4 Ways to Measure Customer Emotion

As consumers, emotions drive us to make many of our decisions. When we experience emotion, chemicals are released in our brains that make us feel positively or negatively about what’s happening in front of us. Whether customers complete a purchase, leave a review, or mention your company socially, there is always an emotional state connected to their action.

But it can be hard to measure a feeling. This post explains how to measure customer emotion that drives mobile action, along with step-by-step guidance on where to start.

What is Customer Emotion Data?

Measuring customer sentiment, or CSAT, is the focus for most large brands to understand customer happiness and where to shift their product roadmaps. But CSAT is a lagging indicator that won’t help you much in dealing with current pressures around connecting with your customers, or responding 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 Alchemer Mobile (formerly Apptentive) calls “customer emotion data.” We capture emotion data through Fan Signals™, which allows your brand to measure expressed sentiment across time and mobile touchpoints, helping you identify when sentiment has shifted and why—down to individual customer IDs.

Alchemer Mobile (formerly Apptentive) Fan Signals

4 Ways to Measure Customer Emotion

1. Determine who, where, and how often

Targeting based on customer action is essential to success in measuring customer emotion. If your mobile engagement points aren’t targeted and personalized based on customer behavior, you may as well not measure them at all.

To understand the importance of these points better, think about your experience while shopping at your favorite retail store. In-store sales associates won’t interrupt you in the middle of a conversation to ask if you need their assistance, and they won’t ask you if you need a fitting room before you’ve picked out any items of interest. In the same way, targeting allows you to communicate with specific customers once they have engaged with your app at a time that will not detract from their in-app experience.

Let’s look at each of the three attributes individually.

  • Determining who: The first decision you must make is who should be targeted. For example, if you’re setting up a survey, always ask yourself, “Who should be able to see this survey?” We recommend targeting based upon a number of attributes, including custom person and device data, actions people have taken within the app, and which interactions they have or have not seen in the past.
  • Determining where: Once you determine who should be eligible for a particular interaction, you need to choose the place at which customers will see the interaction. Ask yourself, “Where should this interaction be displayed?” Be sure that you do not interrupt customers when they are in the middle of completing an action.
  • Determining how often: The last piece of targeting you’ll need to consider is how often to display the interaction. There are different options for this depending on the interaction type, like a survey or an informative note.

2. Focus on expressed sentiment

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:

  • Fans Shifted to Risks: Customers whose expressed emotion has shifted from positive to negative, or from Fan to Risk.
  • Risks Shifted to Fans: Customers whose expressed emotion has shifted from negative to positive, or from Risk to Fan.
  • 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.
  • 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:

Shifts in Customer Emotion Data

3. Quantify the “why” behind shifted sentiment

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 in being successful retaining them.

Sentiment Analysis

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.

Note: Our 2020 Mobile App Engagement Benchmark Report digs into industry standards for shifts in customer sentiment. Last year, the average number of New or Repeat Fans was 60% (iOS 58%, Android 65%). The average number of New or Repeat Risks was 31% (iOS 32%, Android 28%).

4. Measure customer emotion and customer sentiment 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.

Customer emotion and customer sentiment

While customer emotion and customer sentiment are always connected, there are vast differences:

  • 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.

Emotions are as unique as the individuals experiencing them, so the scale of positive to negative has endless midway points—and there is no one way to measure a feeling. I hope the framework above gives you a starting point to understand the rationale behind your customer’s emotions in order to improve your mobile experience!

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