Knowing what your customers are thinking can provide significant advantages for any business, and yet trying to record people’s thoughts has usually felt like an impossible task. Sure, the use of customer surveys and focus groups can give interesting insights that can shape your business strategy, but those only provide brief glimpses from a tiny segment of your potential audience. This limited view is changing by leaps and bounds with the growth of big data and sentiment analysis.
Gone are the days of making an, at best, educated guess of what your customers think and feel. Now you can get concrete data on that area, providing your organization with the kind of information that most companies would have thought impossible only a few years ago.
What is sentiment analysis?
The power of this data cannot be understated. It basically means that the guessing game regarding customer thoughts and feelings can be put to rest. Sentiment analysis represents a noticeable shift from trying to estimate what makes a person tick to giving businesses clear choices that have data as the foundation. In a nutshell, sentiment analysis gathers data based on customer opinions and emotions as they are recorded on the internet. But it goes beyond simply recording what they say; it makes that extra step into what they actually mean behind their words.
This may sound strange to those who are unfamiliar with big data. After all, how does one even begin to measure things like feelings, thereby basing business decisions off of them? With that question in mind, it’s important to point out that sentiment analysis in conjunction with big data is still a work in progress. For now, the technology to detect sarcasm, hyperbole or confusion is still in an imperfect stage, but it’s getting there.
In essence, sentiment analysis is simply measuring customer feedback albeit with some of the latest technology like big data. None of this would be possible without the rise of social media. As you are probably well aware, many people are fairly open about their opinions when posting on Facebook or Twitter. Businesses can now monitor these channels, picking out instances where people are talking about their brands or products specifically. This data is collected, analyzed, stored with software-defined storage and studied for insights on what customers truly think about certain companies and the products they make.
Unlike a customer survey, for example, social media allows customers to be direct and perfectly honest since most of the time they don’t even realize businesses are monitoring them. Additionally, sentiment analysis allows companies to look at their whole audience rather than just a portion.
But social media isn’t the only source where you can get valuable sentiment analysis. Some of the more traditional channels, like when customers make direct inquiries and interact with customer service, can be just as valuable. From these interactions, organizations can determine how customers truly feel about the brand. From that, companies will know what changes they need to make to better serve their customers.
These interactions may actually become even more valuable with the introduction of the Internet of Things and wearable devices. In that sense, you may be able to record physical interactions and directly record the words that customers say to company representatives.
Sentiment analysis also includes being able to track industry trends along with the feelings customers have for your competitors. Think of the valuable insights that can be gained when you know exactly what potential customers think about some of your biggest rivals. These advantages that can be applied to your strategies are immense.
When it comes to sentiment analysis and big data, the true goal is to help companies create experiences for customers that are highly personalized. If customers feel that you are meeting their specific needs, they are more likely to continue doing business with you. Improved customer loyalty and increased revenue will lead to more success in the future.
Sentiment analysis can even be used in the creation and marketing of future products. It’s a new way for businesses to function, one that gives them new capabilities to meet customer needs in a manner that simply wasn’t possible before.
Rick Delgado is a technology commentator and writer. He writes for Business.com, CTOVision.com, SmartDataCollective.com and SandHill.com. Follow him on Twitter.