Skip to content
Customer Effort Score: A Key Metric for Association MX

Customer Effort Score: A Key Metric for Association MX

From customer satisfaction score to net promoter score, there are a variety of metrics an organization can use to gauge its customer experience. But the latest metric gaining momentum focuses less on increasing delight and more on decreasing dismay. That measure? Customer Effort Score (CES).

Customer Effort Score measures the level of effort customers have to put forth when interacting with an organization (for example, making a purchase, getting support, or resolving an issue). It's tied to satisfaction but focuses specifically on ease of experience. 

The underlying principle of CES is this: The more effortless the experience, the more loyal the customer.

CES originated with the management research firm Corporate Executive Board (now known as Gartner). In "The Effortless Experience," an article published in Harvard Business Review, the firm's researchers claimed that reducing effort was a more effective way to increase satisfaction compared to focusing on delighting customers.

Since its introduction, CES has gained popularity as a measure of customer experience. It resonates with organizations in sectors ranging from software and technology to travel and hospitality, helping them evaluate and improve their processes and practices to increase retention and loyalty.

Can a metric designed to measure the ease of customer interactions work for associations? We think so!

The Intersection of CES and MX

It’s clear to see how CES intersects with MX (member experience) and why associations might want to measure it. 

According to experts, member experience is defined by members' thoughts, emotions, and perceptions of their interactions with an organization. Customer effort is similar, also triggering our emotions and influencing our perceptions. 

Frustration is one emotion that can be closely linked with both MX and CES. It can be one of the biggest predictors of member churn, as well as decreased engagement, satisfaction, and advocacy (all of which also impact revenue).

CES for Associations

Intuitively, we know that "ease of use" is a basic expectation among consumers today. Think of the last time you interacted with or attempted to complete a task with a business. If it was easy, you were pleased (and maybe even surprised or relieved!). If it was difficult, you probably gave up and went elsewhere. These reactions speak to the emotional aspect of customer experience—and member experience is no different. 

Conceptually, CES fits seamlessly with an association's goals. You want the member experience to feel frictionless and free of frustrations. You want it to be easy for members to find resources, interact with their peers, and engage in the community. 

So, how can you create a "low-effort" experience for your members? Start with these simple steps: 

  1. Enable self-service. How easy is it for members to get answers to their questions or find the resources they need? Think about how you can empower members with improved access, organization, or search.
  2. Reduce the number of systems they interact with. Our research on the State of Member Experience revealed that having “too many systems” was members’ number one frustration with their associations’ technology. Can you streamline your tech stack to create a more seamless experience?
  3. Provide proactive support. What are the most common questions or complaints you hear from members? Consider how to address these topics across the member journey with proactive support and clear communication. 
  4. Focus on the emotional side of service. How do members feel when they interact with your staff? Encourage empathetic interactions that reduce a member's perception of effort (even if the complexity can't be changed).

There's nothing wrong with striving to delight your members. But if you aim to increase member retention and boost loyalty, you may want to look at the member experience from another perspective. 

Consider how your association empowers members, makes their lives easier, and meets their emotional needs. With the right resources, processes, and mindset, you can enhance their experience by reducing their effort.


Additional resources:
Member Experience: What It is and Why It’s Vital to Associations, Forj 
Effortless Experience Explained, Gartner 
The Effortless Experience: Conquering the New Battleground for Customer Loyalty (Portfolio/Penguin, 2013)




Related Articles