two people balancing on train tracks
PHOTO: Jonathan Pendleton

As the customer experience (CX) becomes the primary competitive factor for many brands, it’s more important than ever to actually listen to your customers. In today’s marketplace, you need a consistent and effective pipeline of both qualitative and quantitative customer feedback to achieve real change, attract new customers and retain existing ones.

Customer surveys are obviously essential in any voice of customer (VoC) effort. But customer data is only as good as the surveys that capture it — and that underscores the importance of a relevant, comprehensive and supportive survey strategy. 

So, what does that mean for your brand? You need to strike a balance between transactional and relationship surveys. A solid combination of both types of survey is the only way to gain an accurate picture of your customer experience. 

Transactional Surveys: Highlighting Short-Term Experiences 

Transactional surveys focus on short-term and specific experiences, which typically occur after a point of sale. If a customer orders a product from your website, a transactional survey would assess ease of purchase, delivery speed and efficiency, the online purchase experience and more. If they recently called customer service, it might look like a quick satisfaction survey gauging how positive or negative that experience was.

While transactional surveys are one piece of a larger puzzle, they are often the best way to understand customers’ immediate feelings about a brand. Are in-store sales associates unhelpful? Are lines too long at the point of sale? These questions can be answered easily using transactional surveys, and often shine a light on problems that have simple fixes. 

Related Article: Drawing a Line Between VoC, Customer Experience and Customer Analytics

Relationship Surveys: Illuminating the Bigger Picture 

In aggregate, interactions and transactions form the customers’ overall perception of your brand — and that’s where relationship surveys come in. Where transactional surveys might be more comparable to a pop quiz, think of a relationship survey as the final exam. 

Rather than focusing on a specific factor or experience, relationship surveys ask customers to share their thoughts on the entire brand experience. The most effective relationship surveys capture honest thoughts (both positive and negative) about a company’s brand, products and offerings, overall communications and more. 

Given the broader aim of these surveys, relationship surveys will naturally be longer and should be solicited at less frequent intervals than transactional surveys. A relationship survey is much more useful when informed by a history of interactions the customer has had with your brand, so overdoing it can lead to diminishing returns (and survey fatigue). 

Related Article: Data for the Sake of Data Is Useless: Rethink Your VoC Approach

Balance Is Key

You don’t have to choose between transactional and relationship surveys to capture useful customer data. Instead, your ability to listen to the voice of your customer relies on an effective balance of both survey types. Transactional surveys and relationship surveys used in tandem allow you to not only understand the details that impact your day-to-day customer experience, but also the broader trends that characterize the way customers perceive your brand.

Of course, both of these survey types are only as useful as your commitment to acting on them. Asking your customers for feedback involves an implicit promise that you will enact change. If you don’t use these insights wisely, you’ll only alienate customers further (and your survey efforts won’t be useful because respondents won’t take them seriously). 

But if you follow up on this promise by combining an effective survey strategy with the willingness to act on results, you can constantly improve the customer experience and reap the benefits of a more engaged, more loyal customer base.  

Related Article: Listen, Analyze, Act: The Foundation of Great Customer Experience