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4 Ways to Track Customer Sentiment

Ashley Sefferman  //  February 14, 2017  //  6 min read

It’s Valentine’s Day, and aside from it being our favorite holiday, it’s also a great time to talk about feelings. And by feelings, we mean #customerlove.

Customer love

Fostering #customerlove starts with listening. To get a sense of how customers feel about your brand, you must start by tracking customer sentiment. Gathering marketing metrics to calculate ROI is important, and boosting customer sentiment is a rising tide that can help lift all your data-filled boats. But where should you start?

This post covers four ways to track and evaluate customer sentiment. Before we begin, let’s dig into understanding the importance and value of customer sentiment.

What is customer sentiment and why does it matter?

Sentiment is the emotion behind customer engagement. When you monitor sentiment, you try to measure the tone, context, and feeling from customer actions. Whether a customer completes a purchase, leaves a review, or mentions your company socially, there is always an emotional state connected to their action. Customer sentiment can range anywhere from pleased or loving to neutral or angry, and no matter where your customers fall on the sentiment spectrum, it’s imperative you understand not only what their emotional state is, but what’s driving it.

emotion scale

In short, tracking customer sentiment helps you understand three major metrics that can (and should!) affect your current and upcoming marketing campaigns:

  1. Overall customer satisfaction—How happy are your customers with the quality of your product?
  2. Loyalty—Will customers recommend you to a friend and continue using your product, even when competitors come calling?
  3. Engagement intent—How likely are customers to engage again in a day/week/month?

Gaining insight into customer satisfaction, loyalty, and engagement intent can be winning insight for your marketing strategy, helping your dollars stretch further and your ROI increase. The more you know about a customer’s current emotional state, the more you can tailor your marketing campaigns to provide an engaging, helpful experience.

As with most tracking methodologies, it’s important to track customer sentiment across all of your customer-facing experiences. However, mobile is becoming an increasingly important window into understanding how customers feel about the brands they engage with. Mobile is a great way to capture customer sentiment data because you can hear from a large percentage of your customers at a faster rate. In 2016, 65% of digital media time came from mobile, pushing the channel above desktop engagement for the first time. The average customer has already gone mobile, and to get a true take on your company’s customer sentiment, mobile can no longer be ignored.

To gather unbiased data, it’s important to track customer sentiment the same way across mobile and desktop experiences. Customers engage with brands differently on mobile than they do through desktop web or tablet experiences, but at the end of the day, all the entry points to your brand build up to only one customer sentiment.

Four ways to track customer sentiment

Now that we’ve covered the importance of tracking customer sentiment, let’s move on to which metrics to measure. Regardless of your product or industry, there are four key areas to look at when tracking customer sentiment: willingness to recommend, in-app ratings prompts, social monitoring, and direct customer feedback. Let’s explore each.

1. Willingness to recommend

The most effective way to gain new customers is through word-of-mouth recommendations from current customers, even though it’s difficult for marketers to calculate. To understand your customers’ willingness to recommend, the best way is to ask customers yourself. To do so, we recommend leaning on Net Promoter Score.

Net Promoter Score, or NPS, is considered a leading growth indicator across industries and is a measure of customer loyalty. NPS is appealing because it provides one consistent scale to measure sentiment over time. When your company’s score is higher than those of your competitors, you’ll likely outperform the market and drive more customers down a similar path to loyalty.

To understand NPS, respondents to an NPS question are grouped into three categories based on their ratings:

  • Promoters (score 9-10): Loyal customers who will keep purchasing and will refer the business to others
  • Passives (score 7-8): Satisfied customers, but may be swayed by competitive offerings
  • Detractors (score 0-6): Unhappy customers who can damage your brand by negative word-of-mouth

Screen Shot 2016-07-13 at 9.06.40 AM

To complete your calculation, you then take your percentage of Promoters (9’s and 10’s) and subtract the percentage of Detractors (0’s through 6’s), leaving out the Passives (7’s and 8’s).

Not only does NPS give you an idea of your customers’ willingness to recommend, it also gives your customers a voice to express their current sentiment. Win-win!

For more tips on NPS, check out our Customer Learning Center guide on the topic, or leverage Apptentive Surveys to set up your own NPS question.

2. In-app ratings (or “love”) prompts

Customer reviews are a great way to track sentiment, and in-app ratings prompts can help inspire customers to leave their thoughts on your mobile experience. Ratings prompts can be placed intelligently throughout your app to help understand customer sentiment, and typically look something like this:

Nordstrom Ratings Flow

Note that the ratings prompt uses 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. Here at Apptentive, we’ve carefully tested this language and flow with our customers to help ensure their strongest fans provide positive feedback in the app stores, and their toughest critics come directly to them with constructive criticism.

In terms of timing, it’s crucial to place your ratings prompts at the right times throughout your app. Despite the popularity of doing so, asking for ratings at app launch is generally never the best time to do so. Rather, identify a “point of positive experience” within your app to display your prompt. This could be between game levels, after sharing a photo, upon adding an item to a to-do list, etc. With Apple cracking down on the number of times a prompt can be shown to customers, finding the right time to prompt customers in-app is important than ever before.

3. Social monitoring

Engagement across social channels moves at lightening speed, which is a great way for marketers to take an instant customer sentiment pulse. There are many benefits to monitoring conversation on social channels, including:

  • Taking a quick snapshot of your brand’s health.
  • Warding off crises before they get out of control.
  • Connecting with customer MVPs and influencers.
  • Noting trends and identifying their sources.

Your approach to social monitoring will vary depending on the platforms you use, but all social channels offer the opportunity for customer sentiment tracking. To start, try running a campaign across your channels and tracking the following metrics:

  • Comment velocity—How quickly is conversation moving around your campaign?
  • Comment tone—Does the campaign influence your community’s tone in a positive or negative way?
  • Reactions (“likes” or “loves”)—What emotions are shared in reactions around the campaign?
  • Shares and mentions—How many shares or mentions does your campaign receive?

Due to the breakneck pace in which conversation evolves across social channels, monitoring all of the above on your own can be tricky. To help, there are many social sentiment analysis tracking tools you can use, but here are a few favorites: Social Mention, Trackur, and Meltwater.

4. Direct customer feedback

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.

If you have a direct feedback channel between your customers and company, it’s important to figure out a way to assign some type of score to the feedback in order to measure customer sentiment. For example, take customer support emails. Most support systems come with the ability to tag and categorize customer conversations. You could easily add another tag and/or category when assigning conversations depending on the type and tone of the request as additional insight into customer sentiment. Your scoring system doesn’t need to be fancy; simply sync with your team to come up with a simple solution that will fit your needs and offer additional insight into how your customers feel about your brand.

Loud feedback

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. Feedback is a gift and should be treated as such, no matter what!


Tracking customer sentiment helps give insight into how customers feel about your brand. The more you listen to how your customers feel about recommending your company, giving you a rating, engaging with you on social channels, and giving you direct feedback, the more #customerlove everyone is sure to feel. Win-win!

About Ashley Sefferman

Ashley Sefferman is Director of Marketing at Apptentive. A digital communication and content strategy enthusiast, she writes about multichannel engagement strategies, customer communication, and making the digital world a better place for people. Follow Ashley on Twitter at @ashseff.
View all posts by Ashley Sefferman >

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