. But, likewise, there needs to be a uniform way of capturing this initial information so that the first response isn’t one requesting even more information before the resolution process can even start. Rather than a simple email feature, think about removing customer effort by using a standardized website-hosted form that is sure to capture all information relevant to the issue.

3. Maintain a complete customer view

Regardless of channel or combination of channels a customer uses in order to engage with an organization, recognition is key. Each interaction should be captured and integrated into existing data regarding that customer. This is the only way to guarantee a single view of that customer, their likes, preferences, and history of interactions. This is the first step towards offering a more personalized service and understanding shared characteristics across customer personas that indicate a tendency towards loyalty and advocacy and equally towards disappointment and eventual attrition.

Having a complete view of the customer will also increase contact center efficiencies alongside improving customer effort. If your customers can’t move between channels free of the need to repeat themselves or to reenter information — then you’re asking them to do a lot of work just to connect with you.

All of which is why successful technology companies focus on customer effort. Technology is there to make life simple, not more complicated.

Technology organizations that minimize customer effort enjoy a lower cost to serve, lower churn rate and have a customer base that’s more likely to advocate. To learn more about the importance of customer effort and building a CX for the future, check out our best practice guide “How CX is humanizing the technology industry” or contact us!