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Mobile Marketing

How to Measure Sentiment and Act on Mobile Customer Data

Madeleine Doyle  //  March 2, 2021  //  8 min read

Customer sentiment is the culmination of how consumers feel about your brand and the emotions they experience while interacting with it. Sounds like a pretty important metric to track, right? Shockingly, many brands still have yet to grasp how to measure sentiment accurately and then how to act on that information to make a lasting impact on their customer experience. Lucky for you, we at Apptentive are customer-love-obsessed, and have been helping some of the world’s best brands measure sentiment and take action for years. Given that, we’ve compiled some of our best resources and strategies for how to measure sentiment.

It all starts with giving customers a voice

When you hear the recommendation to give every customer a voice, you probably have one of two reactions:

  1. We already do that
  2. I don’t want to open that can of worms

Let us address the first response. Many brands today think they’re “customer-centric” or “customer-obsessed” but in reality, they’re only building products and experiences for the vocal minority. The vocal minority is made up of two groups of customers: those who are at risk, and those who are VIPs. The at-risk customers have typically had a negative experience with your brand that triggered their feedback—their meal was bad, their flight was delayed, or they ran into an irritating bug in your app. They’ve raised their proverbial hands to alert you of their problem, whether it’s a one-off occurrence or affecting a larger group of your customers. The VIP group’s experience is just the opposite. These are your all-star, loyal customers—the ones who engage in every email, refer you to their friends, interact with you through other digital channels, and purchase your goods and/or services regularly.

Do you see how this ties directly to sentiment? You’re hearing from the one percent (yes, the vocal minority usually represents only about one percent of your customers) who fall on one end of the spectrum of happiness or the other. This leaves out all of the customers who fall somewhere in the middle and are at the greatest risk for shifting from one end to the other. Just because emotions aren’t extreme for those who fall in the middle doesn’t mean you shouldn’t measure it. Emotions change in an instant, which means sentiment – although slower to shift – can fluctuate as well.

Most companies with a digital presence have a way for customers to contact them directly (think customer support emails, chat functionality, etc.). However, very few companies leverage these channels as a way of tracking customer sentiment, leaving a huge well of data untapped. To address the second concern, there’s really no such thing as “too much feedback” when it comes to understanding your customer when you have the right tools in place. You can categorize different types of feedback based on sentiment or keyword, see trends over time, and retarget based on data points. The more intel you have, the easier it is to take action.

Benchmark sentiment with the Love Dialog

Understanding how your customers feel is the catalyst for all other communication. Would your customer service team treat an angry customer the same as they would treat an elated customer? Probably not. Would you communicate with customers without first knowing how they feel about you? You could, but you probably won’t get your message across very effectively. Treat digital interactions as you would in-person interactions—with context in mind.

A simple tool we developed here at Apptentive called the Love Dialog allows brands to quickly take a pulse from customers. We simply ask, “Do you love [insert your brand here]?” If a customer answers “no,” we have a solid understanding of where they’re at in terms of customer happiness and can create a plan to shift that answer back to “yes” the next time we check-in. This simple question combined with strategic targeting will allow you to benchmark sentiment from the same customers over time.

But in order to understand why someone changed their answer from a yes to a no or vice versa, we have to dig deeper.

Apptentive love dialog

Gain actionable insight from ratings and reviews

People make snap judgments about people in seconds, and they make snap judgments about apps just as quickly. Ratings and reviews are your apps’ social proof, telling all potential customers whether or not your app is worth the memory on their phone. They influence conversion and customers’ perception of your brand as a whole.

But ratings and reviews can also be an untapped treasure trove of useful information. As we mentioned before, the vocal minority will typically be the ones leaving reviews on your app store listing, so you’ll need to take that feedback with a grain of salt. But if you’re using in-app tools like Apptentive to activate feedback, ratings, and reviews from the vocal minority, this information can be much more useful and actionable. You can pull all reviews into a repository and start tracking and analyzing words to understand common themes, pain points, and more. Take note of when app updates happen or new features release, and then see how your app store ratings and reviews change.

Extract more value out of NPS and CSAT

CSAT and NPS are by-far the most common tools for large brands to gather customer feedback. Both are great for a general temperature gauge. NPS measures loyalty, and CSAT measures happiness. But neither one of these really measures sentiment or digging into the “why” behind responses.

Mobile App NPS Survey

Neither one of these tools is equipped to help brands respond in real-time to shifts in emotion (which, according to Gartner, is the best metric for improving customer experience).

There is a new standard for measuring emotion and sentiment through your customer voice and feedback initiatives, which is looking at what Apptentive calls “customer emotion data.”

Apptentive has specific surveys that our customers use to supplement other feedback touchpoints like the Love Dialog to check the pulse of their customer sentiment on specific features or aspects of their business. To get more out of NPS and CSAT, we recommend companies add an open-ended feedback box that allows consumers to explain why they chose the score they gave.

Gathering open-ended feedback with NPS and CSAT empowers brands to derive context out of their quantitative scores to better understand where they’re succeeding and how they can improve.

Measure sentiment and emotion separately

In order to truly measure sentiment, you must understand the individual customer emotions that drive mobile actions. Customer emotion begets customer sentiment, and your data picture will not be complete without measuring them both.

  • Emotions are raw while sentiment is organized. Depending on the context, emotion can be intense, quick, and reactionary. Sentiment, on the other hand, requires more time to think through.
  • Emotions are quicker to change than sentiment. One event can trigger an emotion, whereas sentiment is based on how emotions surrounding a topic (in this case, your brand) change over time.
  • Sentiment is typically measured positively or negatively; emotion allows for a wider range. Methods that measure on a flat scale, like NPS, are standard in gauging sentiment. However, these methods only tell a small part of the story. Measuring emotion data allows you to go deeper into specific feelings customers have, which can be as diverse as your customer base is.
  • An emotion is a response that occurs when we think or experience something. Chemicals are released in our brains that make us feel positively or negatively about what’s happening in front of us. Whether a customer completes a purchase, leaves a review, or mentions your company socially, there is always an emotional state connected to their action. Emotions are as unique as the individuals experiencing them, so the black and white scale of positive to negative often includes countless grey areas.
  • Sentiment is the belief or mental attitude that emerges from our emotions. Sentiment is generally shared by groups of people rather than individuals and is traditionally easier to measure than emotion. When you monitor sentiment, you try to measure the tone, context, and feeling from customer actions.

Put simply: Sentiment is the “what.” Emotion is the “why.” Measuring and acting on both is critical to customer experience success.

Track changes in sentiment over time

If you take nothing else away from this article, remember this: Tracking sentiment over time allows you to identify and act on shifts in sentiment. In other words, you can understand why certain people feel the way they do about your brand, and therefore take action to win them back.

To capture customer emotion data, we look at expressed sentiment based on mobile actions and feedback. In measuring expressed sentiment, we segment customers into four categories:

  1. Fans Shifted to Risks: Customers whose expressed emotion has shifted from positive to negative, or from Fan to Risk.
  2. Risks Shifted to Fans: Customers whose expressed emotion has shifted from negative to positive, or from Risk to Fan.
  3. New or Repeat Fans: Customers who have expressed positive emotion for the first time by answering “Yes,” or who have expressed positive emotion at least twice in a row.
  4. New or Repeat Risks: Customers who have expressed negative emotion for the first time by answering “No,” or who have expressed negative emotion at least twice in a row.

Visually, shifts in customer sentiment look like this:

There are various reasons why expressed sentiment shifts. Shifted Fans are typically validation that you’ve improved your customer experience or made a positive change to your in-app experience. Shifted Risks are the opposite and tend to show that you’ve made a negative change to your offerings or customer experience that people aren’t happy with.

Ultimately, expressed emotion is useful when brands make a connection between the shifted sentiment and what’s changed in their in-app experience or product offerings. For example, if a large number of your loyalty program members suddenly don’t “love” you and shift from Fan to Risk, you can trace back to what changed in your in-app experience to understand—and hopefully correct—the shift. If a repeat Fan suddenly shifts to Risk, that’s the best opportunity your brand has to get ahead of retention drop-off. If the customer is a repeat Risk, you have less of a chance of being successful in retaining them.

If a customer is consistent in their expressed sentiment, that also calls for a certain type of action. For example, if the customer is consistently a Fan who has not shifted, your brand’s job is to help turn them into advocates. Again, the converse is true: if the customer is consistently unhappy, your brand needs to take dramatic action to keep them as a customer or you are in danger of losing them to a competitor.

Apptentive Fan Signals

Regardless of the medium through which your direct customer feedback is collected, it’s worth noting that all feedback is good feedback. Whether the sentiment is positive or negative, customer feedback is insanely valuable and should always be treated as an opportunity to learn how you can make a better product for your customers. If you’re ready to start measuring customer sentiment and taking concrete action based on that data, let’s chat today!


About Madeleine Doyle

Madeleine Doyle is the Senior Content Marketing Manager for Apptentive. No stranger to B2B tech, Madeleine enjoys translating complex concepts into easy-to-digest pieces of content.
View all posts by Madeleine Doyle >

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