Saygent: It's not what you say, it's how you say it

Upcoming phone survey tool mines responses for tone, not literal content.

Rafe Needleman Former Editor at Large
Rafe Needleman reviews mobile apps and products for fun, and picks startups apart when he gets bored. He has evaluated thousands of new companies, most of which have since gone out of business.
Rafe Needleman
2 min read

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.--It looks like sentiment analysis is becoming an interesting business for start-ups. After talking with Jared Goralnick from AwayFind, at the 500 Startups event, I ran into Guy Hirsch, of Saygent, who's also launching a company to help businesses mine sentiments of their customers or potential customers.

The product will be a partly automated voice survey tool. Clients will create survey questions and come up with a list of desired respondents, and then a machine will poll these people (via phone, unfortunately) and collect their voice responses. It will take the answers it gets and farm them out, via Mechanical Turk, to a panel of humans who will determine the sentiment of the respondents, as well as other factors that can't easily be determined by transcripts of responses.

Saygent founder Guy Hirsch at the 500 Startups event. Rafe Needleman/CNET

Why not just do surveys the old-fashioned way, and ask people what they think? Hirsch says that getting an excitement (or anger, or frustration, etc) level on responses is both more valuable in marketing surveys and less expensive. All the human listeners have to do for Saygent is determine tone, not spend time transcribing.

Saygent correlates sentiments with the demographics it has from its clients' target lists, to determine, for example, if women or men are more interested in particular products or ideas.

Hirsch says his tool will also be usable for recruiting, especially for hiring phone workers. For example, if you want to hire people with friendly voices, or accents that resonate with particular customer demographics, this tool can help you find them.

I can't see Saygent replacing traditional phone surveys, but it does sound like a good way to get additional data points from a survey process.

Other sentiment-based services:
E-mail anger meter gets sensitivity training
When Exaudios is in use, it pays to get angry