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Contact Frequency Rules

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Qtip: XM Directory is an improvement upon the old Target Audience, with user interface (UI) changes made to integrate more seamlessly with the XM platform. If you do not have XM Directory and would like to purchase access, contact your Account Executive.

About Contact Frequency Rules

XM Directory allows you to set rules determining how often your contacts can receive messages. These rules can apply on the level of the directory, a mailing list, or a survey. When users in your brand try to exceed these limits, the distribution will still send, but any emails exceeding these limits will be skipped.

You can reach the contact frequency rules by navigating to the Directory Settings tab. The Contact Frequency section appears at the top of the page.

Qtip: Access to the Directory Settings tab requires the Manage Directory permission. Talk to your Brand Administrator if you’re interested in getting access to this setting.
Attention: To prevent spam, Qualtrics will always skip duplicate emails. A duplicate email is defined as an email with the same subject line and body sent to an email address with a 12 hour period.

Directory Rules

Attention: You may create up to 20 contact frequency rules. This limit includes both directory rules and custom rules.

You can make rules that apply to every contact in a directory. You can choose to apply just one or both of these settings.

Qtip: These rules will not apply to reminders or thank-yous. They will only apply to survey invites and basic emails, SMS (not SMS reminders), and WhatsApp distributions.

Directory Rules section of the Directory Setting tab

  • Maximum number of messages a contact can receive: Limit the number of messages that all contacts in the directory can receive within a certain amount of time. Determine the maximum number of messages in the field, then specify a timeframe from the dropdown.
  • Number of days that need to pass before contacts can receive another message: Specify the number of days that has to pass in between emails.
Qtip: Remember to click Save in the upper-right corner when you’re done!

Custom Rules

Attention: You may create up to 20 contact frequency rules. This limit includes both directory rules and custom rules.

Custom rules allow you to set limits on how often respondents can be contacted. You can specify this either by the survey they’ve been invited to, or the mailing list they belong to. These rules act as exceptions to your directory rules. See the section on How Rules Interact for more information on rule interactions.

Example: For example, let’s you have a directory rule set to only allow a contact to receive 1 message a month and a specific contact has already received their 1 allotted message. You can create a custom rule that overrides the Directory Rule for only a specific survey, allowing you to send that contact an additional email associated with your survey.

Creating a Custom Rule

  1. Click Create Custom Rule.
    Create Custom Rule button on lower-right
  2. Select whether this rule is for mailing lists or for surveys.
    Create Custom Rule window
  3. Select the lists or surveys you’re applying the rules to. You can select multiple at a time.
    Dropdown list of lists

    Qtip: You can select multiple surveys or multiple lists, but you cannot build a single rule that mixes the two. If you need lists and surveys to have the same rules, make your rule for the surveys and then rebuild the exact same rule for the lists.
    Warning: Your survey must be active/published to show up as an option when setting a custom rule.
  4. Select the message types the rules apply to. This can either be just invites, or invites and emails sent directly to the mailing list (“All message types”).
    Selecting Rules to modify
  5. Select the rules that apply. If you’re having trouble understanding what each rule does, navigate to the Options section below.
  6. Click Add Rule.
Qtip: Each rule allows you to select up to 20 lists or surveys.


  • Always allow contacts to receive the messages sent to this list/survey regardless of directory contact frequency rules: This option overrides any directory contact rules you have set. If you send messages to the lists/surveys specified by this rule, this rule will apply instead of whatever the directory rule states. This rule cannot be mixed with the other two rules described below.
  • Limit how many messages contacts can receive when they’re sent to this list: Specify how many messages contacts can receive and within what timeframe.
    Qtip: The Per Month timeframe operates using calendar months. For example, if you create a custom rule to only allow one message per month, the respondent could receive an email on January 31 and again on February 1.
  • Specify how much time needs to pass after the last message a contact received before being able to receive a message sent to this list: Specify, in days, how much time has to pass between messages.
Example: In the image below, only 5 survey invites can be sent per month. One invite can only go out every 7 days. However, if you’re sending messages directly to the lists selected, you can send as many as often as you want because the rule is set to only affect invites.
Limit how many survey invites is set to 5 messages per month. Specify how much time needs to pass is 7 days.

How Rules Interact

If a custom rule includes Always allow contacts to receive the messages sent to this list/survey regardless of directory contact frequency rules, all contacts will receive the distribution, regardless of other custom rules or the directory rules. This setting always overrides all other rule settings.

Otherwise, if different rules apply to the same distribution, the rule with the most restrictive setting will apply.

Example: Consider the image below. If the mailing list “Summer Respondents ‘17” is sent a survey invite for the survey “Q3 CSAT,” then the contacts will only be able to receive one message for that month. This is because the limit of one message per every 30 days is more restrictive than the rule of 3 messages per month, and thus will override it.
Two rules

When custom rules are evaluated

Custom rules are evaluated the moment a distribution begins to send. If a distribution is scheduled when a rule is in place and then the rule is deleted before the distribution sends, the distribution will not follow the previously established rule.

Similarly, custom frequency rules do not apply midway through a distribution, meaning it would be possible for email addresses to receive multiple emails which would normally not be allowed due to contact frequency rules. For example, let’s say you have a custom rule set to only allow each contact in a mailing list to receive one email per month. If your list contains the same email address three times, the address will receive three emails, one for each entry in the mailing list.

Custom rules will also look back at previous distributions. If you’ve already sent a distribution for a specific survey or list and then create a custom frequency rule, the rule will be evaluated in conjunction with the distributions that had already been sent out. Additionally, there’s no limit to how far this rule will look back.

Example: Let’s say that you set up a custom rule today that says that 180 days must pass between messages before you’re able to send another survey invite.

You have a contact who received a message 30 days ago (before you set the rule up), and they are scheduled to receive an invite for tomorrow (after you set the rule up). Will they receive an invite tomorrow?

The custom rule looks back at past distributions, so your contact will not receive an email.