As an entrepreneur, it’s essential to know how your customers feel about your business.
That’s because the emotions and feelings your brand elicits have a profound impact on your customer’s behavior.
And no matter if customers are singing your praises from the rooftops or cursing you into next week, careful listening is essential for taking effective action.
This is where customer sentiment analysis comes in. In this post, you’ll learn how to monitor your customer’s feelings and use that information to build a better business.
But before we get to that, let’s define what customer sentiment is.
What is Customer Sentiment?
Customer sentiment analysis is about discovering how customers feel emotionally about your brand, product, or service.
It’s similar to customer satisfaction. But while customer satisfaction metrics deal with specific reactions to events such as how satisfied a customer is with a support interaction, customer sentiment is based more on an emotional response.
To illustrate the difference here’s two reviews from shoe retailer Allbirds site:
This review is coming from a satisfied customer. The customer commends the shoes on their specific technical abilities – ‘Very stable, excellent cushion.’
The following review is from a customer who feels a particular sentiment towards Allbirds:
You can feel the appreciation this customer has for Allbirds when you hear him say, ‘Thank you for making great shoes.’ So while both reviews have five stars on paper, the second one tells you more about your customer’s emotions.
Of course, both of these kinds of feedback have a powerful influence on customer behavior. And both customer sentiment and customer satisfaction can impact how people perceive your brand.
But us humans are highly emotional creatures. Our feelings dictate our behavior to a larger extent than most of us care to admit. And the emotional sentiments we have towards brands play a crucial role in our purchasing decisions.
Understanding Direct vs. Indirect Sentiment
When we talk about customer sentiment analysis, there are two main types you need to know.
See, customers express feedback in different places, and these can be either direct or indirect.
Direct feedback comes when a customer feels strongly enough to reach out via email, support chat, or survey. Such feedback is highly valuable and should be taken to heart.
On the other hand, indirect feedback is the feedback that comes to you via product reviews, social media comments, etc.
These types of sentiments have serious power to sway the opinions of your audience. For example, you may recall the outrage expressed at Volkswagen when the details of their emissions scandal came to light.
Why Customer Sentiment Analysis Matters?
Ok, at this stage, you might be thinking, `this customer sentiment analysis business seems ok, but why should I do it?”
Well, the main reason is so that you can deliver an excellent customer experience that keeps customers coming back for more. But more specifically, monitoring customer sentiment can help you…
- Power-up your customer service: for example, you might find people are getting frustrated with long response times.
- Improve your products or services: Examining things like reviews can shed light on previously unforeseen pain points.
- Attend to urgent problems: If your website goes down or you get a bug in the system, sentiment analysis can let you know before too much damage is done.
- Optimize your marketing: Knowing how your customers (and your competitor’s customers) feel means you can dial in your marketing campaigns, so they hit the spot.
In short, curiosity about your customer’s sentiment is good for your business. It reveals numerous ways in which you can improve and allows you to level up your brand image and revenue too.
How to Do Customer Sentiment Analysis
Ok, now that you know what customer sentiment is, let’s explore how you can track it and use it to improve your business.
1. Understand What You’re Looking For
When tracking customer sentiment, the first thing to know is that it’s not always about what customers are saying but the tone and feeling behind it.
Given that most customer feedback is in written form, it can be challenging to gauge exactly what a customer is feeling. Unlike face-to-face or over the phone, a customer’s sentiment and tonality are much easier to discern.
One of the best ways to gauge customer sentiment is to keep an eye out for positive or negative connotations and ideas that a given customer uses multiple times.
For example, consider the following feedback for athleisure brand Gym + Coffee:
Here you can see the use of exclamation marks, and words like ‘loved,’ ‘friendly,’ and ‘helpful’ show us that the underlying sentiment is positive. Now contrast that to the following feedback:
Here you can see how although still somewhat positive, the customer harbors negative sentiments towards the brand.
Generally, you can categorize customer sentiments into positive, neutral, and negative. You don’t have to get everything right, but the idea is that you know how to read between the lines.
2. Study Reviews
As we’ve seen above, reviews can be an awesome place to harvest customer sentiment. Customers who take the time to leave a review obviously feel strongly about your business.
Written reviews can be a goldmine – if you’re running a small business, you can go through reviews manually and build a picture of how your customers are feeling.
However, if you’re running a larger enterprise, you may need to leverage a tool like MonkeyLearn or RapidMiner. These tools use algorithms to scan thousands of reviews and pull out valuable insights quickly.
The intelligence of such tools can decipher between opinion and fact, determine the polarity of the sentiment, and even detect sarcasm.
Sentiment aside for a moment, it’s worth noting that reviews aren’t just valuable for feedback, but they’re also powerful for boosting conversions. Regardless of what you’re selling, you need to be collecting and engaging with customers’ reviews on your store.
Positive or negative, it’s always best practice to thank the customer for their feedback and show them that you’ve taken their sentiments onboard.
3. Scour Social Media
Your Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter accounts are fertile ground for tapping into your customer’s sentiments.
Look at reviews on your Facebook page, Instagram DMs as well as mentions on Twitter, and you’ll unearth a treasure trove of feedback and insights.
But don’t limit yourself to your own accounts – use social listening tools like Hootsuite to monitor mentions of your brand from the world of social media. These tools can help you categorize feedback and make it more digestible too.
Plus, you can also track mentions of your competitors and tap into how their customers are feeling about them. Discovering what your competitors’ customers are unhappy with presents opportunities to one-up them attract customers to your business instead.
4. Record Direct Feedback
As mentioned above, direct feedback is potentially the most valuable form of feedback. Here customers have chosen to contact you directly via phone, dm, email, or live chat.
Using customer satisfaction metrics and surveys can be helpful to tease out data from these direct lines of feedback. Just like with reviews where customers can rate their experience on a quantified scale, metrics like NPS and CSAT can come in handy when added as a follow-up to direct communication.
Tracking both quantitative and qualitative data helps you build the most accurate picture of what your customers are thinking and feeling about your brand.
Use Customer Sentiment Analysis to Create Happier Shoppers
Every bit of feedback – from an angry social media mention to a product review brimming with admiration – is a chance for your business to find out how your customers feel about you.
Customer sentiment analysis empowers you to extract and organize the value from your customer feedback. And along with other customer service metrics, such data helps you make smarter business decisions that create happier customers.
When you start tracking customer sentiment, you’ll inevitably find superfans who love your business as well as disgruntled customers who want nothing to do with you.
If you’re seeing that a large customer segment is unhappy with an aspect of your business, it’s probably time to address the issue. And it works the other way too – if customers are raving about something, you know where to double down.
Finally, remember that you’ll never be able to make everyone happy. There’ll always be people who have a poor experience with your brand. But you can genuinely improve how customers feel about your business in general by listening to their sentiments and taking appropriate action.