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Feb 1, 2016

Making The Most Of Customer Feedback

Sponsored Content provided by Robert Burrus - Dean , Cameron School of Business - University of North Carolina Wilmington

In today’s customer-centric environment, there is no shortage of outlets for consumers to express their satisfaction with a company, employee, product or service. At some point, I am sure you have gone to an online review site such as Amazon, Rotten Tomatoes, TripAdvisor or Yelp to express your level of satisfaction or dissatisfaction with a specific product, service or organization.
Such feedback is vitally important to business firms, as customer reviews are shown to be more trustworthy than descriptions that come direct from manufacturers. For instance, 73 percent of people trust online reviews and 63 percent of people actively seek out online reviews when making purchase decisions. Moreover, social media sites like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter allow us to share our experiences with a company, brand or product with family and friends. This is shown to exert a great deal of influence on our subsequent purchase decisions. How many times have you have used your social media accounts to get information and recommendations for service providers in the greater Wilmington area?
Yet most customer feedback data is free-form text. This generally implies that the data is non-numeric (qualitative) in nature, which makes it difficult to structure, organize and transform into numeric (quantitative) data. While many online customer feedback sites provide graphic rating scales (stars, tomatoes or smiley faces, for example) to convey an average quantitative rating (such as 3 ½ stars), they only provide a “snapshot” view of the data. In other words, it’s simply an average rating for a product or service at a single point in time.
How much information value does that really provide? If I were visiting the greater Wilmington area, it seems my decision to patronize a restaurant would be more informed if based on how that average rating has changed over the past year. In addition, many restaurants in Wilmington are staffed by UNCW students. However, many of these same students leave Wilmington at the end of the school year, requiring local restaurant owners to hire new staff during the busy summer months. Would this seasonality effect influence the average rating? For instance, might a family on their summer vacation in Wilmington get less-than-average service when the restaurant lacks experienced staff? These are the type of questions consumers should be asking and business owners need to be addressing.
Fortunately, there are many free and commercially available software tools that can be used to quantitatively analyze and interpret customer feedback data. Here are a few:

These tools are especially valuable in their ability to assess data over time and across conditions, providing a more holistic, longitudinal view of the data. One specific type of qualitative analysis is known as sensitivity analysis. Sensitivity analysis allows you to gauge the strength and valence (positive/negative direction) associated with the given feedback. Business owners can take advantage of such tools to track and assess their customer feedback ratings, as well as perform advanced text analytics like theme-based clustering, content categorization, and phrase/word count.
If you would like to learn more about converting qualitative customer feedback data into actionable insights, UNCW’s Swain Center offers a Data Analytics Using Excel class that is scheduled to be taught this Spring. In the workshop, Brian Kinard, Ph.D., ([email protected]) and Curry Guinn, Ph.D., ([email protected]) will teach you how to use a simple and readily available developer tool, Google Web Scraper, to assist in the gathering of customer feedback data. They will then demonstrate how the data can then be imported into standard spreadsheet software (such as Excel) for further sensitivity analysis. For more information, please contact the Swain Center’s Diane Badakhsh at [email protected]
Robert T. Burrus, Jr., Ph.D., is the dean of the Cameron School of Business at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, named in June 2015. Burrus joined the UNCW faculty in 1998. Prior to his current position, Burrus was interim dean, associate dean of undergraduate studies and the chair of the department of economics and finance. Burrus earned a Ph.D. and a master’s degree in economics from the University of Virginia and a bachelor’s degree in mathematical economics from Wake Forest University. The Cameron School of Business has approximately 60 full-time faculty members and 20 administrative and staff members. The AACSB-accredited business school currently enrolls approximately 2,000 undergraduate students in three degree programs and 200 graduate students in four degree programs. The school also houses the prestigious Cameron Executive Network, a group of more than 200 retired and practicing executives that provide one-on-one mentoring for Cameron students. To learn more about the Cameron School of Business, please visit Questions and comments can be sent to [email protected].

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