If you're already tired of hearing and reading all the hype about sentiment analysis, also known as social media monitoring tools, the noise level is going to get a lot higher.
Determining customer views about your company from Tweets, blogs, YouTube videos, Linked In and Facebook postings (and other forms of digital outbursts) is rapidly moving from a mostly ignored toy of a few peons in the marketing department to an important tool for the entire organization.
So say the authors of a new book, The Customer Experience Edge by Reza Soudagar, Vinay Iyer and Volker Hildebrand, to be published by McGraw Hill next month. The authors, longtime veterans of the software business and currently SAP employees, provide a broad look at the management strategy, execution techniques, and the technology capabilities needed to enhance customer experience.
The authors say The Lego Group, Gatorade, Dell, Comcast and a host of other companies are using sentiment analysis tools to do more than catch the next embarrassing incident before it goes viral. Online rants like Comcastmustdie, Dellhell and United Breaks Guitars have triggered the effort to develop automated social media monitoring tools. But the next and important step is to link that information to organizations' enterprise applications.
The idea, and it is already being practiced in a number of companies, is to use sentiment analysis as an early warning system for product failures. Comcast, for instance, says it is using these tools to identify and resolve service glitches before they cascade into a major catastrophe.
Linking the sentiment analysis tools into the customer service network greatly enhances the efficiency of an organization and provides a solid return on the sentiment analysis tool investment.
Currently, relatively few companies are linking their social media monitoring tools to the rest of the enterprise, but that is changing fast. The authors cite a 2010 survey by Harvard Business Review Analytics Services that shows a rapid effort to interconnect social media into enterprise systems in the next few years.
The authors note: "41 percent of survey respondents said that a primary goal will be to integrate social media monitoring solutions with other marketing solutions, so that they can understand not just what is being said, but who is saying it and its impact.”
The data from the survey are in the following table:
Source: Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, 2010
As improving the customer experience becomes a critical factor in differentiating a company from its competitors, IT professionals will face a familiar challenge and opportunity. A gaggle of point solutions will be adopted by the marketing department and it will be your problem to figure out how to pipe key data flows into the existing Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems.
While the challenges will vary, the opportunities are quite clear—you can take your web and social media skills and actually help your employer.
If you're interested in more information about sentiment analysis and other new technologies and their impact on customer experience, several of my colleagues are working on a research report to be published in the next few weeks on this topic. It includes survey data and analysis from Bloomberg Businessweek Research Services, Deloitte Consulting, the Chief Marketing Officer Council and other organizations. Stay tuned for more information.