Tips and Tricks for Coding Qualitative Customer Data

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Written By Heidi Thiel

No matter who your customers are or what product or service you are selling, building relationships and trust is the key to your success.

One of the top marketing techniques that you can’t ignore is gathering comments and feedback from your customers. But what do you do with all that feedback? 

The information that you collect can be coded and turned into tags as data that can be analyzed in Excel, Google Sheets, and other programs.

You’ll be able to find common themes and gain valuable insights into what customers are thinking and how they’re responding to your business.

Here is what you need to know about coding qualitative data:

What is qualitative data?

Qualitative data helps you answer questions about your customers such as who your target customers are, how they feel about your product or service, and where they think you can make improvements. 

Coding this qualitative information will make it much easier for you to understand what your customers are telling you.

Taking each customer’s response and assigning it with a code lets you analyze all the data you’ve gathered so you can summarize and review the results.

With this information, you’ll be able to up your marketing game.

Why customer data is crucial to marketing your business 

Tips and Tricks for Coding Qualitative Customer DataCustomer feedback is what you use to grow your business.

To make positive changes you need to know what your customers think you are doing right and what you are doing wrong.

When you know what the problems are you can focus your efforts on making improvements and coming up with solutions that fit into your business plan. 

What is customer feedback?

Before collecting customer information, it helps to know what “feedback” means.

Feedback includes the comments, reviews, and insights that your customers share with you about any aspect of their experience with your business.

All the feedback you gather can help you identify trends, product and service issues, and customer expectations. 

How to gather customer comments and feedback

Part of every business plan is new and innovative strategies that build your brand and business so you can get an edge on your competition.

Think of your marketing plan as a way to define your objectives and achieve your goals.

With online shopping at an all-time high in 2020, customer feedback is more important than ever to your business growth.

Here are some of the best ways to collect quality customer comments and qualitative feedback:

1. Customer surveys

Design a survey that focuses on the targeted information you want to collect from your customers.

Ask specific questions that will give you insights into what buyers think about your product or services. Focus on developing open-ended questions that allow for qualitative answers. 

You have a couple of options when developing surveys, such as long-form or short slide surveys that pop up on your website.

Keep in mind that the shorter a survey takes to complete the more likely people are to see it through to the end.

2. Online reviews

Reviews are a big deal for online shoppers and the majority of consumers will rely on this form of feedback when making the decision whether or not to do business with you.

When used as data for qualitative coding, the information from online reviews can be analyzed to let you know exactly what customers are thinking.

You should be reading each and every review and sorting this information so it’s available for coding.

3. Social media

Social media is a marketing trend that no business can do without.

Making sure that you have a solid social media presence on multiple platforms is an excellent way to get customer feedback.

Social media helps to increase engagement with your customers, giving them an easy and quick method of leaving you feedback and reviews.

Use this data in your qualitative coding strategy to improve customer satisfaction and increase your retention rate.

4. Quick polls

Different from surveys, polls are user-friendly and simple for consumers to use.

Developing a one or two question poll that you can place on your social media page is a convenient and subtle way to connect with your customers.

Use one of the many available online tools to design a customized poll that’s specific to your business, asking short questions that give you streamlined information about customer satisfaction and product feedback. 

How to code qualitative data

Data coding is all about assigning numerical tags to qualitative customer feedback so that it is easier for you to understand and analyze.

Once you’ve collected customer response, you are ready to organize this data into specific categories that make sense of the information so you can code with it.

For example, positive feedback from a customer about your new product launch can be given a qualitative tag of 4 on a scale of 5 (4/5).

Start by reviewing and understanding customer data and picking out common concepts and themes so they fit into categories, such as product, price, and customer service reviews. 

Your goal here is to assign labels to common phrases and words that customers use when responding to your requests for information.

Be prepared to learn new things about your customers that you didn’t expect, adding new categories and labels when needed.

Decide on either a deductive or inductive approach to coding:

1. Deductive coding

For deductive coding, you’ll use a set of predetermined tags before you start reviewing and sorting your data.

For instance, if one of the categories you’re analyzing is how customers feel about your recent price increase, one of your category tags may be “price.”

Other categories can include “customer service” and “shipping times.”

Using a deductive method of coding lets you determine ahead of time what areas of customer experience you want to focus on.

The drawback is that there may be important points that you miss if they’re not already defined.

2. Inductive coding

A longer process than the deductive method, with inductive coding you’ll come up with tags as you look through your customer data.

Sort your data into smaller subsets that make sense and come up with coding for these samples.

Read through customer responses and reviews again and make modifications, adding new codes if needed until all data has been coded.

Using the inductive approach to coding qualitative data may take longer but there’s less chance that you’ll overlook a category that you should be analyzed to improve the customer experience.

Aim for accuracy

As you code qualitative customer data you want to be as accurate as possible so you can rely on the analysis results. Use these 4 tips to aim for accuracy:

  • If you have a lot of data, start coding a small portion first. This way you can decide if your tags are on point with the customer data you are trying to analyze.
  • For in-depth analysis of the data, use a scale that allows for more than just positive (5/5) and negative (1/5). 
  • Be flexible with customer responses. Not all data falls into one category of customer sentiment – positive, neutral, or negative. 
  • Don’t go overboard with your tags. Too many tags can be confusing and overwhelming, resulting in inaccurate coding. 

Final words on qualitative customer data

After coding your qualitative customer data and analyzing the results you’ll be ready to take your business to the next level.

When you start tagging and coding, customer data will become more useful as you discover patterns and themes.

By summarizing the main points you’ll be able to come up with key areas that need your attention so you can improve the customer experience and stand out in your product or service industry.

Sometimes visual examples can be helpful in order to better understand complex topics.

Take a look at the infographic from Chattermill below to learn more about how to code qualitative customer feedback:

Tips and Tricks for Coding Qualitative Customer Data



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