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Understand the differences between transactional and relational NPS and how to use them to enhance customer satisfaction and loyalty.


The Net Promoter Score ® NPS is a survey methodology that helps you evaluate the strength of your relationship with your customers and their loyalty to your business. It has become the predominant metric of customer success, offering customers an easy way to let you know  whether their experience with your company was good, medium, or not so great—and whether they will recommend you to others.  

The basic NPS survey question is very simple: “How likely are you to recommend us to a friend or colleague?” Customers rate their choice on a scale from 0-10, with 0 being “highly unlikely” and 10 being “highly likely.” 

Customers that respond with a 9 or a 10 are promoters (they love you). Those that respond with a 7 or 8 are passives (they like you, but could be swayed to purchase from a competitor). And those that respond with a 6 or below are detractors (they aren’t happy with their experience, and you’ll need to act quickly to retain their business). To calculate NPS, subtract your percentage of detractors from your percentage of promoters. 

Beyond the basics, there are two distinct types of NPS surveys: transactional NPS and relational NPS. Keep reading to learn what they are, why they’re different, and how to use both types of NPS surveys in tandem to drive continuous improvement in your customer experiences. 

Transactional NPS (tNPS) zeroes in on specific customer interactions or transactions. This type of NPS survey is all about getting instant feedback on how a customer felt about a recent purchase, support call, or other direct interaction with your business. The primary benefit of tNPS is its ability to inform quick improvements to a specific part of the customer experience. 

For example, sending out a tNPS survey after a customer makes an online purchase can give you immediate feedback on the buying experience that you can use to further examine what’s working and what’s not during the purchase journey 

Relational NPS (rNPS) focuses on the overall, long-term relationship between a customer and a business. It measures a customer's general loyalty and satisfaction over time, and isn’t tied to a specific interaction or transaction. Relational NPS is especially valuable for tracking customer sentiment trends over time and fostering enduring customer relationships. 

Immediate: tNPS is gathered immediately following a customer interaction or transaction. This can be after a purchase, a customer service call, or any direct interaction with the business. This immediacy helps capture the customer's feelings and impressions while the experience is still fresh in their mind, and it allows you as the business leader to quickly identify and resolve issues related to specific interactions or transactions.

Ongoing: rNPS is collected at regular intervals, such as quarterly or annually, independent of any specific transaction or interaction. The periodic nature of rNPS surveys allows for a more reflective assessment of the overall relationship between the customer and the business. This type of NPS survey helps you understand the overall health of your customer relationships by capturing trends and shifts in customer loyalty over time. It is less about immediate reactions and more about sustained perceptions.

Narrow: tNPS has a narrow and focused scope. It centers around specific customer interactions or transactions, such as a support call, a store visit, or an online purchase.The questions in tNPS surveys are tailored to assess satisfaction with that particular event or interaction. 

For example, a transactional NPS survey question might ask: "Based on your recent support call, how likely are you to recommend us?" 

This tightly focused scope makes tNPS extremely effective for pinpointing issues or successes at a specific point of the customer journey. It allows you to rapidly identify and rectify operational issues, and it can also highlight areas where your team excels.

Broad: rNPS encompasses a broader scope, assessing the customer's overall relationship with and sentiment towards your brand. rNPS surveys ask customers to reflect on their entire experience with the company, not limited to a single interaction. 

For rNPS surveys, a typical question is something like this: "Considering your overall experience with us, how likely are you to recommend our brand?" 

Rapid feedback for operational excellence: tNPS is designed to provide immediate insights into the effectiveness and quality of your customer-specific interactions. tNPS helps you identify and address operational issues in real-time, so you can enhance the quality of your individual customer touchpoints very quickly. 

Strategic feedback for long-term relationship building: rNPS serves a strategic purpose by evaluating the overall health of customer relationships with your brand, helping you understand long-term customer loyalty and satisfaction. Insights from rNPS surveys can inform broader business strategies, including helping you make data-driven decisions in areas such as brand positioning, product development, and customer relationship management. 

Team-level KPIs: tNPS provides immediate feedback on customer interactions or transactions that a specific team or department typically handles. For example, a tNPS score following a customer service call directly reflects the performance of the customer service team. Similarly, feedback after a purchasing experience might reflect on the performance of your sales team. 

You can use tNPS scores to set team goals and KPIs to drive needed improvements in response time, issue resolution efficiency, and more. These KPIs are actionable at the team level, which allows managers to make quick, tactical decisions to improve specific aspects of customer interaction and experience.

Organizational KPIs: rNPS aligns with organizational-level KPIs, as it measures the overall health of the relationship between customers and the brand. This broader perspective translates into higher-level strategic metrics that encompass the entire customer journey and brand experience. Examples include overall customer loyalty, brand reputation, customer lifetime value, and long-term customer retention rates. These KPIs are typically monitored and influenced by senior management and are integral to the company’s long-term business growth and sustainability.

tNPS is highly effective after specific customer interactions like support calls, product purchases, or service engagements. tNPS surveys help businesses  understand and improve the customer experience in real time.

Relational NPS should be used to measure overall customer loyalty, enhance long-term relationships, and track trends over time. Relational NPS surveys are particularly useful in contexts where customer relationships evolve over time, such as in subscription models or long-term service agreements, but all types of businesses can benefit from regularly taking the “pulse” of how customers feel about their brand.

Most businesses will find value in using both tNPS and rNPS. This dual approach offers a comprehensive view of customer satisfaction, capturing both immediate reactions to specific interactions and broader, long-term sentiments. 

Understanding the differences and benefits of tNPS and rNPS is crucial for businesses striving to enhance customer satisfaction. While tNPS offers quick insights into specific interactions, rNPS provides a broader view of customer loyalty over time. Leveraging both metrics can empower businesses to make informed decisions that ensure immediate and long-term customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Get started with our free NPS survey template.  

Net Promoter® and NPS® are registered trademarks of Bain & Company, Inc., Satmetrix Systems, Inc., and Fred Reichheld.

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