Driving growth using customer sentiment

Customer sentiment is not simply a buzzword. It is an integral component of business success.

Customers who are happy with your company will naturally spend more on your products and services. Conversely, unhappy customers will tell the world about their negative opinion and drive potential sales away.

Remaining up-to-date with the general sentiment of your customer base is essential. When you can track, listen, and learn from your paying audience, this provides the necessary groundwork to enhance the customer experience.

Yet compiling reviews, survey results, social media posts, and other mediums carrying consumers’ voices means little if you are unsure how to measure customer sentiment.

With that in mind, the following guide explains everything business owners need to know about customer sentiment, including what it is, how to gauge it, and how to use it to gain a commercial advantage.

What Is Customer Sentiment?

positive customer sentiment indicated by a person giving a thumbs up.

For a business to accurately understand, measure, and enhance customer relationships, it must know the sentiment behind its customer’s actions. By paying close attention to the emotion behind this sentiment, you can better measure the overall feeling and context of customer actions.

The result: you can make more logical, informed business decisions. The issue, however, is trying to measure customer sentiment.

Each time a customer makes a purchase, posts a review, or references your business on social channels, these actions are always synonymous with an emotional state. This emotional state is not always easy to determine; it falls on a wide spectrum. A customer can love your business, hate it, or land somewhere in the middle.

Fortunately, in this day and age, gauging customer sentiment is simpler when the right tools are deployed. Various applications allow you to collect and analyze customer sentiment data and act on it to improve your offerings – more on those shortly.

While it can be easy to overlook the importance of customer sentiment, it has never been more important for brands to build strong consumer relationships in this current digital era.

It is not simply a case of proclaiming, ‘Oh, here is a product. Buy it.’ In today’s competitive, emotion-driven market, a brand must resonate with customers, evoking positive feelings within them – via both their products and experiences – throughout each stage of the buying process.

Ultimately, the foundation for your business is built through relationships. A positive, two-way relationship benefits your company and your customers. It sets the tone for each interaction in the future, which, from your side, should lead to additional sales and glowing five-star reviews. This is why analyzing customer sentiment is critical. 

How to gauge customer sentiment.

two happy face pillows in a box.

Now that you understand customer sentiment, you may realize this metric can be integral in refining your business – whether through product upgrades, enhanced customer service, or anything else you know would improve your customers’ feelings about your brand.

Still, before you can start taking those steps toward improvement, you need to know how to gauge customer sentiment.

Here are a few key tips to keep in mind…

Solicit reviews and customer feedback.

Analyzing customer sentiment can only work when you have data. If you currently lack qualitative or quantitative data on your existing customer base, it is time to gather your audience’s valuable thoughts and opinions.

There are several ways you can go about collecting this information, including the following:

  • Solicit reviews
  • Conduct satisfaction surveys
  • Perform user reviews
  • Monitor live chat sessions and customer service calls
  • Engage with your audience on social media

Going back to the first method, gathering a large collection of reviews can be tricky. This is particularly true when you only want to deal with recent testimonials. What customers said about your business five or ten years ago will likely have less relevance to how you operate in the present day.

Nevertheless, there are tactics that can help you to encourage those all-important reviews. Consider the following approaches:

  • Provide opportunities: Yes, various platforms are available for customers to leave reviews for your business and its products. These include Google, Trustpilot, Yelp, and any external marketplaces – such as Amazon and eBay – where you may sell your goods. However, you should present as many opportunities as possible for customers to share their thoughts. This includes having a review section on your product pages and prompts following the ‘Thank you’ page after purchase.
  • Send a post-interaction email: A post-interaction email (PIE) is where you can remind customers to leave reviews after purchase. If possible, ensure they know how much their review can help your business. A PIE is associated with email marketing, but it can also be used within platforms like Amazon via the ‘Request a Review’ option.
  • Include a message with your product: If you send out physical products to customers, include a little ‘Thank you’ card in the box. On this card – handwritten is preferable for that added personal touch – you can ask them to leave a review if they have a spare couple of minutes.
  • Offer an incentive: Incentives can come in various forms. They can be downloadable content (think an eBook), an exclusive discount code, a donation, or a free gift. Either way, ensure customers are immediately made aware that an incentive is available in exchange for a published review. If they know they can get something in return, they are more likely to post a review when prompted.

Add reviews to more straightforward approaches to gaining feedback, and you should be able to collect a healthy amount of data for your customer sentiment analysis.

Read More: Market Research Surveys: All You Need to Know

Competitive customer sentiment.

Of course, evaluating the sentiments of your current customer base is valuable. However, do not overlook the benefit of performing a customer sentiment analysis that revolves around your industry.

Think about it – even when fortunate enough to have a large slice of the market, you are still only acquiring opinions from a captive audience. While beneficial when learning directly about your business, you are not obtaining the full perspective of your industry.

What if opinions have soured about the direction your industry is taking?

Perhaps your competitors are receiving glowing feedback – and happy customers – due to a new service they offer. Maybe clients are unsatisfied due to a competitor’s lack of response to complaints. Could recent trends see customers opting for different product options?

Either way, performing a competitive customer sentiment analysis can help uncover valuable information for your business, including how to identify business opportunities. Even if current customers are not outwardly disappointed – or even conscious – about certain grievances with your products, for example, they could still exist.

These grievances can then be identified through reviews of competitor products – and you can act before they hamper the customer experience you provide. Indeed, using your competitors’ shortcomings and dissatisfied customers to improve your products, services, and business operations is a tactic that works incredibly well for driving sales – and, thus, growth.

Why would customers buy from your competitor if you offer superior goods, services, and customer experience that you refined based on their reviews and desires and current market trends?

Use the right technology.                     

glowing laptop computer screen slowly opening.

At this stage, you should have a lot of data in your hands. The issue is finding the small nuggets of gold within all the information you need to sift through. Even if you have a load of reviews and customer surveys, it does not mean these are packed with valuable information for your brand. In fact, there is often plenty of chaff you have to get through.

Imagine you have collected 1,000 reviews for a product. Now, picture trying to go through each one and spot common themes and correlations. Not very appealing, is it? Aside from being a time-consuming and monotonous task, it is also one that requires plenty of effort and mental power.

You may spot the odd theme or two in these reviews, but human error will typically see various opportunities missed. This is why using specialist tools and AI technology is highly recommended. With specialist applications and AI tools sifting through the sea of information for you, you can save a significant amount of time and energy and uncover valuable data you could easily miss when trying to analyze everything manually.

With that in mind, here are a few tools to add to your repertoire when performing customer sentiment analysis:

  • GapScout: Collecting data from online reviews is made easy with GapScout. Forget about taking days or even weeks attempting to analyze these reviews manually. GapScout’s AI technology gathers all of these reviews, identifies common keywords and themes, and produces valuable insights into what customers are really saying about your business. The process can also be done with competitor reviews. This all takes a fraction of the time it would if done on your own.
  • Talkwalker Analytics: There are numerous ‘all-in-one’ tools available for sentiment analysis, and Talkwalker Analytics is certainly among the most powerful. They claim to index billions of data points, from social channels and forums to websites and blogs, on a daily basis. Where Talkwalker Analytics truly stands out, however, is with its ability to analyze visual data. It can ‘listen’ for your brand’s logo in videos and images. Add in its ability to supply a sentiment score for data points, and you have a well-rounded piece of software at your disposal.
  • Trint: Again, there are ample transcription software options on the market today. We have plumped for Trint on this occasion, however. With Trint, you can take audio and video files and quickly convert these into text via AI technology. Now, you might be wondering why this is important for customer sentiment analysis. Well, if you plan to analyze calls to your customer service team, this is an easy way to look at the data and identify common themes.
  • Hotjar: There are numerous benefits gained from using Hotjar. You can gain customer behavior analytics via various tools like session recordings, surveys, and heatmaps. It is also great for beginners as it collates all data into easy-to-read, actionable reports full of visuals like graphs and charts. One of the best features of Hotjar is the ability to collect feedback from website users. You can utilize popup on-page surveys and feedback boxes to gain instant insights from your customer base.

Ultimately, tools like these make the task of customer sentiment evaluation a much faster and easier one. What can seem like a daunting task you would rather put off, using these tools, suddenly makes your overall goals much more attainable.

Related: 5 Market Research Tools to Help you Research Faster

Put together reports.

Despite using technology to help filter through all this information, you can still end up with different piles of data that can be tricky to analyze fully. This is why it is important to convert this data into digestible reports – particularly if they need to be handed over to stakeholders and other key figures within your business.

Even if these reports are only seen by you and a couple of other people in your marketing team, there is still plenty of value in producing them. It allows you to keep all relevant data in one spot, which makes it nice and easy to analyze. With these reports, you can then produce actionable goals based on the data you uncover.

Reports are also beneficial over time. If you make customer sentiment reports every quarter or year, for instance, you can compare results and see how customers have received any adjustments.

For example, one of your older reports may have identified a problem with the functionality of a product. In the meantime, you took the necessary steps to rectify this problem.

Now, when you look at current reports, that issue should no longer be a fixture in customer comments.

Using social media sentiment to your advantage.

social media is great for gathering customer sentiment in the moment.

Social media was mentioned in the previous sections. However, this is an aspect that deserves an entire section to itself. Social media sentiment – known as social sentiment for short – is something that every business should pay attention to in the current climate.

Everyone is on social media. Professionals, grandparents, children – everyone. This makes it an incredibly powerful tool for businesses to use. Yet, while most will simply focus on it from a marketing perspective, social channels can also be home to a lot of valuable data. This makes them great libraries for learning about social sentiment.

With social sentiment, you are not learning from reviews or surveys done months or even years ago; you are uncovering the immediate, current thoughts and feelings of customers today, right now, right in this very moment.

A social media audience is also more candid than those found through reviews and surveys, which can help you gain a truer, more realistic picture of your business from your audience’s perspective.

The social media channels to cover.                 

From Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook to Instagram and Pinterest, there are numerous social media platforms.

The sheer quantity of these channels can confuse things, especially if you try to cover all of them for your business. Rather than stretch yourself too thin by doing this, focusing on the main socials makes sense.

It is best to stick with these main platforms:

  • Twitter: Twitter is one of the best platforms for gauging social sentiment. Due to the nature of Twitter, where you can send out a Tweet within a matter of seconds, it is great for tracking the latest trends. Furthermore, it is also a platform that many people use to applaud – or criticize – businesses they have used. As a result, you will likely be able to find both direct and indirect feedback about your company on Twitter. Just do a quick search of your brand name, and numerous results could appear with people referencing your business.
  • TikTok: The latest entry to the top table of social media, TikTok is here to stay. If you have been avoiding it so far, it is time to change that viewpoint – and fast. Not only does TikTok have fantastic potential as a marketing tool, but it is also a wise method to see what videos are being posted that relate to your market. If your business is aimed towards a younger age group, it is essential to jump onto TikTok and see what customers – and potential customers – are posting and talking about.
  • Instagram: It might primarily be a visual platform, but there is still a lot of valuable data available with Instagram. Whether it is a video or picture post, they are typically accompanied by a snippet of text and some hashtags. You can pull from this information to learn about current topics in your industry, along with what people are sharing about your business.
  • Reddit: Do not underestimate the importance of Reddit. Users share everything on Reddit, and comments can quickly snowball on any given topic. It is one of the best ways to stay up-to-date with ‘the now’ and the latest trends. Big news stories can receive thousands of comments within an hour or two. Your business can collect, analyze, and use these comments for social sentiment analysis on the latest happenings in your industry.
  • Facebook: Although it is not as prominent as it once was, there is still some value in tracking social sentiment among Facebook users. This is the case if your business is aimed at an older clientele. Facebook is known for being used by an older generation, particularly when compared to new platforms geared toward youngsters, like TikTok.

Engage with customers.

As a business, you will have profiles on these social media channels, and you will make posts about your products and services. Still, instead of taking a stand-offish approach to these channels, it is time to embrace them and fully engage with your customer base.

There are various ways you can do this with social sentiment in mind. When customers post feedback – positive or negative – make sure you take the time to reply. Doing so can help to add extra context to their initial comments, providing you with additional information about why something is or is not working.

Social media is also a great place to solicit feedback from your audience. This can be done by posting simple questions or polls. The informal nature of doing it on social media means you can expect a healthy collection of responses. Even a brand that only has a small yet respectable following will garner numerous replies on the likes of Twitter and Facebook. 

Why customer sentiment is important for your business.

Two hands forming a heart with the sun in the background.

At this point in the guide, you should know the importance of customer sentiment for your business.

However, if you need a further push toward performing your customer sentiment analysis, it is time to explain the main reasons you need to incorporate it into your brand’s marketing and sales strategy.

A positive, enthusiastic response – this is what you want to achieve from every customer. When your business is showered with positivity, it says it is making all the right moves. It is meeting – and possibly even exceeding – the expectations of buyers. Stick with your current approach, and you can do no wrong regarding your consumer base.

On the other hand, negative sentiment tells you that an element of your business is not working – and this will impact sales. It will affect your competitiveness against industry rivals and cause your profits to drop. That is not good – obviously.

With customer sentiment analysis, you can keep your finger on the pulse of your audience.

The most beneficial part about understanding the sentiment of your customer base is that you can discover pain points and stamp these out before they are terminal for your business.

Aside from the ability to refine products and services to match customers’ expectations, you can create a seamless customer buying experience with no obstacles in making a purchase.

Even after all of this, you may doubt the effectiveness of customer sentiment. Well, let us leave you with this statistic from Zendesk:

  • After just a single bad experience with a company, 50% of consumers will switch to a competitor.

Can you afford to lose half of your customers? No is the probable answer. You also cannot drive people to the competition. The last thing you want to do is pump up your rivals’ profits for them, all while you continue to fall out of consumer favor and slide down into an abyss.

Forget about negative experiences – with customer sentiment analysis, you can identify consumer concerns and trends and remain on the ball. The result? You stay competitive, retain and attract customers, and keep those profits rolling in.

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Justin Ferriman
Justin Ferriman
Justin is the founder of GapScout, the easiest way for solopreneurs and small businesses to find profitable gaps in their market. Follow Justin on Twitter→

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