Guest post by Bill Inmon

Bill Inmon is an American computer scientist, recognized by many as the father of the data warehouse. Inmon wrote the first book, held the first conference, wrote the first column in a magazine, and was the first to offer classes in data warehousing. Source: Wikipedia.

Sentiment analysis has long been recognized as valuable. It's through sentiment analysis that the corporation can start to hear the voice of the customer. And hearing what your customer is saying is probably the most important thing that any business can do.

Stated differently, corporations that do not listen to their customers have a very finite lifespan.

Performing sentiment analysis entails capturing and processing textual information, because, after all, customers "talk" in terms of words and text. The customers of the corporation express their voice through conversations with the corporation in many places, such as:

  • Emails
  • Phone calls to call centers
  • Warranty claims
  • Chat messages
  • Social media posts

These conversations can be captured and analyzed using textual disambiguation, also known as Textual ETL. Textual ETL is a version of Extract, Transfer, and Load that's used to visualize the written and spoken words of customers. This visualization of data brings the likes and dislikes of the customer to life in a way that's easy to understand, allowing businesses to literally "hear" their customers.

An unexpected benefit of Textual ETL is actually a by-product of it. This interesting interwoven by-product is — in its own way — equally (or more!) important than the sentiment analysis itself: Organizations get an eye of sight into what customers are paying most attention to.

Textual Disambiguation Industry Examples

In other words, sentiment analysis tells you what the customer is saying. An analysis of sentiment — the items on the customers' mind — tells you why the customer is saying it, and why the customer is having the feelings they're having. This is known as an analysis of environmental factors.


To better understand environmental factor analysis and its importance, consider an airline environment.

A survey of airline passengers shows that a large majority of passengers have bad feelings about airlines. The question then becomes: why? Air travel is a complex industry with several different aspects of any given trip, such as:

  • What are the airports like? (Easy to find, access, park, etc.?)
  • How easy is it to make a reservation?
  • How much do tickets normally cost?
  • Does the airline offer free carry-on?
  • How much are baggage fees?
  • What are the seating arrangements?
  • Can passengers choose their own seats?
  • Are delays typical?
  • What kind of in-light menu is offered?
  • Does the airline typically have clean restrooms?

These are just some of the questions and concerns a typical airline passenger has. Several others can exist, too.

The fact that the customer is upset with the airline is important for the airline to know. But even more important to the airline is knowing why the passenger is upset. The airline cannot do anything to improve service unless the airline knows specifically why the passenger is upset. So, knowing sentiment is only a partial solution. To be effective, the airline must know what needs to be done in order to address the passenger's needs. And to do this, environmental factor analysis must be done. Sentiment analysis without environmental factor analysis is insufficient.


Consider another environment, such as a restaurant chain. In order to improve the customer experience, the restaurant chain must not only understand sentiment (and it is always important to understand sentiment) but the restaurant chain must also understand the environmental factors that cause customer sentiment to be as it is.

Like the airline, there are many different factors that contribute to the customer experience for a restaurant chain, such as:

  • How good is the food?
  • What are the portion sizes?
  • How fast is food delivered?
  • How much does the food cost?
  • What kind of drinks are available?
  • How clean are the locations?
  • Is there a pleasant view from the restaurant?
  • What is the restaurant's overall ambiance?
  • Are waiters and waitresses normally happy to serve?

It doesn’t do the restaurant chain much good to understand the sentiment of the customer unless the restaurant chain also understands the environmental factors shaping customer sentiment.

Every business has its own complexities, just as airlines and restaurant chains have. Simply understanding sentiment is pointless unless there is an equal component of understanding the environment that shapes those sentiments.

Understanding Environmental Factor Analysis

There are several ways to understand environmental factors. One way is to look at how often a factor occurs. In an airline, when 60% of the complaints are about luggage and luggage handling, the most apparent message is that the airline needs to do something about their baggage handling.

But the frequency of occurrence is only one way to look at environmental factors. The seriousness of the factor is another aspect to consider. Even one instance of salmonella at a restaurant chain is cause for concern.

Another interesting way to look at environmental factors is to look at them completely independent of sentiment. When an analysis is done of nothing but environmental factors a different picture can be painted. Looking at environmental factors in isolation helps answer the question: what is the customer sensitive to? Understanding the factors in the minds of your customer is a useful exercise in itself.

Bill Inmon, the father of the data warehouse, has authored 65 books and was named by Computerworld as one of the ten most influential people in the history of computing. Bill’s company – Forest Rim technology is a Castle Rock, Colorado company. Bill Inmon and Forest Rim Technology provide a service to companies in helping companies hear the voice of their customer. See more at

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