When and how to use relationship and transactional NPS surveys

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Starting a Net Promoter program is about improving your customer experience and boosting your customer loyalty, but before you start wowing customers you have to survey them. And part of that process is deciding what type of survey to conduct: relationship, transactional or both.

When to use them and what is right for your Net Promoter program depends on your industry and what you want to achieve. The following goes through what they are and how they are used, what they mean for your Net Promoter score, and why the mixed method approach is the best.

What’s the difference between relationship and transactional surveys?

Relationship surveys are there to investigate a customer’s loyalty to a company/brand. These types of surveys ask customers to consider the overall experience and satisfaction they have with a company and are typically carried out at regular intervals (e.g., quarterly, half-yearly or yearly).

Transactional surveys investigate the experience a customer has had within a particular transaction/interaction (what is commonly called a touchpoint). This survey is designed, not to measure customer loyalty, but satisfaction with a specific company segment in order to improve it.



How do I use relationship surveys?

Relationship surveys, in most cases, should be your starting point. They are the primary way to measure your Net Promoter score and determine which segments in your customer experience need improving. How to use relationship surveys is about deciding which customers to measure and when to send the surveys.

In b2c, relationship surveys can be conducted across the entire customer base. However, why you use NPS will determine which customers should be surveyed. For example, an airline might choose only to survey its economy class customers, as it knows that 1st class and Business class experiences high loyalty.

In a sector like the airlines, it is possible to divide up the customer experience and measure only the relationships you deem important. Generally, though, in most b2c industries the customer bases are pretty uniform, and all customers should be sent relationship surveys.

In b2b, however, it is important to pay attention to the fact that what you call a customer is actually an account. So sending a relationship survey means sending surveys to many employees within an account.

Generally, all accounts in b2b should be surveyed, but it is important to determine which employees in each account are important and need surveying. To better understand this read: “Why “Voice of the User” is not “Voice of the Customer” in B2B.”

When to send relationship surveys throughout the year is up to you. They are generally sent periodically (quarter, half-year or yearly), but can be sent after an interaction if it is the only opportunity to survey. For companies that are in single purchase models such as retail, there is little opportunity to conduct a relationship survey outside of the interaction itself.

How do I use transactional surveys?

Transactional surveys, in most cases, are only conducted after you have a functioning NPS relationship survey. This is because the results of a relationship survey should help determine the touchpoints that need to be surveyed transactionally.

“In the relationship survey, which touchpoints do customers choose the most as the reason for their score?” This question should guide your transactional survey process.

Transactional surveys allow companies to investigate further how particular touchpoints affect a customer’s relationship with a company and make service improvements.

Transactional surveys then are no more suited to B2C or B2B, as it is sometimes claimed. The customer support divisions of large B2B software companies, for example, are essentially the same as their B2C counterparts. And understanding the experience within this touchpoint is valuable, as account loyalty is influenced by frontline staff being able to resolve issues and use the product successfully.

As mentioned above, your NPS relationship survey should guide your transactional survey process, but it does not mean surveying all chosen touchpoints from the very start; this will only cause more headaches than answers.

Transactional NPS surveys should be rolled out in stages. Start by surveying those touchpoints customers mention the most (maybe 1 or 2 to start) and slowly add more as you learn what is lacking in your knowledge.



REMEMBER – It is not about surveying all touchpoints but those that impact the customer’s experience.

When to send transactional surveys should be as soon as possible after an interaction, but be cautious about sending them too often. A customer that has to call a support center two or three times in a day isn’t going to like being surveyed after each interaction.

Furthermore, be mindful of how you define the boundaries of the touchpoint. If you want to measure the whole experience from browsing/ordering to receiving the item, you should time your survey for when the item should arrive, not after the purchase.

How do relationship and transactional surveys affect my Net Promoter score?

How to calculate your Net Promoter score is something that receives a lot of debate, but it really shouldn’t be complicated with additional parameters or variables.

The most essential but simple rule you should follow is that you should not combine different relationship and transactional scores into one Net Promoter score.

Your company’s Net Promoter score is based on only the results of your relationship survey. While, each transactional survey that measures a different touchpoint, requires a separate Net Promoter score.

Combining the scores of different NPS surveys is never recommended because each survey is measuring a different aspect of your business. For example, a customer that scores you poorly in a transaction survey about their purchase experience might still score you highly during a relationship survey.

The same rule applies for combining the scores of different transactional surveys. Each transaction survey measures a separate and different experience, so each needs its own separate score.

How relationship and transactional surveys affect your Net Promoter score isn’t a question that needs to be asked if you keep separate Net Promoter scores.

So what’s right for me?

NPS is about more than just measuring your company health (although that is a great start), it’s about knowing what affects your health.

NPS needs to start with a relationship survey, as you first need to know your customer loyalty and pinpoint what is affecting it. Next, further investigate those drivers of loyalty identified in the relationship survey by conducting specific transactional surveys.



NPS, though, is also about being easy and fast to start. It’s about avoiding the long planning processes of other survey types, and just getting it out there (regardless of how many or few you survey) to collect your first round of feedback.

And while it is important to know what both surveys mean, how to use them and some of their pitfalls – in the beginning, don’t worry too much about transactional NPS. Begin with a relationship survey, and whether or not you should do transactional surveys will be answered when you better understand the landscape of your customer experience.

This article is republished from the original post with the author’s permission.

3 COMMENTS

  1. This – “a customer that scores you poorly in a transaction survey about their purchase experience might still score you highly during a relationship survey. The same rule applies for combining the scores of different transactional surveys. Each transaction survey measures a separate and different experience, so each needs its own separate score. How relationship and transactional surveys affect your Net Promoter score isn’t a question that needs to be asked if you keep separate Net Promoter scores.” – feels like a veritable Gordian Knot of NPS scores. How do you suggest companies using NPS for performance improvement guicance drill down to improve specific, granular transactional or relationship components? If you don’t have a technique for doing this, you’re left with what appears to be ‘boil the ocean’ research.

  2. The problem is, no customer will think of your transaction until you give them a survey. Far better to understand as far as you can how customers think about you without priming them.
    No customer is so deeply concerned about your experience they measure everything at a granular level to come up with a regression algorithm of value.

  3. When an organization starting a Net Promoter® or customer feedback process, they perform a survey process in one of two ways: Transactional and Relationship. Transactional feedback has detailed information on the feedback from the customer, the survey response includes a wealth of transaction information.

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