Customer experience (CX) is evolving. And how companies gather customer feedback is evolving as well.

In the past, many businesses relied solely on a periodic relationship survey to gauge customer happiness. These surveys could cover a wide range of topics, but their scale and slow delivery proved to be less useful in a dynamic CX environment.

Today, using post-interaction surveys—also known as transactional surveys–is widely considered the best practice. This approach gives CX leaders near-real-time insight into issues needing attention and allows continuous monitoring of customer sentiment.

Does that mean relationship surveys are obsolete? Not at all. In fact, CX experts affirm that both relationship and transactional surveys are  key parts of a robust CX program.


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Why You Need Both Transactional and Relationship Surveys

To create a well-rounded CX program, organizations need to know how customers feel when they engage with the company—along with customers’ overall perceptions.

Transactional surveys address specific events or transactions with a company. Typically, a company sends this type of survey promptly after an interaction while the experience is still fresh in the customer’s mind. Organizations may use standard metrics approaches—such as Net Promoter Score, Customer Effort Score, and/or Overall Customer Satisfaction—along with other pertinent measures in transactional surveys.

By contrast, a relationship survey focuses on customers’ overall relationship with—and loyalty to—a brand. These surveys often aim to gather information about customers’ experience over a span of time, such as six to 12 months. Questions on a relationship survey may center on loyalty and customers’ experiences across various customer-facing organizations or customer journeys.

Renowned data scientist, Bob E. Hayes, Ph.D. of Business Over Broadway suggests that relationship surveys can and should help shape the focus of transactional surveys:

The relationship survey results will guide what transactional surveys you need to do. CX areas that didn’t score high on customer satisfaction and are important to driving loyalty should be a first priority for your transactional survey efforts.

He also explains that relationship surveys should drive executive action, while transactional surveys focus on department and team-based activities:

Image Source: Customer Think


Building an Effective CX Relationship Survey

A well-designed customer relationship survey can help companies identify areas of strength and weakness to prioritize improvements in their CX programs. The insights gained through relationship surveys can help companies boost customer loyalty and drive growth.

1. Ask the Right Questions

To be most effective, a relationship survey should cover key aspects of the customer lifecycle. While the specific focus areas will vary by industry and business type, it may be helpful to start with a broad perspective of universal stages in any customer journey: marketing, sales, and service.

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With these categories in mind, CX practitioners can craft questions to glean insights on each area. Here are some sample questions to consider:


  1. Where did you learn about our company and/or our products or services?
  2. Were you able to find the information you needed on our products or services to make a buying decision easily?


  1. How would you rate your purchase experience?
  2. Do you feel our products or services are priced fairly?


  1. How many times have you needed to seek support for our products or services?
  2. Were your support issues resolved satisfactorily on the first contact?

CX experts also recommend asking specific questions tied to three general components of customer loyalty. Here are some examples:


  1. Are you likely to switch to a competing product or service?
  2. Are you likely to continue using our product or service?


  1. How satisfied are you with our products or services?
  2. Have you told others about our products or services?


  1. Are you planning to purchase more products or services from us?
  2. In the next year, how much do you think you will spend on our products or services?

 2. Keep the Relationship Survey Short

While a relationship survey is an opportunity to seek broad feedback from customers, too many questions can diminish its effectiveness. When faced with a long survey, customers may grow frustrated or bored before completing it. They may lose focus and begin providing answers quickly without much thought instead of giving each question the attention it deserves.

To mitigate this issue, keep surveys at a reasonable length. A good goal is to keep surveys under 30 questions—with a completion time of less than five minutes. Consider spreading questions across multiple surveys to avoid exceeding either limit.

 3. Solicit Open-Ended Feedback

A CX relationship survey should cover the key areas of the customer experience—but it is easy for companies to miss what is critical or memorable to customers. The only way to gain comprehensive perspective is to ask customers for open-ended feedback.

Image Source: My Market Research Methods

Allowing respondents to share voice of the customer (VoC) feedback in their own words gives companies two clear advantages:

  1. Proving to customers that their thoughts and ideas have as much merit as the topics covered on the survey
  2. Granting insight on overlooked CX focus areas that need attention and/or that can receive coverage in the next relationship survey

Making the Most of Your CX Relationship Survey 

Soliciting relationship survey feedback and analyzing it are important steps—but not the only ones. Companies must make sure they share relevant insights with key managers, especially those in customer-facing departments.

To help cultivate understanding of survey results, CX leaders need to explain how relationship surveys differ from transactional surveys. Often, relationship surveys may paint a different-possibly less favorable—portrait of CX performance than post-interaction surveys. The reason? Relationship surveys emphasize prior experiences with a brand—and customers tend to have stronger recall of negative experiences.

In addition, companies need to plan for regular reviews of their relationship surveys to ensure they continue to meet the evolving needs of their CX program. CX leaders should assess survey content, delivery methods, analysis, and reporting at regular intervals. These reviews can help ensure the relationship survey provides meaningful insights that reflect the true state of customer perceptions and drives desired business results.

A relationship survey provides a welcome opportunity for CX leaders to take a step back from the day-to-day business of serving customers. With the right questions and approach, companies can rely on relationship surveys to provide important big picture insights to help improve CX performance.











Author: Connie Harrington

Connie is a content strategist and serves as managing editor of the eTouchPoint blog. Possessing 15+ years of international experience across five continents, her focus areas include: customer experience management, customer contact management, communications planning, content marketing, email marketing, and employee engagement. Previously, she held marketing and communications leadership positions at CGI, Mindwrap, and TEOCO. She earned a B.A., cum laude, from the College of William and Mary in Virginia.