In the never-ending quest to find new ways to measure a company’s success with its customers (and to earn fees for the consultants that promote them), the Customer Effort Score has become one of the more fashionable tools.
What is the Customer Effort Score?
For some years, companies have been exhorted to delight their customers – the idea being that delighted customers become loyal and tell their friends how good the service / product is. This approach has given us the popular and fashionable Net Promoter Score, for example.
The idea behind the Customer Effort Score is that most customers of most companies won’t be delighted if they receive great service – and that therefore a company should instead focus on avoiding bad service. The Customer Effort Score is a measure of how much effort a customer has to make in order to get a problem fixed. We have all had problems with suppliers that take up huge amount of our time to get fixed, and the idea is that if a company can just minimise the difficulty of getting problems fixed, that will strike the right balance between customer dissatisfaction and funds invested in customer happiness.
That seems to make sense – especially, dare I say it, for corporate behemoths that never had a hope in hell of delighting more than a select few anyway. And it particularly makes sense for those products that consumers largely consider as hygiene factors in their lives (i.e. the consumer only notices them by their absence or non-performance).
BT have been using the Customer Effort Score (CES) for some time, and find it useful for evaluating channels – but only when taken with other measures such as the Net Promoter Score. Calculation of the score is fairly simple, as the graphic shows – however BT and others underscore the importance of asking the questions in the right way. CEB tested a number of question variants and found the difference to be striking, as one would imagine. Remember that CES only measures effectiveness of customer care – if the car you bought drives like a sack of spuds or poor infrastructure means your broadband is slow, good customer care processes won’t fix the problem.
Complaining is contagious
A huge part of the value of delighted customers – and the cost of unhappy punters – is in the fact that we tell our friends about our experiences. So which has the bigger economic effect – sharing horror stories or evangelising?
We know that when a person feels passionately positive about something, she is likely to share the information with her friends. From the success of Paul the Apostle (a fine word-of-mouth marketer if ever there was one) in spreading the Christian message to Idiro’s awards for driving uptake of iPhones, we know that passion drives commitment. However the big issue for companies is that most companies have very few passionate fans. For most products, the number of evangelists is tiny or zero. Mr. Fishburne‘s cartoon, above, paints it well.
However, complaining is much more common – and it certainly is contagious. Research conducted by Idiro has shown that people who complain about their mobile phone operator are highly likely to associate with other complainers – or to encourage their friends to complain also. In fact, Idiro found that friends of complainers are 70% more likely to complain themselves than are the rest of the customer base. Backing this up are others’ research findings that customers are more likely to share negative stories than positive one (examples here and here).
Because complaining is so viral, and because typically there is a lot more customer dissatisfaction than evangelism in the customer base, then the Customer Effort Score is a worthwhile measure – particularly where customer service interactions represent a significant part of the customer’s product / service experience.
However, the CES only measures the quality of problem resolution / customer service interactions. Clearly, other measures must be used to assess the rest of the customer proposition against customer expectations and competitive offerings. And one useful empirical way to research both the complainers and the evangelists is to measure the word-of-mouth about your product: who is talking, about which product, what are they saying, and where are they saying it? And if your business has data on your customers’ social links, Idiro can help you turn it into marketing insights.