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Customer Emotion & Sentiment

Customer Emotion vs. Customer Sentiment: Differences, Tools, and Actions

Chris Minnich  //  May 24, 2022  //  7 min read

How many times have we got off the phone with a customer support rep and gone, “I am never buying something from that brand again”? Strong customer emotion like this can define our entire experience with a brand, even if that experience and relationship lasted years.

New research has found that customer emotion is a key part of customer experience, and that finding ways to connect emotionally with customers can be a competitive advantage for you and your company.

Before you develop your own strategy to reach customers on an emotional level, it is important to fully understand customer emotion and sentiment. While similar, there are distinct differences that make emotion and sentiment two completely different data sources. Let’s explore the differences between customer emotion and sentiment, feedback collection tools, and how to take action on the emotions your customers share.

Differences between customer emotion and customer sentiment

It all starts with an experience. This experience could be simply leaving a review in the app store or something larger like making an expensive purchase. No matter the scale, the customer attaches an emotion to their experience with your brand.

The emotions customers develop then result in a broader belief and attitude towards your brand: customer sentiment. Sentiment is generally shared by groups of people rather than individuals and is traditionally easier to measure than emotion.

Customer Sentiment and Customer Emotion

Customer emotion and customer sentiment are deeply connected, which is why you often see them used interchangeably. However, there are some key differences between the two concepts:

  • Emotions are unfiltered and raw while sentiment is more structured and organized. Emotions tend to be more intense and reactionary compared to customer sentiment, which requires more time to think through.
  • Emotions change faster than sentiment. One event can trigger an emotion, whereas sentiment is based on how emotions surrounding your brand change over time.
  • Sentiment is typically measured positively or negatively; emotion allows for a wider range. Measuring emotion data allows you to go deeper into specific feelings customers have, which could range dramatically.

Tools for collecting and measuring customer emotion and sentiment data

There are various channels and methods for collecting and measuring how your customers feel. Instead of trying to master every channel, we suggest focusing on whatever channel your customers are most active on— likely your mobile app! Many top brands are building world-class digital experiences on mobile apps because mobile is where they see the greatest customer engagement and growth

Here are a few of our favorite in-app feedback tools that are ideally suited for collecting sentiment data:


In-app ratings prompts are a great way to track sentiment and encourage customers to provide their thoughts on your mobile experience. At Apptentive, we recommend using the word “love” in the first question. When you ask a customer “Do you love…?” they are more likely to answer truthfully and emotionally, rather than responding robotically or automatically hitting the “dismiss” button. This language helps ensure your unhappy customers come directly to you with constructive criticism, while your biggest fans take their positive feedback to the app store.

Activate your fans with new audience segments

Measure Shifts in Sentiment Over Time, in Real-time

How would you act if you could predict when customers were ready to leave? Mobile is the essential channel to maintain an always-on, always-present connection with your consumers, and it’s critical to tap into that emotional pulse. Acting on emotions in real time often makes the difference between achieving brand goals or falling short.

Fan Signals® are derived from recurring Love Dialog interactions, with consumers being characterized as either a Fan or Risk. Apptentive’s Love Dialog is effective in measuring customer love in-the-moment. As you capture data from the Love Dialog, Apptentive automatically segments your customers into one of several Fan Signals groups, based on their Love Dialog responses over time.

How the Love Dialog segments fans and risks based on customer emotion

Collecting this critical data helps you re-target specific segments of your customers based on their expressed sentiment, allowing you to take targeted steps and actions that can reduce churn, improve customer engagement, and increase the lifetime value of your customers.


Net Promoter Score, or NPS, is considered a leading growth indicator across industries. It is a measure of customer loyalty that can be benchmarked across other players in your industry. However, standard NPS surveys are not enough anymore, in large part because they lack the customer emotion needed to contextualize the NPS scores provided.

Survey with NPS dialog and follow up question asking why they left that score

By simply asking customers, “Why did you choose this score?” after the traditional rating question, customers can provide unstructured feedback. This feedback provides context to the score provided and helps brands better understand customer emotion behind the underlying sentiment.

How to get the most out of your sentiment data

Now that you’ve collected customer emotion and sentiment data, what do you do with it? 

The business impact of customer sentiment comes down to how you act on it and how you connect emotionally with your customers. Most brands utilize what they learn from customer emotion and sentiment data to inform product decisions and marketing campaigns. 

Here are four ways to act on the information you gather to unlock data-driven results.


Your fans are the brand’s biggest advocates. Treating them as such allows you to grow your brand and let these fans know that you value their business. Once you identify the customers who love your brand (aka your biggest fans), you can retarget them by: 

  • Sending an app store ratings prompt to your fans, so that you can improve star-ratings and increase positive reviews . 
  • Sending a Note asking if they would like to share a referral link to their friends and family.


It can be difficult to identify unhappy customers, and reach them before they churn. Even once you identify them, it’s often too late. 

If you constantly track customer sentiment for the same customers over time, you’ll be able to see exactly when a shift in sentiment occurs. You can then quickly follow up and ask for more information on why they are unhappy and potentially offer them deals or discounts to stay with you.


It is challenging for businesses to get in front of neutral or non-engaged customers and convert them to fans. These customers often fall into the “silent majority” and are usually quiet and hesitant to provide feedback. 

One of the best ways to reach this segment of your customer base is to target customers who choose not to indicate their feelings about your brand. Once identified, you can retarget this segment with exclusive offerings in an effort to shift them to fans.

Chart showing how most customers fall into the silent majority


Customer sentiment will always ebb and flow. But one of the benefits of consistently monitoring the sentiment of your customers is that you can quickly react to sudden drops in sentiment. 

If a significant amount of happy and neutral customers suddenly indicate that they are now unhappy, you likely have an issue with your app. If this is the case, you can follow up with those now unhappy customers and ask for more details. After your dev team has fixed the issue, make sure to close the loop and let customers know that the issue has been resolved and that you are thankful for their timely feedback. 


By tracking customer sentiment and emotion, you can equip your team with the data they need to make business decisions that will keep your fans happy and turn your unhappy customers to fans. In the end, it comes down to implementing the right tools and strategy that help you create experiences that your customers will love. 

If you want to learn how Apptentive can help you measure and act on customer emotion or sentiment, get started with a free trial or request a product demo!


About Chris Minnich

Chris Minnich is a Content Specialist at Apptentive. He enjoys telling stories with written and visual content.
View all posts by Chris Minnich >

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