Surveys seem to be a method of customer experience assessment preferred by many business owners, sometimes with a reward, sometimes not. It is one way to communicate to your clients that you care about the way the business interacts with them. How will you know if it works or not? It will depend on your process and what information you want to know more about.

In the early days of a new business, staying in touch with customers and listening to their feedback is fairly easy to do. A small client base and a simple set of initial product or service offerings lend themselves to more personal interaction and ample opportunity for feedback. However, as a company grows and volume increases, it is not uncommon for leadership to become more internally focused and less connected to customers’ needs and perspectives, which can ultimately hamper long-term growth and sustainability.

Avoiding this failure mode requires a commitment to cultivating and listening to the voice of the customer through a strategic survey process. The first step in planning is to understand the various types of surveys and questions in order to select the appropriate approach with the greatest likelihood of yielding the desired insights. There are two main types of Customer Satisfaction (CSAT) surveys, Transactional and Relationship, as well as two more recent and specialized measures known as Net Promoter Score (NPS) and Customer Effort Score (CES), all of which are described below.

Transactional Surveys

Transactional surveys are tactical in nature and are done immediately or soon after a transaction or interaction at key point in a process, such as order placement, product delivery, payment or technical support. Their purpose is to help a business understand HOW to make particular improvements, diagnose customer problems and take corrective action to enable timely and effective service recovery.

Technology enables these types of surveys through a significant level of automation. The automation process sends out hundreds, perhaps thousands, of surveys within a short period of time. Each transaction associates the individual details that track customer satisfaction. Systemic rules for contact frequency also must be in place so that customers are not over-surveyed.

Typical CSAT questions include rating overall satisfaction with the transaction as well as probing for specifics such as a representative’s knowledge, courtesy or communication skills; the accuracy of the order; and quality of the product. The number of questions should strike a balance between information needed and the customer’s time to complete the survey.

Relationship Surveys

Relationship surveys are strategic in nature because they help a business understand the health of customer relationships over time, and they guide efforts on WHERE to make improvements. They are conducted at regular intervals such as quarterly or annually, and the results are measured at the organization or business unit level.

Automation requirements for relationship surveys are not as strict as they are for transactional surveys. in fact, some of these types of surveys are conducted via personal interviews rather than through an electronic data collection system. Once surveys are completed, results are collected, analyzed and reported to either the facilitator or management.

Relationship surveys are usually longer and more extensive than transactional surveys with categories of CSAT questions that include:

  • Loyalty – Focus on retention (likelihood to renew contracts), advocacy (overall satisfaction), and purchasing intent (likelihood to buy additional solutions).
  • Customer Experience – Ratings of general measures such as account management, quality of product or service and technical support.
  • Competition – Benchmarks, comparisons or ranking versus other providers.
  • Open-ended – To uncover deeper insights and reasons behind ratings.

Net Promoter Score

Net Promoter Score (NPS) was introduced in 2003 as a way to measure longer-term customer loyalty. NPS claims to be a better predictor of business growth than standard CSAT surveys. Its most common use in relationship surveys comes in the form of a single question: “How likely is it that you would recommend us to a friend or colleague”? Ratings are on a scale of 0-10 where Promoters (9-10) are enthusiastic loyalists, Passives (7-8) are satisfied but unenthusiastic, and Detractors (0-6) are unhappy and can cause damage through negative word of mouth. The NPS score itself calculates by subtracting the percentage of Detractors from the percentage of Promoters (Passives not included). For example, an NPS of -100 is all Detractors, and an NPS of +100 is all Promoters.

Customer Effort Score

Introduced in 2010, the Customer Effort Score (CES) applies best to transactional surveys for service organizations. Developed by CEB, a customer rates the statement, “The organization made it easy for me to handle my issue” on a scale from Strongly Agree to Strongly Disagree. CEB’s research demonstrates that customer loyalty is driven largely by reducing customer effort, and a favorable CES score is a better predictor of word of mouth promotion and financial performance.

Final Words for the Wise

As we said in the introduction, a business using a customer survey process must be sure it is a strategic effort with clear goals that are matched to the appropriate tools and techniques. NPS and CES can be very powerful indicators, but they are even more valuable when used in conjunction with the detail obtained from CSAT surveys. Remember, surveys themselves are touch-points with the customer and can act as either a positive or negative influence on perceptions.

Finally, once survey data is aggregated and analyzed, executive leadership must be committed to acting on the information received to make improvements. The cardinal sin of surveying is continuing to ask the same questions month after month or year after year and not implementing change to demonstrate customers were heard. This can be viewed as the business not really caring what customers say and could cost the business its customers.

Do you need help setting up a process for customers’ feedback from your surveys? Contact the Business Mentor Team today and schedule your appointment.

Contributed by: Diane Janovsky,