Customer Sentiment Inside-out

Customer sentiment analysis or market sentiment analysis is catching the attention of many B2C & B2B companies worldwide. With the advent of digital social mediums, people have the opportunity to air their views on just about everything, not only sharing these with their immediate social network of friends, family and colleagues, but also around the world – across countries, cultures, ethnicities and languages.

Airtimes and networks are flooded with millions of news makers, experts and reviewers, expressing what they feel about everything that matters to them or others. With every issue on earth and beyond, now becoming an opinionated agenda, killing the fine line between awareness and intrusiveness, one wonders if times have changed for better or for worse.

Corporate world too has been influenced like any other. Today there are discussions revolving around brands, products, people, policies, that directly or indirectly impact companies and their businesses, creating dilemmas around what works and what doesn’t, especially when there are no sure shot answers or solutions.

Companies know they can ill afford to ignore digital imprints available in the form of tweets, chats, blogs, surveys, reviews and forums and often they alter products, tweak service offerings, rebrand & reposition to keep themselves more aligned to the diverse market demands, especially when size of their market share and profitability depends heavily also on the social mediums.

Sentiment analysis is helping companies convert this unstructured digital data into valuable market insights through analytics, but it is still a technological challenge to obtain more than 60% accuracy. Hence, it may be insufficient in that sense, but such accuracy cannot be treated as inconclusive, considering the fact that social mediums are still evolving. Sentiment analysis thus acts as an enabler, complementing decision making techniques to validate platforms. In the service industry however, it’s effective not only for validation, but also as a platform to identify gaps to improve customer perception.

One key aspect of service industry is the large number of employees, who are involved in client servicing. This exposure, presents them often as brand custodians or face of the company, making them be perceived as the Company often times. One industry where client/customer servicing predominates is aviation, where often the quality of the crew and their behavior (customer service) becomes the key differentiator between market leaders and followers. What becomes important is the sentiment displayed by the employees to the outside world, a manifestation of the internal sentiment/relationship between employees and their employer. The fact that all of the best employers are also market leaders in their respective sphere of business further makes this a compelling argument an example being the retail store Wegmans.

Using sentiment analysis, if one can estimate & understand sentiments of employees (internal customers) and then map these outcomes with expressions on social mediums (perception & sentiments of external customers) there is a good chance that companies can use both sources of information to arrive at more informed decisions, to not only retain but also enhance their market share.

Additionally the internal IT resources used to capture employee sentiments enable analysis with higher accuracy, thus becoming a good platform for validation.

Till such time technology catches up with zillions of expressions & discussions flooding our digital mediums, sentiment analysis is a handy analytical tool for business leaders to explore.