How do customers really feel about your company? Approximately 90% of customers rely on the quality of customer service they receive when deciding whether or not to keep working with a business. A bad experience with a customer service representative can cause a customer to switch to a competitor.

Monitoring how your customers feel allows you to step in when there’s a problem and correct issues when they are still small and fixable. Sentiment scoring or sentiment analysis lets you gauge your customers’ feelings and can help you see where there is room for improvement.

What Is Customer Sentiment?

Customer sentiment is how people feel when they interact with your company. It refers to the emotions people have when they buy from you, work with your employees or talk about your company to others. Sentiment can be positive or negative. 

A customer who feels your business treats them well or is happy with a product they bought from you is going to have a positive sentiment about your company. A customer who bought something that broke quickly or who felt neglected or mistreated the last time they visited your business may have a negative sentiment about your business. 

A few of the emotions that are often connected to customer sentiment include:

  • Angry
  • Happy
  • Disappointed
  • Indifferent
  • Excited
  • Sad
  • Dissatisfied
  • Satisfied
  • Loyal
  • Betrayed

Understanding customer sentiment can help you determine the following:

  • How loyal your customers are: Loyal customers will return to your business repeatedly. More importantly, they can help you get more business by recommending your company to their family and friends. Tracking customer loyalty or finding ways to increase loyalty primes your company for growth and success.
  • How engaged your customers are: Engaged customers interact with your business regularly. People who are very engaged might visit your website often or stop by in-person. Knowing how engaged people are lets you decide how to boost that engagement, like sending follow-up emails or texts to them.
  • How satisfied customers are: Customer satisfaction is key to your company’s ongoing success. If customers feel you could do better or they become dissatisfied with the quality of your product or service, they are going to look elsewhere. In some cases, they might tell their friends to look elsewhere, too. Keeping customers satisfied requires you to continue offering top-quality products and services and to take action if satisfaction levels drop.

What Is Sentiment Analysis?

Sentiment analysis is the process of determining how customers feel. It uses natural language processing to score and evaluate customer service calls. Instead of having a person listen to each call individually, sentiment analysis automates the process, sorting calls based on whether customer sentiment is positive, neutral or negative. Sentiment analysis also rates how strongly your customers feel. Some people might have a strong positive feeling about your company, while others may have strongly negative feelings.

What Are the Benefits of Sentiment Scoring?

Sentiment scoring offers several benefits for your company, including the following:

1. Gives You Insight Into Your Customers’ Thoughts

Sentiment scoring shines a light on how your customers feel and their current emotions. It can give you an idea of whether or not customer opinion about your company is improving or declining. For example, after a new product launch, your customer service call center may receive several calls from clients. If the calls are mostly positive — with people praising the new product or letting you know how much better it is than the older model — calculating sentiment scores lets you see that customer sentiment is trending positive. The new product is a success and your company should continue in that direction.

Alternatively, your company may launch a new product and get calls from customers who aren’t happy about it. They might express disappointment that the new product is different from the older model. They might no longer be satisfied with the quality of the product. It could be that they don’t like the new product’s color. Sentiment scoring lets you see that customers’ feelings are trending negative. You can go back to the drawing board and make changes to the product to improve customer satisfaction and improve the sentiment score.

2. Lets You Sift Through Data Quickly and Leaves Little Room for Error

Customers have many options for letting you know what they think. Some will call your customer service center. Others will take to social media or send you email messages expressing their opinions and feelings. Sentiment scoring automates the process of sifting through customer data, so you can get the information you need to make important business decisions quickly. 

Automated sentiment analysis leaves little room for mistakes or misinterpretations. Two people can listen to the same phone conversation and come away from it with completely different points of view. One person might think the customer was neutral, while the other person interprets their phrasing and tone of voice to mean they are dissatisfied and have had a negative experience. Sentiment analysis defines the parameters of subjective emotion, meaning there’s less room for error and a greater chance that customers’ emotions will be scored correctly.

3. Lets You Identify Problem Areas and Take Action Quickly

Sentiment scoring also shines a light on problem areas, highlighting patterns in customer feelings and emotions. For example, customers might flood your call center with concern about the quality of a particular service. If you suddenly experience a drop in your customer sentiment score, you can investigate the issue, identify the primary concern and take action to correct it.

How Do You Create a Sentiment Score?

The content of your customers’ phone calls allows you to develop a sentiment scoring system and create sentiment scores. Every time someone calls your customer service center, you gain valuable data. Using algorithms and natural language processing, you can score each call to see how your company is faring in customers’ eyes overall. 

Use Customers’ Words

The words your customers use when they communicate with your company help you determine whether the sentiment is largely positive, neutral or negative. One way to evaluate the words your customers use is to create lists of keywords, then use a speech analytics program to keep track of the keywords used in a call and how many times they are used.

Additionally, you want to assign a quality to each keyword. For example, a word like “good” would be a positive word while “bad” is a negative word. The words you identify as keywords form a lexicon. When a speech analytics program operates, it listens for words in the lexicon. If the call contains more positive words than negative, the sentiment score will tilt toward positive.

In some cases, you can directly ask customers questions to help you create a sentiment score. During a call, your company’s representatives can ask customers how likely they are to recommend your business to others, whether they are happy with the service they’ve received and if they plan on making additional purchases. You can assign scores to each response based on how positive or negative it is. For example, a “definitely” response after a person is asked if they’d recommend your company could have a score of 10. A “no, absolutely not” response could receive a score of one or zero. 

Use Customers’ Tone of Voice

Often, there’s more to words than their dictionary definition. How customers speak to your company gives you insight into their overall sentiment. In some cases, you might learn more about how customers feel based on their tone of voice than their words. “It was great” can mean, “I loved it” or “I thought it was boring” based on the inflection of a person’s voice.

Fortunately, you can automate tone recognition and don’t have to rely on having an individual sift through phone calls to determine whether a customer happily said “It was great” or sarcastically said it. Machine learning techniques allow for automatic tone recognition. A program can be trained to recognize sarcasm and other tone nuances based on the outcome of the call or the other phrases a customer uses during it.

Who Needs to Understand Sentiment?

Knowing and understanding your customers’ emotions and feelings is important for a wide range of industries. If customers play an essential role in your company’s continued growth and success, knowing what they feel is critical for your business. Take a look at how sentiment analysis can help several industries:

  • Healthcare industry: Emotions play a significant role in a patients’ ability to make medical decisions. Healthcare providers who understand what their patients feel are better equipped to give their patients guidance on important treatments. Analyzing patients’ sentiments also allows providers to recommend alternative treatments or better explain a particular recommendation’s reasoning.
  • Financial services industry: Money can be an emotional topic for many people. Making decisions about retirement, mortgages and other financial milestones can stress people out, causing them to give up on the process. Tracking people’s feelings at various stages can mean that a financial services provider can recommend the most appropriate product to their clients. Sentiment scoring can also help a financial provider determine if it offers the best possible products to clients or if it needs to change the terms of its services.
  • Retailers: Whether a store sells clothing, sporting goods or electronics, getting a good grasp on how people feel when they shop in stores or online is vital for the continued success of the retailer. For example, if a beloved clothing brand suddenly raises its prices or starts selling designs that don’t work for the lifestyles of its customer base, it’s likely to get negative pushback from customers. Based on the response’s strength, the retailer might decide to return to its original styles. 
  • Dining and food service establishments: Restaurants and other food service establishments depend on their customers’ opinions and feelings for success. If a customer has a bad experience in a restaurant, they might leave a negative review online or talk down the restaurant to their friends. They might call the manager and describe their experience to them. Sentiment analysis lets an establishment perform damage control on a granular level, responding directly to a person with a complaint or bad experience. It also lets an establishment make more sweeping changes to its customer service or food quality, based on overall response. 

How to Use Sentiment Score to Improve Products and Services

Sentiment score is a metric that provides your company with an opportunity to improve. Whether your customers hold a generally positive or negative view of your business, knowing how they feel lets you make necessary changes. You can use sentiment score to improve your company in the following ways:

  • Identify customer needs: If customers aren’t getting what they want from you, they are likely to let you know. High levels of dissatisfaction and the potential for disloyalty can push your sentiment score toward the negative. Using that, you can determine what your customers need or want that you aren’t giving them.
  • Improve service: Knowing your score also means you can improve the quality of service you offer. If you operate a healthcare facility, you might get feedback from patients stating that they feel rushed during visits with their provider or that they feel their provider doesn’t care about them. You can extend the length of visits or offer training to your providers to help them improve their interpersonal skills.
  • Detect bugs: Bugs or glitches in an app your company offers or on your website can lead to customer dissatisfaction or increase agitation. Customer sentiment lets you detect bugs or technological issues so you can issue a patch or fix for them. 
  • Increase loyalty: Your most valuable customers are your loyal customers. Sentiment analysis gives you insight into how loyal people feel to you. If they are very loyal, you know to keep doing what you’ve been doing. If there’s room for improvement, you can find out what it would take to convince people to stick with your company.

Use VoiceBase to Analyze Customer Experience and Sentiment

Customer calls can provide your business a wealth of data and information, allowing you to make smart decisions about your company’s future. VoiceBase offers call center analytics that help you understand your customers and what they are feeling. Tapping into your customers’ sentiment can help you maximize your company’s ROI and improve loyalty and satisfaction. To see how our AI-powered voice analytics works for yourself, schedule a free demo today or contact us.