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What is customer sentiment, and how do you measure it?

Last updated

23 May 2023


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Cathy Heath

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Customer feedback is crucial, yet many businesses overlook this element. 

Running a business of any size is a complex task with many moving parts. It's a huge task to get your products and services to customers on time and without cost overruns, much less to regularly reach out for feedback.

Many companies include links to surveys on receipts or thank you emails. But this approach only gathers a fraction of the feedback they need from customers. Moreover, it's not a true reflection of how your customers feel about you, your brand, and your product.

So let’s look at customer sentiment and ways to measure it. 

What is customer sentiment?

Measuring customer sentiment is crucial to understand how customers feel about your business. You can use this information to guide decision-making and grow revenue. 

Companies can measure sentiment at a particular point in time, but it’s most valuable to measure it continuously. Customers' feelings about your business will change over time, gradually or rapidly. While this process takes time and resources, the benefits are huge.

Why measuring customer sentiment is essential

Understanding customer sentiment is crucial to making effective business decisions in several key areas, including new product development, marketing, sales, and customer service. 

Evaluating customer sentiment about your existing products can lead to insights about unmet customer needs (latent demand). You can also better understand your customers' feelings about your existing products or services. 

Identifying latent demands means you can design offerings to meet these newly discovered needs and wants. And by capturing feedback about existing products or services, you can improve your existing lines. 

When these insights guide your new product development process, new products and improvements are more likely to land successfully.

Customer sentiment is also important when it comes to marketing and sales. 

Your marketing efforts may not be resonating with consumers. But you may experience a delay in seeing that dissatisfaction reflected in declining sales depending on your product, industry, and sales cycle. 

Continuously capturing customer sentiment in real-time can serve as an early warning system, allowing you to make course corrections on packaging, positioning, and pricing.

Customer support is critical in customer service, and you can adjust your approach when you monitor what they say. 

For example, many customers may be confused by a particular feature of a key product. With this knowledge, you can prep your support team to answer questions about that feature. 

This may help your team resolve customer issues quicker, resulting in a more satisfying experience. 

And when you can resolve issues quickly and effectively, you can minimize your risk of losing customers.

How can you measure customer sentiment?

Many methods can measure customer sentiment. Of course, you can add customer feedback surveys on each receipt and at the end of every email exchange. But response rates for these surveys are often low. 

Moreover, you'll typically get responses from customers who feel very strongly about your brand, whether positively or negatively. Accordingly, these results may not reflect how your average customer feels.

To accurately reflect your customer base's views, you'll need to take several proactive steps to measure customer sentiment. These may include:

Conducting user interviews

Talking with your customers one-on-one or in focus groups is a great way to evaluate customer sentiment. While finding the time to pull together customers may be difficult, you can gain detailed feedback on what you're doing right and wrong. 

Moreover, you can get more nuanced feedback and ideas that are hard to elicit from a survey.

Engaging with customers on social media channels

While talking to customers on the phone or in person may be difficult, it can be much easier on social media. You'll often find customers willing to: 

  • Answer an open-ended post 

  • Respond to your follow-up questions

  • Engage in a one-to-one private messaging session

Best of all, you can do this with minimal prep. You'll want to ensure those who engage with your brand online are actual customers who accurately reflect your broader customer base. Once you’ve done this, you can dive right in. 

Monitoring customer service channels

Your existing customer feedback channels can be a great source of information and insight. 

Most call centers record their calls. You can comb through the files with your support team and compile common themes. You can also review customer support emails and chat transcripts. 

Sifting through this data can take time and effort. Fortunately, AI-powered business intelligence (BI) tools can help you spot and identify trends in large data sets. 

These tools can help you build snapshots of customer sentiment in minutes.

Using AI tools to gauge customer sentiment

AI tools aren't limited to customer support analysis: You can apply these tools to practically any dataset. 

Using an AI-powered BI tool, you could compile and analyze social media data, news coverage, support data, customer feedback surveys, and more. With this composite data analysis, you can accurately capture how people perceive your brand.

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What is customer sentiment analysis?

In customer sentiment analysis, you operate under the assumption that customers with strong feelings about your brand will use emotionally laden words. Aided by an AI-powered software application, you're looking for these words in customer feedback.

The two areas of particular interest in customer sentiment analysis are sentiment polarity and sentiment magnitude. 

Sentiment polarity measures whether customers feel strongly, positively, or negatively. 

Sentiment magnitude involves how strongly they feel. 

Algorithms that perform customer sentiment analysis typically look up and categorize the words in customer feedback to examine both parameters.

For example, if a customer writes, "I absolutely love your product," their statement has high positive sentiment polarity and sentiment magnitude. 

By contrast, a customer who simply writes, "It's ok," would likely garner an average score for sentiment polarity and a low score for sentiment magnitude. These scores would be aggregated along with other analyses of customer sentiment to create a collective score.

Different applications calculate customer sentiment scores differently. Some provide scores of -100–100; others use 0–100 or 0–10. 

Additionally, different applications weight language and its placement differently. 

One application may weight positive or negative adjectives that appear at the end of an interaction more heavily than those that come before it. Others may weight certain adjectives and phrases more heavily than others. 

The benefits of customer sentiment analysis

Marketing, sales, and support staff often find customer sentiment analysis insights invaluable. Performing sentiment analysis helps you mine vast amounts of data, keeping your finger on the pulse of customer perceptions.

These insights can aid new product development, more effective marketing and sales tactics, and better customer service. 

You can also use AI-powered tools to conduct multilingual sentiment analysis to better understand how various ethnic groups, geographies, and subcultures perceive your brand. It’s especially helpful when your markets include diverse and densely populated environments.

You can also pair sentiment analysis with other analyses to learn more about your business' progress and position in the market. 

Suppose news coverage after a marketing blunder indicates considerable customer backlash against your brand. Sentiment and sales analyses indicate that customers still feel good about buying your product, so you’re still making sales. In this case, you won't need a costly restructuring of your marketing program and product offerings to weather the PR storm.

Many employees find remote work challenging, and insights from employee sentiment analysis can help employers build a more effective working environment. 

If you have a decentralized workforce, periodically sifting through employee data can help you understand how your employees experience working at your company.

Learn more about sentiment analysis software


What is the difference between customer satisfaction and customer sentiment?

Customer satisfaction is typically how pleased a customer is with a tangible thing, such as a product or customer support call. Conversely, customer sentiment comprises overall feelings, emotions, and attitudes about a brand.

What is an example of customer sentiment?

If you describe a local restaurant as excellent and recommend it to friends and family, you're expressing a positive customer sentiment. 

If you went one night and had a terrible meal, your customer satisfaction that night would be low, which may change your overall customer sentiment about the restaurant.

How do you collect customer sentiment?

You can easily find customer sentiment in your customer support transcripts and recordings, comments left on social media platforms about your brand, and customer feedback surveys. 

Other collection methods include:

  • Posting customer feedback questions on your social media channels

  • Analyzing mentions of your brand on social media platforms and in the press

  • Issuing surveys

  • Holding focus groups

  • Scheduling one-to-one interviews with customers

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