When failures occur in customer experience, using customer effort score (NES) helps identify the most efficient solutions for customer success.

Written by Garry Schultz  

Goldberg Machine

Hafeez’s cartoon is fashioned on a Like all Goldberg machines, if you take the time to follow the flow, it does work. The question is, “But, is it worth the effort?”  The Goldberg machine suggested a complaint often heard in Contact Centers – “thanks for the fix but it’s too complicated.”  Enter “Customer Effort Score” (CES) and its applicability in a well-crafted Customer Journey.

CES Defined and Exemplified

CES measures the effort the customer must expend to rectify the issue they have experienced.  A good CES experience means the customer does not have to expend too much effort.  A typical CES situation flows like this:

  • A failure occurs in a product
  • Customers bring the failure to the attention of 1st tier agents in the contact center
  • 2nd tier support personnel isolate, validate and replicate the failure
  • A failure-report (bug) listing is entered in a quality tracking system with all the details
  • 3rd tier personnel (often engineers) evaluate the failure, assign priority & remediate as the priority dictates

Note the use of the word remediate; remediate has a broad connotation meaning the fault is addressed but not necessarily fixed.  Fixed means the failure is designed out of the product, out of the customer experience (CX),  while remedied may mean the failure is still in the product but there is a workaround.  Note – and this is key – that the 3rd tier personnel crafting the remediation may not have a strong understanding of what a customer may deem too much effort.

Delivery is the next step in the process.  Depending on the severity of the failure, delivery may be anywhere on a priority continuum from:

‘Give the customer the remediation steps when they experience the failure.’


‘Recall all units in the field and remediate immediately!’

Here are three examples from the industry;

1) The smartphone applet community is a great example of best-practice; low CES with transparent delivery.  Smartphone patches are slipstreamed into the product over-the-air resulting in zero effort on the consumer’s part. In this case, the CES score is zero as the remediation is effortless.

2) Contrast that with the auto industry; where updates are affected by mechanics when the vehicle is brought in for routine maintenance.  The auto industry receives a low CES score and has a customer friendly delivery mechanism. For more severe failures a recall may be announced which bumps up the CES as the customer must return the vehicle.

3) White goods & household fixtures industry receives a higher CES score as, in most cases, remediation is a reactive protocol; the failure must occur for the mfg. to act.  The remediation may be free but the consumer must initiate the dialog.  Therefore, while the CES is high, it is not a great customer journey.  However, white goods & fixtures are being quickly introduced to the new millennia by virtue of the Internet of Things (IoT).  Our refrigerators pinging the mfg. service center to presage a component failure is just around the corner.

Customer Effort Score Prescription Applicable to Contact Centers

Returning to CES – Most remediation processes are reasonable in that a limited degree of effort is required to affect the workaround.

Example: many computer problems are remedied by a double click on a self-extracting file and the fix is applied automatically.  This rates a CES score of 1 as not much effort is involved.

That being said, at times consumers have been served workarounds that are the equivalent of a Goldberg machine. The remediation works but at a disproportionate complexity to the consumer. In these situations, the CES score is 10. The workaround is available, the manufacturer met their customer service obligation, but, the effort to affect the workaround is unusable!  Enter, the customer advocacy role in the contact center comes in.

Prescription to Avoid Creating a Goldberg Situation – Taming CES in the Contact Center:

Contact Center personnel should take the customer advocate role and run alpha (internal test) and beta (limited external test) tests on suggested remediation steps for any given failure.  Using results from the Contact Center tests, personnel can then provide quantifiable data to drive a go/no-go decision.

  • First put a CES measure in place. Benchmark historical performance by reviewing the fixes issued in the last year correlating customer success with the remediation. Perspective is important; strongly recommend the correlation exercise should be conducted by customer facing personnel and not the personnel designing the fixes/workarounds.
  • After the benchmark is established, negotiate a CES target with the Product Management team. This could look like:

CES 0 to 3 – acceptable effort, release workaround immediately

CES 3 to 6 – borderline effort, release with reservations, expect support volume to increase

CES 7 to 10 – too much effort, do not release, go back and reengineer the effort

Next time a failure is discovered and remediated, run it thru the test above; is it acceptable (CES 0 to 3)?  Does it require resources from the contact center to assist consumers (CES 3 to 6)? Or is it onerous (CES 7 to 10)?  Compile empirical data on CES as it relates to NPS, CSaT and temper those measures with the cost implications tomake the right decisions going forward.

Some borrowed wisdom to close: “Don’t be more precise than the subject warrants.” – Plato

Please Contact ApexCX for all your customer experience needs.

(Feb 22, 2019)