Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella famously said "every company is now a software company." The same holds true today for customer experience: Every company is now a customer experience (CX) company.

Some businesses are doing it better than others. Take Domino's as an example. Its innovation in CX has catapulted the brand from a 60-year-old pizza franchise to a “leading technology and ecommerce company.” From its zero-click ordering app, to giving customers the ability to purchase through their home’s smart devices, Domino’s has created a completely new standard for CX and forever changed the way we order pizza.

How did we go from ordering pizza by phone or storefront to ordering via channels like Twitter, Slack and Alexa?

Customer sentiment is the key driver behind successful CX. Measuring people’s thoughts and feelings toward a brand, product or service allows for a deeper understanding of the customer, increased empathy, and lets businesses meet customers wherever they are (just as Domino’s has done).

But too many companies are falling short in this area. To make better business decisions and achieve CX excellence, it’s imperative for companies to properly leverage customer sentiment throughout their organization. Let’s take a look at what’s currently happening, and how businesses can adopt a more holistic approach to customer sentiment.

Customer Sentiment (and the Data to Back it Up) Is King

Customers have nearly endless choices today. Top-notch CX has become a critical way to differentiate from the competition. Understanding not only the emotional response customers have to a product or service, but also their emotional response to the broader context in which the interaction takes place, is key to a positive experience.

By zeroing in on customer sentiment, companies can dramatically improve their CX and make more informed business decisions. So, how are companies going about it? The first step is gathering data. Customer sentiment data is comprised of information from a combination of sources: web analytics, surveys, social listening, usability testing, one-on-one meetings and various other channels. All of this data then must be combined and analyzed to provide clear insights on customer sentiment — but it’s often easier said than done.

Related Article: Sentiment Analysis in Marketing: What Are You Waiting For?

Where Companies Are Falling Short

Determining customer sentiment is challenging because it involves analyzing different types of data from different sources, even if it’s pertaining to the same exact experience.

For example, imagine a retail company trying to get a pulse on how users feel about its new shopping app. They have data on how users navigate the app, commentary from customers on Twitter, feedback via surveys, and one-on-one usability testing interviews. This data by nature doesn’t lend itself to being combined. Adding to the complexity, it has been collected by different people on separate teams within the organization, completely siloed from each other. The person analyzing the data may be different than the person who collected it. Context can be lost, and important information can be overlooked or misinterpreted.

Learning Opportunities

The true challenge of customer sentiment is bringing all of this data together and extracting accurate insights that can then be built into existing processes to improve CX, guide product development, and help businesses make better decisions.

Related Article: Data-Driven Decisions Need Context

A Holistic Approach to Customer Sentiment

To solve this problem, companies need to de-silo and shine a light on customer sentiment. Transparency is key. Customer sentiment data must be available to anyone in the organization, and it’s time for people to start looking.

Everyone within a company should be familiar with customer sentiment and how it informs every process it touches. While researchers and other experts are important for understanding customers, they shouldn’t be the only ones directly exposed to sentiment — the responsibility is on everyone. Businesses need to reexamine all of their processes and ask themselves: How can we bring customer sentiment to every stage of product and experience development?

In taking a more holistic approach to customer sentiment by incorporating it into every business decision, companies build customer empathy over time. And naturally, teams that create experiences are much more successful when they have high levels of empathy for the user. It’s a snowball effect. And it doesn’t require a sea change: Taking small, incremental steps to incorporate customer sentiment into existing decision-making processes is all that’s required. Some companies are doing this by appointing an individual who champions customer sentiment within the organization, while others are taking it to the board level and setting measurable goals around customer satisfaction.

However companies choose to go about it, there’s no denying that customer sentiment needs to be at the forefront of every decision-maker's mind within every organization. The quality of companies’ CX depends on it, their brand reputation depends on it, and so does their overall success.

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