The Definitive Guide on When to Survey Your Customers (Introducing Custom Scheduling)

This week we posted a story on Inbound.org and was asked a question we hear quite often:

“I currently send out NPS surveys to our customer database once every 6 months because I feel like anything more would get annoying. Have you seen that to be the case or are you confident that once a quarter isn’t too much?”

Essentially the question breaks down to when and how often should we be surveying our customers.

This is never a simple and straight answer because it’s always going to be dependent upon your business model, the relationship you have with your customers and the level of interaction they have with your product.

While every company’s customer journey is unique, we all want their path to end up at the same place — advocacy.

Every customer journey is unique, but we all want the path to end at the same place — advocacy. Click To Tweet

So, rather than give you one answer, I’m going to break it down based on a few different scenarios:

SaaS & Recurring Subscription Model

Suppose you’re a software company that offers a monthly billing option (such as ourselves), it’s likely that your customers are using your product on a fairly regular basis — if not a daily basis.

That means that not only are your customers interacting with your product at a high frequency, they also are presented with an opportunity each month to cancel their account if they are unhappy. Fortunately, most unhappy customers don’t decide to cancel on a whim, but if you’re not having meaningful conversations with them on a regular basis, you will miss the warning signs.

Scheduling your NPS surveys for customers on a monthly billing cycle is about as straightforward as it comes.

Initial survey: 15 to 20 days from initial conversion (if you have a long onboarding process, 30-45 days may be more appropriate).

Second survey: 90 days from initial survey (consider 180 days if your customers only engage with your product infrequently).

Ongoing survey: Depending on what you decided for your second survey, your ongoing surveying should align and recur every 90 or 180 days moving forward until they are no longer a customer.

E-Commerce & Retail

There are essentially two e-commerce types that fall into this category, both of which have vastly different approaches — an e-commerce marketplace and an online product purchase.

In this case, we’re referring to an e-commerce marketplace as someone such as Jet.com that has regular repeat customers making purchases on an ongoing basis (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.) with a variation of products.

Similar to a subscription-based model, marketplace customers have a high level of interaction with your company and thus it’s possible that their sentiment can change in very short order.

The other distinction is that, as a marketplace, you’re likely to be less interested in your customers sentiment as it relates to the products they purchased as opposed to their overall experience as YOUR customer. As such, the survey schedule should be tied less to direct purchases, and more to their shopping frequency.

Initial survey: 5-10 days from their first purchase (this is based on the assumption that they received their first purchase within the first few days).

Second survey: 90 days from initial survey (This assumes there has been at least one purchase after their initial purchase in this time frame. You might also consider creating separate campaigns for ‘frequent’ customers and ‘casual’ customers, increasing the number of days between surveys for the latter).

Ongoing survey: Similar to the survey lifecycle for a SaaS model, your ongoing surveys should automatically recur at the same interval as your second survey as long as the customer remains active in some form.

For our second e-commerce type, which we define as an online product purchase, we’ll use a mattress company, such as Casper.com, as our example.

Imagine that the mattress you sell commands a premium because it lasts the test of time and has on-going benefits, so there are several years between repeat purchases.

In this scenario, it would be best to measure NPS shortly after the purchase to gain insights around their initial experience. You’d then a limited number of subsequent surveys throughout the customer and product lifecycle to make sure the sentiment of your customers as it relates to your product is still strong after the “break-in” period. And finally, you’ll want to touch base once a year with an annual survey.

Initial survey: 30 days from their purchase. This provides enough time for the product to be delivered and properly set up before engagement. You’ll be measuring their overall experience to date including the purchase, delivery and product itself.

Second survey: 90 days from initial survey. This is the first survey in which you’ll be receiving feedback nearly exclusive to the product.

Third survey: 90 days from second survey. The third survey is arriving 6 months after their purchase. This is a check-in to measure if and how sentiment has changed from beginning until now.

Ongoing survey: 365 days from third survey. Your annual survey again serves as a sentiment check-up, ensuring that you’re able to maintain them as a customer between purchases and collect long-term product feedback. You can perform cohort analysis on the scores and verbatim feedback to see how the customer journey is trending over time.

Service-based business

The survey schedule of a service-based businesses can vary tremendously, again depending on the length of engagement and the level of interaction you have with your clients.

As is the case for many service companies (such as real estate agencies, law firms, accountants, etc.), your customers generally don’t need you until they do. At which point, it’s critical to quickly and correctly service their needs.

Unlike the other scenarios we discussed above, there is a risk of over-surveying service-based customers if you’re not diligent with aligning your scheduling to the lifecycle of your customers. These customers generally don’t leave you because they’re unhappy, they leave because you’ve met their needs and they no longer immediately require your help.

For the sake of simplicity, we’re going to use the example of an insurance agency, such as State Farm.

In most situations, the relationship begins with an initial meeting where the agent discusses the insurance options with their client and a decision is made. Following that initial discussion and purchase, the client is likely to go quite some time before hearing from that agent again.

While the relationship is likely to last many years, the level of interaction between the client, product and agent is very low.

Regardless, it’s important to measure the sentiment of the customer just the same. A schedule would look something like this:

Initial survey: 5-10 days from purchase of policy. In this case it’s important to note that very little time is needed between the purchase on the first survey. Since the sentiment is primarily based on the experience of service, it’s also critical that it isn’t sent too late.

Second survey: 180 days from initial survey. While a lot of time will have passed between surveys, the intention here is to check on the pulse of the client and measure it against the initial survey.

Event-based survey: Triggered after event occurs. As I mentioned above in the service business, clients don’t need you until they do. Rather than doing on-going surveys, the better approach would be to trigger a survey based on a meaningful engagement. In our example, this might be filing a claim or a significant change to the policy.

As you can see in just the three categories above, every different type of business has their own customer journey. That’s why it’s difficult for us to give a simple and straight answer on when and how often you should be surveying your customers — it’s rarely ever the same. And, to address the other part of the question, in certain scenarios you can risk annoying your customers if you survey too often.

All of this is why we’re excited to announce the launch of our latest features, including customizable recurring schedules. This new product enhancement will allow any company, from any industry, the ability to completely tailor what points in your unique lifecycle your customers will receive their surveys.

Here’s a look at what’s new:

Custom Day and Time

custom survey timing

You can now chose a time zone and schedule your surveys to be sent at a specific time of day. You also have the choice of only sending on business days or each calendar day.

You now have the option to either send your surveys out immediately or choose a specific time of the day based on your own timezone preference.

In addition to that, if you’re sending your surveys out over an extended period of time (either via integration or using our drip feature), you can now choose to either send only on business days (Monday – Friday) or calendar days (weekends included).

Custom Recurring Schedules

Your entire survey lifecycle can now be aligned with your unique customer journey.

Your entire survey lifecycle can now be aligned with your unique customer journey.

As I pointed out in the examples above, it’s critical to be able to match the timing of your surveys to the specific journey of your customers. Custom recurring schedules now allow you to do just that.

Starting today, when you visit the recurring settings within your account, you’ll see the options to add surveys to a schedule that you can stagger based on your own timeline. One can be set for 30 days, while the next could come 90 days later and continue being sent each 90 days with just one simple setup. You can set as many or as few as you need.

These new features further enhance the powerful capabilities offered throughout the Promoter.io platform and are designed to help you drive measurable bottom-line value from your NPS and customer engagement efforts.

If you are new to NPS or thinking about switching to a more powerful toolset you can sign-up for a trial which includes up to 250 surveys or feel free to engage our team if you have specific questions. We’re happy to help discuss your specific business model and best practice implementation.

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Chad Keck

As a product lead and executive for numerous successful ventures (Rackspace, HP Cloud, AppFog), Chad founded Promoter.io to help bring the actionable insights provided by Net Promoter to all businesses. He is a native Texan with a passion for helping other entrepreneurs.

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