Revealing Insights From Customer Feedback

Rick Kieser and Kellan Williams
Key Takeaways

What? Consumer data is key to business decisions and verbatim responses are often under-utilized due to the cumbersome nature of unstructured data.

So what? Maximize your insights from unstructured data by using natural language processing (NLP), also known as text analytics.

Now what? Advancements in NLP tools makes them a true asset in today’s business world, especially when you follow the three steps outlined below. Learn more at

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​We are in the era of data and using it to facilitate business decisions. This, along with the focus on customer experience programs, means direct feedback through survey open-ended responses, ratings, reviews and even notes from a call-center log are a large source of data for organizations. But, this data is “unstructured,” information that either does not have a predefined data model or is not organized in a predefined manner. It is typically text-heavy but may contain dates, numbers and facts as well.

Unstructured data contains an incredible depth of information that can transform organizations but can be underutilized by over-simplifying the topics. In the past, having people coding responses was the primary way to manage this task, but it was expensive and time consuming. While the human brain is the best tool to quickly understand what a comment is saying, each human uses their own experiences, feelings and understanding to categorize a response. This point matters because it’s difficult to repeat results if the person is not professionally trained. To help drive consistency, companies are using a technology called natural language processing or NLP.

NLP, also referred to as text analytics, is the use of algorithms that allow computers to process and understand human languages. While NLP has been around since 1950s, modern approaches focus at helping businesses better understand the voice of the customer like never before.

Two of the most-used outputs of NLP/text analytics tools are concept and sentiment analysis. Concept analysis algorithms simply go through the verbatims and look for the frequency with which common themes or subjects are mentioned. This can be helpful to quickly see important topics in your most recent customer satisfaction survey or Facebook posts. Sentiment analysis takes things a step further and looks for how people are talking about the themes and concepts. Knowing that a comment has strong positive sentiment in regard to the mention of "service" is nice but without context it is more of a fact than it is an insight.

How can you help your organization implement a program to leverage your unstructured data?

Establish a plan for the results

  • The results should be tied to a specific business question or key initiative. Outcomes can be unique for online reviews and customer satisfaction but the goals should support the overall strategy.

  • This program should have an owner that is responsible for elevating results within the organization. Junior team members or interns can support the program but it needs a senior leader in order to drive change.

Evaluate the content and the context of information

  • Engage your organization’s subject matter experts to create the overarching themes and keep it simple. Having too many groupings will make it difficult to see the gaps in the data due to needing a decent amount of mentions in each grouping. If you spread the mentions out among too many themes, it becomes hard to see where to dig for the true insights.

  • Use closed-ended data to provide additional ways to predict impact of certain responses.​ Many tools use a five-point scale to show the varying degree of positive or negative sentiment tied to the verbatim being analyzed.

Find the right tools

  • As you can imagine, there are many tools that have very different ways of looking for and applying sentiment to verbatims. When evaluating tools for your organization, ensure that the NLP engine is breaking down the verbatims in a way that will enable you to extract insights from what is being said.

With the proliferation of data, businesses that leverage text analytics will have a competitive advantage. To truly listen to the voice of your customer, you need to act on the things current customers, potential customers and employees are sharing with you. To discover insights and drive change, keep building a culture within your organization of being progressive when it comes to the new data-science techniques to reveal insights to change your business.

Visit to learn more.​​

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Rick Kieser and Kellan Williams
Rick Kieser is CEO of <a href="" target="_blank">Ascribe</a>, a Cincinnati SaaS firm. Kellan Williams is CEO of <a href="" target="_blank"></a>.