By adaptive - July 9th, 2013

Positive sentiment about a business may seem a fluffy concept, but it’s a valid metric that needs to be assessed in order to drive it effectively.

Over the past two articles in this series we have examined how important it is to deliver a high level of customer service. In addition, that organisations need to find strong solutions to capture data gleaned from these interactions, and how to manage that data in order to eke out some value from it. In this, the final piece, we look at the value of sentiment and brand advocacy and why businesses should not ignore them.

“Customer sentiment is important as it lets your business know what your customers are feeling, thinking and wanting,” says Marije Gould, VP Marketing EMEA at Verint Systems, “You can use this insight to make positive changes to the business in order to improve customer service and sales.”

The metrics and measurements by which different organisations assess the success of their customer service campaigns or brand campaigns, vary according to the needs of these organisations. For some, the ultimate goal of good customer service will be to generate positive sentiment, which can be carried across social communications and potentially form part of a brand advocacy campaign.

Others may not see as much value in sentiment; their metrics relying on resolution of issues or customer negativity and the speed at which customer service is delivered. The weighting given will depend on the unique needs of the business.

To build a robust and powerful customer service solution, you need to examine the metrics uniformly across the market and develop a solution that gives you the answers your business needs. Sentiment is an increasingly valuable tool that should not be ignored just because it’s not as easily quantifiable as other commonly used customer service tools.

According to a survey Social Media Benchmark: Wave 2 by the Chartered Institute of Marketing along with other partners, 53% of the international marketers surveyed said that sentiment analysis was being used as a measure of success in social and that 22% were starting to rely on it with increasing frequency.

Social Media Benchmark

In their paper Gartner found that softer metrics such as sentiment, emotion and attitudes are “subjective but can be useful when watching trends, even if accuracy is poor.” The paper goes on to point out that the root causes of customer behaviours and brand comments are highlighted by an analysis of sentiment and brand reputation.

The value of love

 “Customer insight data is of real value to any organisation. The customer is at the heart of everything you do and should therefore, be the first priority,” says Stewart Townsend, Business Development Director EMEA, Zendesk, “Data can only be of use when a question is set against it that delivers value back to the business.”

Stephanie Burak Fehlenberg, founder and CEO of Wildfire Web Design and Marketing, adds, “A company should try to predict, to the best of its ability, all the types of information they may need to collect and use industry-specific database software that can produce reports based on those different data fields. Have your goals outlined clearly, determine your objectives and let the customer service goals drive the evaluation tools.”

The message is clear – sentimentality is a valuable form of data that can add important information to the business and it can be used to drive the brand forward. As a standalone entity without a way of feeding back into the business, sentiment may not be the ultimate brand tool, but when blended with the other metrics and used effectively, it is a powerful addition to the family.

“There are reasonable filters which can be applied, of course, focusing on current and future target markets, customer segments, product and service categories relevant to strategic plans,” says Adam Beales, Distribution and Industrial Leader, Big Data, Europe IBM, “The primary way to determine value is to work with your different business functions to identify areas of untapped value – either new uses or enhancing existing processes.”

There are many ways in which sentiment can be assessed and understood in light of the business. It can be used on an individual basis – picking out the negative customer experience and making it work for the positive, for example – or it can give you an overview of the sentiment trends that impact your business. How useful would it be if a customer service representative could see the profile of a customer and instantly be informed of their overall sentiment? Or if a specific product or service had a general negative or positive sentiment? It can completely alter the way in which they tackle their interaction with the customers.

“Understanding your customer’s thoughts and perceptions of your brand, whether positive or negative, and reacting to them appropriately will help your business offer improved service,” says Gould, “Ignoring customer sentiment, or not acting upon it, is risky as it can alienate customers and make them feel undervalued as their voice isn’t heard.”

Brand protection

Leaving your customers to rant freely into the ether and form bonds of mutual dislike is not the way forward for any organisation today. In the dark recesses of Twitter and Facebook your reputation could be so damaged that you will lose customers before they’ve had a chance to try your products. Measuring and tracking sentiment around your brand will help you to understand your customers and give you a far better set of tools for repairing your reputation.

“Customers will only be loyal if they feel they are getting good service and that their voices are being heard,” says Gould, “Using the right analytics tools, sentiment can be collected and interpreted to show where the business is succeeding while highlighting areas that need improvement. Tailoring your products and services to customer needs accordingly, will reflect well on the business and is likely to enhance loyalty.”

Marije Gould, VP Marketing EMEA at Verint Systems

Burak adds, “Trends are typically more important that individual data and when you see a change in data trends, focus on the point of change and what may have caused it. If you can isolate the cause of the change, you can then capitalise if it was good, or fix it if it is a problem.”

Sentiment is no longer for the fluffy or the strange, it is now a tool that can be used to drive superior social customer service and add value to the business. Adding it as a metric and measuring it effectively has also become far easier as more and more providers come up with solutions and platforms to do just that. Don’t let your businesses be the one that falls off the edge of the map.

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