Noam Chomsky, a central figure in the study of linguistics from the late 1950’s, said that language “is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed, but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied. Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation.”
Clearly then, language is complex. By Chomsky’s logic, conjuring and deciphering language is seemingly infinite. In linguistics, semantic analysis is the study of the structure and meaning of speech. It’s the job of semantic analysis to understand language from the point of view of the encoder. This eliminates the process of ‘free creation’ that comes from interpretation. It does this by relating syntactic structures from the level of phrases, clauses, sentences, and paragraphs to the level of the writing as a whole. This involves removing features specific to cultural contexts and deciphering key elements from idioms, and figurative speech.
For many brands nowadays, the complexity of language is proving to be an obstacle. The fact that there are so many ways to encode and decode messages makes understanding the customer difficult. Online content is rife with spelling mistakes, acronyms, initialisms, and emoticons. In addition, the mechanics of tracking exactly when and how people are interacting with one another is non-trivial (for example, are they in a series of threads in a forum, are they retweeting or replying to one another on Twitter?). Also, once the boundaries of people’s conversations are well understood, the correct interpretation of the meaning behind words is handled very poorly. Most analytics companies’ attempts to interpret conversations are based largely on frequency driven metrics. As a result, we often see that interpreting meaning is based on the number of times any given word is mentioned in online posts being analyzed. This misinterpretation can lead to a misunderstanding of customer sentiment and cause a multitude of problems. A study from IBM and eConsultancy found that 81 percent of companies say they have a holistic view of their customers. And yet, only 37 percent of customers agree that their favorite retailer understands them. This is a huge discrepancy and highlights the challenges associated with language.
But despite the complexities, it is not impossible to understand your customers. Like Chomsky said, there are basic laws and principles that need to be followed. These rules make it possible. Over at Semeon, we have made it our mission to understand the meaning underlying what the customer is saying. It started with the realization that customer and brand alignment is essential to maximizing ROI. So, using artificial intelligence, we have created a software that figures out the context behind the consumer’s speech instead of identifying keywords. This allows us to provide proper analysis and gives brands the capabilities to be in the 37 percent companies that truly know their customers.
I hope this article provided some insight into the complexities of language and the problem is poses for brands. Furthermore, I hope that if you represent a brand that it makes you stop and think about how you are evaluating what your customers are saying.
At the least, stop with the glorified post counters. We need to start focusing on the metrics that really matter: the customer sentiment. What are your customers actually saying about your brand? Are they content? Do multiple customers have the same problem?
At the most, check out what we have to offer over at Semeon! We are here to help you and make your lives easier. Our software can help take your brand to the next level.