Understanding your customers’ sentiments in the Digital Era

Tanay Raghuvansh
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As the strategic importance of data has increased, new approaches to customer analytics have emerged as well. As customer interactions with companies grow and diversify, the need to integrate data faster and deliver real-time insights has become critical.

It is no surprise that in today’s Internet age, customer data, knowledge, and insights are more valuable and of more strategic importance than ever before. That’s largely because power has shifted over time from companies towards their customers. The customer today have so many options, quick access to pricing information, and through social media, ideal avenues to share their experiences with others, both good and bad. Due to this surfeit of choice, they have more influence than ever before. To succeed in this changing or perhaps changed environment, companies must be able to understand what the customer really wants and then tailor their products and services accordingly.

This is where big data steps in, enabling companies to derive insights and making changes in ever shorter turnaround times. But Data can only tell you who the customers are and what they did in the past. In order for data to be useful, the organizations would need to understand the customer intent–on why they do or do not buy from them. One particularly useful tool or rather an approach that helps across many situations is Sentiment Analysis.

With websites, blogs, Facebook updates, online reviews and more that are available to all, the customers/buyers use almost twice as many sources of information to make decisions and often engage with a brand dozens of times between inspiration and purchase. But it doesn’t end here for the companies which is a reason they turn to Sentiment Analysis. This tool looks at the unstructured data on blogs, forums and social media forms that are generated by people talking about products, services and other aspects of interest to companies. Conceptually, this analysis works by extracting the text data from various sources and then looking for words or phrases that match a predefined dictionary of sentiment-bearing words and phrases. By identifying such words, it is possible to classify opinions into positive, negative and neutral.

The advantage of this tool is that it does not attempt to find answers to predefined questions, it enables organizations to identify issues and yield insights that may have been obscure. As the data is created by the customers themselves, an organization can get a much truer public opinion.

Here are some broad areas of application –

Understanding Your customer

During the Engage stage of the customer journey, customers may interact with customer service or an online user community to receive support. By capturing and analyzing the data from these touch points, such as customer service notes and online forum postings, companies can identify customer pain points and issues proactively and update their customer service FAQs or other communications with existing customers. This not only improves customer experience, making it easier to resolve problems, but it also decreases customer calls into call centers and overall service costs.

Understanding Your market and the competition

Companies can leverage the insights from the customer data to move ever closer to the elusive goal of truly personalized marketing: the right offer, at the right time, in the right location and context, to the right person. Furthermore, companies can use this analysis to understand what the competition is up to. For instance, if the analysis picks up positive sentiment around a competitor’s product, it enables the company to incorporate features that people like. Sometimes, the analysis can also provide early insight into competitors’ initiatives by detecting sentiments around new products that people are excited about. This is powerful and a valuable insight that can help companies redefine their marketing strategies.

Understanding Your company from a customer’s viewpoint

Sentiment analysis allows organizations to quantify what existing and prospective customers think about their products and services, their customer experience, marketing and social campaigns – essentially the brand as a whole. By looking at negative sentiments, companies are able to develop more engaging branding and marketing strategies.

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