When you send your surveys can have a big impact on your response rates and overall engagement. However, not all surveys are created equal—and same goes for the time you send them. Relational and transactional surveys serve different purposes, and therefore need to be approached differently.
A relational survey is a survey where you get a pulse-check of the overall relationship between your customers and your company.
As mentioned in our Next-Generation NPS® white paper, from a financial perspective, the most successful Net Promoter programs use short and frequent relationship surveys. In fact, companies who survey their customers quarterly are shown to have the highest average retention increase*.
*Statistics and graph from our 2016 Net Promoter Benchmarks survey
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you should jump right into doing quarterly relationship surveys. It’s also important to maintain a high response rate, and if your customers aren’t accustomed to receiving quarterly surveys, they may suffer from survey-fatigue, causing your response rate to suffer.
In order to send quarterly surveys, you also, as a company, need to clearly demonstrate to your customers the value of taking a survey with that frequency. You can achieve this in a number of different ways, including:
- Sending Thank You messages
- Conducting specific marketing centered around changes that were made as a direct consequence of survey feedback
- Conducting reviews where you discuss the feedback together with your clients
Popular Times to Send Relational Surveys
- About 3 months before a contract is up for renewal.
There’s no better time to get a pulse-check on how a customer is feeling about you than a few months before their contract is up for renewal. This will help you predict if they will renew or not. If the feedback is constructive and there are warning signs, then you can work your hardest to resolve them.
- About 2-4 weeks before an important meeting or business review.
By sending the surveys at this time, you are giving ample opportunity to collect and gather feedback to discuss during the review.
- Shortly after heavy product usage time periods or periods during which many interactions have taken place.
If points 1 and 2 aren’t relevant to your business, then sending in situation #3 could be targeted towards high-touch time periods, when interacting with your organization is fresh in the customer’s mind and they are more likely to provide meaningful feedback about those interactions.
Frequency of Relational Surveys
Relational surveys should be sent between 2-4 times per year. Any less than that, and you are asking for trouble! A lot can change over the course of a year. If you are only asking for feedback once throughout that time period, you are most likely missing out on the full picture of the customer’s journey and interactions with your organization.
You could even gain and lose a customer in a time period that’s less than a year, which is a situation in which yearly sending might mean they never received a chance to submit survey feedback at all. That’s churn you could have prevented!
The only exception I’d make to this is if you have a business where you only interact with your customers once per year. If nothing has changed on either your or the customer’s end since the last survey, then it makes little to no sense to send another survey. But for the vast majority of companies, sending at least twice per year would likely be a best-practice minimum.
Any more frequently than quarterly (4 times per year), and you are probably at great risk of survey fatigue, especially if you also send transactional surveys, which will discuss next.
As mentioned above, if you are only just getting started with NPS surveying or don’t have a lot of internal bandwidth to follow up on responses and drive internal change, then start by surveying only twice per year. Once you have solid procedures in place, and your customers are accustomed to the frequency of surveys and understand the value of taking them, you can work your way towards increasing the frequency to quarterly, which allows you the opportunity to become more agile in your customer experience program. And these days, everyone wants to be agile!
Sending all at once or spreading things out?
This is another one that can vary by your unique situation. I tend to lean towards recommending spreading out the surveys over the course of the year, but there are some situations where sending all at once would make more sense. Let’s go over the Pros of each approach:
Pros of surveying everyone together:
- Easier to compile/assemble all the data and just upload it all at once and be done with it
- Keeps the “timing” variable consistent, by having everyone receive the survey around the same time*
- Allows you to gather the feedback and data quicker, and thus, make quicker improvements and business decisions based on the feedback, without having to wait for more results
*You can overcome this depending on alternative ways of timing your surveys, as described a few sections above
Pros of spreading surveys out over the course of the year:
- Prevents your team, especially those in charge of follow-up, from getting overwhelmed with a ton of feedback all at once, particularly if they wouldn’t be able to conduct follow-up within our best practice timelines
- Provides a quicker turnaround time on gauging the effectiveness of any organizational changes you’ve made...you don’t need to wait another 6+ months or whenever you were planning on sending the next big batch of surveys to see if the changes you’ve made have been effective or not; allows your organization to be more agile
- Allows you to have a steady stream of data constantly flowing in; no “breaks in the action”, no “high-tide” vs. “low-tide”
- Allows you to target the survey to people at a time when providing feedback would be relevant to them (see the timing section above)
A transactional survey is a survey that is sent after an event has occurred, such as the purchase of a product or the resolution of a support ticket.
The timing of these is often a bit simpler than the relational surveys. The most important aspect of when to send a transactional survey is to send it before too much time has elapsed since the transaction occurred, and would be remembered less clearly. Send your transactional survey too late, and you risk lower response rates and/or less accurate feedback.
Popular Times to Send Transactional Surveys:
- 0-24 hours after the transaction occurred, for things like:
- Doctor’s office visits
- Resolution of a support case
- An appointment for things such as a repair, installation, or basic support call
- 0-3 days after the purchase of a product, if the product can be used or downloaded right away.
Depending on the product that was purchased, you may need to allow some time to elapse for the product to be tested/used prior to requesting feedback.
- 7-10 days after the purchase of a product, if the product needs to be shipped. This allows sufficient time for the product to be shipped, unpacked, and used before the survey asking for feedback arrives.
Frequency of Transactional Surveys
Should you send transactional surveys after every interaction? I lean towards no, but I’ve heard the argument go both ways:
Pros of surveying every interaction:
- A greater amount of overall feedback
- Less chance of missing out on feedback that could have ended up being very important
- Getting a “full picture” of the entire customer journey or spectrum of interactions
Pros of surveying only select interactions:
- Less survey fatigue, less chance that your customers will tire of taking your surveys
- Higher response rate (directly related to the point above)
- Ability to focus more on each response—less likely to get overwhelmed or barraged with too much feedback to handle (something we discuss in our Acting on NPS eBook)
- Easier to assess and make changes based on the feedback
Timing Your Surveys to Maximize Response Rates
Finally, here’s two tips to ensure you maximize your response rates when it comes to surveying:
- Send your surveys during the work week, especially for B2B. I’d avoid Fridays and weekends, which are days where surveys can easily be forgotten amongst a clutter of other accumulated emails that aren’t being looked at as frequently as Monday through Thursday.
- Send during normal business hours, and avoid the very end of the day. Avoiding the end of the day is the same as avoiding the end of the week. You don’t want your survey email mixed in with handfuls of other unread emails until the next day/morning, when the chance of them being forgotten about due to other, more highly prioritized emails is higher.
We hope these tips help increase your response rates for your next survey send. These are just a taste of the insights we will offer at this year's Monetize! 2018. If you'd like to learn more about the event, click below.