Bill Inmon on Hearing The Voice Of Your Customer

This post explores the importance of hearing your customer, and how to use sentiment analytics and other technologies to achieve this goal and avoid going out of business.

Fig 8 Sentiment

There is a quirk related to sentiment that must be understood. That quirk is that in many circumstances it is really important to interpret the ratio of positive to negative pieces of feedback appropriately. And to the uninitiated it is really easy to misunderstand the significance of the ratio. Suppose a customer goes into a store and has a positive experience. That is what the customer expects. The expectations are met and no further note is made. However suppose a customer goes into a store and has a negative experience. The customer now sends a complaint to either a public or a private source.

When you analyze sentiment you have to realize that you should expect a larger number of negative replies than positive replies. The exact ratio depends on the business and the industry. But people do not expect a negative experience. And it is this non fulfillment of expectations that causes people to write a complaint.

Fig 9 Negative

The chart seen here shows high degree of negative comments. This ratio is COMMON and NORMAL and should not raise alarms.

On the other hand a very well run business will exhibit a very different pattern ratio of positive to negative comments.

Fig 10 Well Run

Another challenge in interpreting customer comments for different industries is the fact that what is meant by product will vary dramatically from one industry to the next. The meaning of product for a hotel is entirely different than the meaning of product for a car manufacturer. Or the meaning of product for an airline will be very different than the meaning of product for an insurance company.

Each industry has its own interpretation of what product means and each interpretation is different.

Fig 11 Product


While both the positive and negative comment made by the customer are of interest, of special interest are the negative comments. The negative comments are of special interest because the negative comments are what tells management what is needed to improve the customer experience. This emphasis is true for all companies, even well run companies where there are relatively few negative comments.

Fig 12 Drilling


Once the negative comments are identified and classified, a most interesting exercise is to drill down on the negative comments. One classification to drill down on is product. In order to drill down on product, the analyst selects the product category -

Fig 13 Drilling Down

When the product category is selected, the different components of product appear. It is seen that some of the components of product (which is for a hotel) include –

The hotel room
The hotel itself
The employees of the hotel
The reservation process, and so forth.

Fig 14 Drilling Down Product
After the specifics of the product are identified, the analyst selects hotel room and then further selects the negative comments made about hotel room. In doing so the drill down process is continued.