Customers are key drivers in decision-making processes. Through their shopping habits, feedback, and general loyalty, they tell you exactly what they want to experience when they visit your brick-and-mortar stores and browse your eCommerce site. And since the goal is to please leads and customers, it’s only natural to use that information to make sound (and profitable) business decisions.
But there is an additional layer of insight you can tap into by simply analyzing online customer communication more deeply. Namely, the sentiment behind each message, comment, and review.
Here, we’ll explain exactly what customer sentiment is and how it can help your retail or eCommerce business create a better experience for customers.
What is Customer Sentiment?
At its core, customer sentiment is the emotions your customers express about your business via online communication. It’s driven by the personal feelings they have toward your brand, based on their personal experiences with it. But since customers are constantly having new experiences with your brand, this sentiment is fluid, changing from day to day (and year to year).
Gathering customer sentiment isn’t as easy as asking customers how they feel about your business, though. Customer opinions and emotions are far too complex to be boiled down to a multiple-choice question. And most of the time, the best answers aren’t found in simple customer surveys. They’re extracted from social media comments and online reviews, as well as conversations via live chat, email, and text messaging.
But begs the question: why does customer sentiment even matter to retail and eCommerce businesses? Here are three reasons.
It Shows Customer Care Teams How to Respond to Online Communication
Often, when you receive online communication from your customers, you respond. But when you don’t know exactly how you’re customers are feeling, it can be difficult to engage in the conversation correctly. And if you make a major misstep, you can drive away customers and hurt your reputation with potential leads.
On the flip side, knowing what people are saying and how they’re feeling can help you respond in the most empathetic way possible. As a result, you can both match the energy of excited customers and respond to irritation in a calm, compassionate, and patient manner. And your customers will feel much more valued for your effort.
It Helps You Improve Your Fulfillment Operations
While customer sentiment is generally thought of as being a tool for customer service teams, it also offers major benefits to order management and fulfillment teams as well. The reason being: the “why” behind the emotion can often be found in the same customer communication, be it an online review, social media comment, or conversation with one of your employees.
That means teams across your organization — including those involved in fulfillment and order processing — can pull online customer communication to see how their operations are doing. They can mine out details regarding order cycles to determine if and how they should accelerate shipping. And using customer reviews, they can extract information on order accuracy make more informed decisions on order picking and packing.
It Enables You to Optimize Inventory Management
Surprisingly, customer sentiment can also play a major role in inventory management, by delivering additional insight into how your customers feel about your average shipping speed, unexpected back orders, out-of-stock scenarios, and your products. This can help you decide what products you should stock more of and where you should stock them to minimize inconveniences for your customers.
For instance, if your customers leave happy reviews for several of your products, but consistently note their frustration at the shipping speed, you can use the sentiment from the reviews as a common thread to organize reviews quickly. In doing so, you can easily pick out which items your customers are interested in purchasing again and see which fulfillment locations could use some process optimization.
The fact is, a lot of purchase decisions are based on emotion. That means if you want to keep your customers’ attention and loyalty, you need to keep a pulse on how your customers feel about your products and services. Luckily, it’s really easy to do. All it takes is a careful assessment of your customers’ sentiment in their online communication with and about your business.