CES 101: Optimizing your Customer Effort Score like the World’s Tech Giants

Despite the sleek designs of MacBooks making them famously difficult to self-service, Apple has always been known for their solid customer support, especially when compared to other popular notebook manufacturers such as Dell or HP. In a survey conducted by notebookcheck in 2018, Apple set itself apart from rivals in terms of wait time, problem solving, and comprehensibility. Simply put, Apple’s customer service is ideal in that it requires only minimal effort from its customers. In measuring the effort that customers exert, many companies will use a tool called the Customer Effort Score (CES).

Table of Contents

  1. What is CES?
    • Concept
    • Practicality
  1. When to use CES?
    • Overview
    • Pros and Cons
  1. How to optimize CES?
    • Like Food, Better when Fresh
    • Ask the Right Questions
    • Optimize for Mobile
    • Automated Triggers
  1. Where to program CES surveys?
    • Syno’s customer experience solutions

What is CES?


The Customer Effort Score (CES) is a single-item metric that measures how much effort a customer has to make in order to get an issue resolved, a request fulfilled, a product purchased/returned or a question answered.

CES surveys usually ask something like, “did you have to wait long for a response?,” or ask respondents to rank statements such as, “[Company] was helpful to my issues/questions,” on a scale from ‘strongly agree’ to ‘strongly disagree’.


Thanks to CES surveys, a company would learn whether a customer’s experience was hassle-free or whether they had to make an effort in order to solve their issue, and if so, how much. The idea is that customers are more loyal to products or services that are easier to use. To this end, the Harvard Business Review revealed that 94% of customers who report a low level of effort would continue to support the business and 88% would be eager to spend more.

Furthermore, CES tracks closely with business reputation. Only 1% of customers who experience a low level of effort end up sharing negative comments about a business. On the other hand, a whopping 81% do for those who experience a high level of effort.

When to use CES?


CES is a quick and easy survey that tracks results over time, making it a breeze to measure customer loyalty. However, it does have its limitations. Because the results come from a single item or a one-time experience, you can’t draw a clear picture of your customer loyalty.

For example, would a customer who previously had a solid relationship with your company turn away because of one bad interaction? Not necessarily.

However, NPS, used in tandem with other measurements, gives companies a better view of their overall performance.

Pros and Cons


  • An indicator of client retention and a client’s increase in spending.
  • Provides clear feedback for improving specific aspects of the customer experience.
  • Easy to calculate and track with a large customer base.


  • Only tracks one aspect of the customer experience, which risks oversimplifying a complex issue.
  • Only works if you ask customers for feedback soon after the experience.

A customer experience at Apple

How to optimize CES?

Like Food, Better when Fresh

The first thing to keep in mind is the timing of the survey. Veterans like Apple email surveys to customers immediately after they make a purchase. Customers are asked to rate their satisfaction level and how likely they are to purchase it again. Because the surveys are sent immediately after a purchase, Apple is able to capture quick, accurate feedback while the transaction is still fresh in the customer’s mind.

This same principle can be applied throughout a customer’s interaction with your company. There are some touch points to consider:

  • Follow up after a (successful) customer support ticket.
  • After a customer finishes reading support information on your company’s website (for example, after a customer reads a how to guide on changing a screen refresh rate on a monitor manufacturer’s website).
  • After a user finishes a certain task while using your product (e.g. after completing self-guided tutorial in a software program).

Ask the Right Questions

Although there is nothing wrong with phrases like, “[The company] made it easy for me to handle my issue,” that phrase  sounds a bit unfriendly and machine-like.

In this day and age, personalization is everything. Just like the curated experiences available from Amazon or Apple, be specific. Asking something more meaningful, such as, “was Gary able to help you solve your issue?” or “How was your experience working with Anna?” is much better.

Be mindful that CES surveys should be short and avoid using any leading information.

If you’d like more tips for designing a CES survey, be sure to read our article on Questionnaire Design 101.

Optimize for Mobile

A recent Statista study found that there are an astounding 4.2 billion mobile Internet users; therefore making it essential that your survey is optimized for mobile view. This includes removing unnecessary text and external links and putting positive options at the top and negative options at the bottom.

Automated Triggers

Surveys should be automatically sent out after an interaction with a customer service representative or specific touchpoint.

Where to program CES surveys?

At Syno International, we provide customer experience solutions that help clients reach their customer insight goals. We do this by providing our clients valid data from target audiences and professional customizable reports. Specifically:

  • Surveys programmed with SynoTool allows for complex logic, conditions, and Javascript settings for each question. If you do not have a questionnaire prepared, we can help. Our highly experienced experts will help you design your survey, translate your questionnaire (in the case of global sampling) and analyze the IR (incidence rate).
  • During the data collection process, we provide many advanced and efficient ways to make your customers survey experience effortless– from scanning QR code on receipts to clicking invitation emails.
  • After the data is collected, we can deliver it in a wide-range of formats, including Excel and SPSS. Furthermore, our IT engineers can create customized dashboards suited to your needs.

An image of SynoTool

If you would like to learn more about how our Customer Experience solutions can work for you, please do not hesitate to contact us

Special thanks to our guest contributor Tran Nam Anh for the content related to the Customer Effort Score.