Surveys demystified – A guide to transactional and relational feedback

Jump to

Customer feedback is the compass that guides businesses toward success. In order to keep evolving, you need to understand your customers’ daily needs and overall impression of your company.

Surveys are the most powerful tools in your arsenal, and there are two kinds you can use: transactional and relational (AKA relationships) surveys. To optimize your customer feedback strategy, you need both.

What are transactional surveys?

Transactional surveys gauge customer sentiment following specific interactions.

They’re designed to capture immediate feedback following a particular customer touchpoint, whether it’s a purchase, a support interaction, or a service encounter.

Since these surveys are an automatic reaction to a specific point in the customer’s journey, customer insights are captured while their experience is fresh. Transactional surveys are excellent for identifying pain points and pinpointing areas of immediate improvement.

What makes a good transactional survey?

  1. Prompt timing. Transactional surveys should be sent shortly after the customer’s interaction, ensuring their experience is fresh in their minds. This increases the accuracy of the feedback.
  2. Relevance. The questions should pertain directly to the recent interaction. The survey should ask about specific aspects of the transaction, such as the quality of service, resolution of issues, or ease of the process.
  3. Personalization. Be specific about what is being addressed. In the case of customer support interactions, include the agent’s name or a ticket number. For transactional survey questions at a purchase touchpoint, include the name of the item.
  4. Brevity. Transactional surveys should be concise and focused, as customers might not have the patience or time to answer a lengthy questionnaire after a single interaction. Use closed-ended questions (e.g., multiple-choice or rating scale questions). You can add one skippable open-ended question at the end, in case there’s anything else the customer wants you to know.
  5. Real-time alerts. With feedback managers like Simplesat, you can trigger real-time alerts for negative feedback. If you address customer dissatisfaction immediately, you could mend the customer relationship and increase loyalty.
  6. Actionable insights. Survey results should provide actionable insights for immediate improvements. Don’t fall into the trap of asking vague or abstract questions. The goal is to highlight areas where your company’s performance can be improved.


  1. Transactional CSAT (sometimes abbreviated to tCSAT): “How satisfied were you with the recent customer support interaction you had?”
  2. Transactional CES: “On a scale of 1 to 5, how easy was it to complete your recent task?”
  3. Transactional NPS (or tNPS): “On a scale of 0-10, how likely are you to recommend our chat support to a friend or colleague?”

CES surveys are almost always transactional – they address the amount of effort the customer needed to complete a specific point in their journey.

Navigating relational surveys

Relational surveys offer a broader perspective on the overall customer journey. They are designed to gauge customers’ long-term sentiments, overarching experiences, and changing perceptions of the company.

These surveys cast a wider net than transactional surveys do, capturing feedback on the cumulative interactions a customer has had with a brand.

The broader scope enables you to identify trends and sentiments that might not emerge from transactional feedback alone. These surveys are valuable for understanding the bigger picture:

  • which changes have worked over the years
  • which products or features you’re currently missing
  • what makes your brand stand out according to customers
  • which customer needs have the priority.

What makes a good relational survey?

In a relational survey, broaden your scope to encompass the entire experience a customer has. This requires some empathy — never forget that customers are complex and their opinions may include some contradictions.

If you’re building a relational survey, here’s what you need to focus on:

  1. Comprehensive questions. Cover a wide range of topics, including overall satisfaction, likelihood to recommend, product quality, customer support, and more. Your aim is to capture a holistic view of the customer’s long-term relationship with the company.
  2. Prepare for longitudinal analysis: Relational surveys are often conducted periodically (every year or quarter) to track changes in customer sentiment over time. A good survey allows for longitudinal analysis by using consistent questions and scaling methods across different survey rounds.
  3. Benchmarking: Including benchmarking questions allows you to compare your company’s performance with industry standards or competitors, providing valuable context for understanding your position in the market. For example, you can ask how your pricing compares (in your customers’ view) to what’s being offered by competitors.
  4. Open-ended questions: In addition to closed-ended questions, well-designed relational surveys include open-ended questions that allow customers to provide detailed feedback, suggestions, and stories about their experiences. In the case of very positive relational survey feedback, you can reach out for testimonials.
  5. Segmentation options: Effective relational surveys include questions that help segment respondents by demographics, usage patterns, or other relevant criteria. This enables you to analyze different customer groups separately.


  • Relational CSAT (or rCSAT): “Overall, how satisfied are you with your experience as a long-term customer?”
  • Relational CES: “Over time, how effortless has it been to achieve your goals using our product?” You would usually ask this as part of a longer rCSAT questionnaire.
  • Relational NPS (or rNPS): “On a scale of 0 to 10, how likely are you to recommend us to a friend?”

Key differences between transactional and relational surveys

🔎 Feedback Depth: Relational surveys provide deeper insights into long-term customer sentiment and trends, whereas transactional surveys offer specific insights into immediate interactions.

Action Timing: Transactional survey feedback often requires swift action due to its real-time relevance, while relational survey insights inform strategic decisions over longer periods.

📊 Segmentation: Relational surveys offer more opportunities for customer segmentation based on demographic and behavior. Transactional surveys can also be segmented, but the focus is generally on the specific touchpoint in question (for example: customers who completed checkout vs. those who didn’t).

👁‍🗨 Trend Analysis: Relational surveys are more suited for tracking changes over time, helping identify shifts in customer perception. Transactional surveys are better for taking note of immediate improvements you need to make.

🎭 Employee Performance: Transactional surveys are valuable for assessing individual employee performance in specific interactions, which can inform training and coaching efforts. Relational surveys can tell you about the general perception (the ‘vibes’) of your public-facing sectors. You can make strategic decisions based on that.

Strike the right balance

By harnessing the power of both survey types, you unlock a deeper understanding of your customers. That paves the way for enhanced experiences and lasting relationships.

Remember that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. Your business’s unique needs and goals should guide your survey strategy.

👀 So regularly assess the effectiveness of your survey approach and adjust it as needed. But never lose sight of the balance. You need to care about the customers’ day-to-day hurdles and their overall feelings of loyalty.

Customer surveys don't have to be boring

Scroll to Top

Try a sample survey

Enter your email below to receive a sample survey.