Text Analysis and NLP: Love at first sight

Posted by Arghya Bhattacharya on Mar 30, 2020 10:00:00 AM

text analysis NLP love


Text Analysis (a.k.a Text Mining) is the process of understanding and sorting text, making it easier to manage. In our previous blog, we gave you an idea of why text analysis could possibly be the last piece of the puzzle of growth every business is trying to solve. After all, in the information-saturated era we live in, what can be of more value than the power to organise this information in a structured and meaningful way that we humans can understand and derive value from.

In this blog, we try to explain why Natural Language Processing (NLP) has become so popular in the context of Text Mining and what your business might be missing out if you aren’t employing this technology.

Let’s start with the story of Tom.

Tom is the Head of Customer Experience at a successful product-based mid-sized company. Tom works really hard to meet customer expectation and has successfully managed to increase the NPS scores in the last quarter. His product has a high rate of customer loyalty in a market filled with competent competitors. Things are going well in Tom’s perspective but suddenly he starts to notice a higher volume of support tickets coming in. Tom is really worried and doesn’t know what to do about it. 

Tom realizes that to be able to address this issue, he needs to understand the voice of his customers.

He decides to hire a team of marketing analysts. The team collects around 50,000 comments from various sources on the internet that mention Tom’s company. After about a month of thorough data research, the team comes up with a final report bringing out several aspects of grievances the customers had about the product. Relying on this report Tom makes changes to his product.

Afterwards, Tom sees an immediate decrease in the number of customer tickets. But those numbers are still below the level of expectation Tom had from the team and the amount of money he’d invested in them. 

After taking advice from his financial team, Tom comes to the conclusion that it would be impossible for him to sustain continued payment to this service and be profitable at the same time. Moreover, he also has the following concerns:

  • The process was slow. The data on the internet was ever-expanding and every batch of 50,000 reviews took a month to gain insights from.

  • The hired team wasn't capable of answering Tom’s dynamic queries about the data.  They could only present the insight they came up with, any of Tom’s further queries could only be taken into account when processing the next batch of data.
    E.g. How many people do not like a particular new aspect of the product.

In a quest for alternate solutions, Tom begins looking for systems that were capable of delivering quicker and could also cater to his changing needs/queries. It didn’t take long before Tom realized that the solution he was looking for had to be technical. Only leveraging computational power could help process hundreds of thousands of data units periodically and generate insights that he’s looking for in a short span of time. 

Having realised that, Tom hires a software consultancy company, who are able to deliver a quick solution in half the time compared to the marketing agency.

Their solution could:

  • Statistically count the number of times specific aspects (given to them by Tom) were being mentioned

  • Provide a dashboard with illustrations of these numbers over time

Behind the scenes, here's how that works:

1) Identification of Words

Tom’s manual queries are treated as a problem of identifying a keyword from the text. So for example if Tom wants to find out the number of times someone talks about the price of the product,  the software firm writes a program to search each review/text sequence for the term “price”. 

The main principle being that if a word appears in text it can be assumed that this piece of text is “about” that particular word. 

E.g. "I like the product but it comes at a high price."

2) Creation of Rules

This approach is closely linked to the former one. Both operate on the principle of pattern identification, but only predefined ones. 

More often than not a text is not about just any particular word. For instance, in the example above ("I like the product but it comes at a high price"), the customer talks about their grievance of the high price they’re having to pay. 

So there is an inherent need to identify phrases in the text as they seem to be more representative of the central complaint. These phrases are what is referred to as rules.

Any system that uses these pattern rules to mine aspects from the text are called rule-based systems and they have the following benefits:

  • Can be easily understood by humans - marketing teams can come up with rules and pass them on to the software team to implement them.
    E.g. Tom's marketing head wanted to understand any grievances surrounding the size of product and so “product size” was used as a key phrase that was being monitored in the incoming data.
  • Tweaking rules is fairly simple so the time is reduced.  

 

The following 2 principles have been the go-to text analytics methods for a long time. Most services in this domain are based majorly on creation of rules.

 

Tom seems happy. He has gained through this new approach in the following ways:

  • He gets insights from the massive abundance of data from social media in a streamed manner.

  • He is able to monitor custom aspects that he believes to be affecting the product.

 

But, like with any good story, there's a catch. A few months down the line, Tom sees similar trends in increasing tickets. He doesn’t understand, he’s already made iterations to the product based on his monitoring of customer feedback of prices, product quality and all aspects his team deemed to be important.

Worried about the growth of his company, Tom seeks advice from an NLP scientist - Mr. SS. After a brief conversation with SS, Tom realizes he’s been getting it all wrong... 

What was he getting wrong, you ask? 

Well, in the context of Tom’s company the incoming flow of data was high in volumes, and the nature of this data was changing rapidly. Rule-based methods lacked the robustness and flexibility to cater to the changing nature of this data. Mr. SS further explains that although Tom was monitoring the data with respect to aspects he considered to be red flags (like pricing, size etc.), the red flags in the data were constantly changing and it’s almost impossible to move at the pace of the changing data using handcrafted rules

Technically, these were the problems:

  • The mention of words didn’t really indicate the core topic of concern at times.
    Presence of high price doesn’t necessarily mean that the customer is complaining about it all the time.
    E.g. “Really love the product since it’s so cheap compared to the alternate options that come at such a high price”.  

  • Multiple meaning of words were making it hard to create rules.
    People often express the same sentiment in multiple ways.
    E.g.  Good priceAwesome discountValue for Money
    These utterances point towards the same sentiment but are merely different ways of expression. Taking all such occurrences into account becomes a tedious task and the inability to do so compromises the accuracy of the system

  • Maintenance of rule set was becoming harder.
    There are only so many aspects we can think of, but these aspects might only be covering 15-20% of all the customer grievances.
    And the problem of multiple meanings indicated the need for a comprehensive list of sub-rules for each aspect.

  • Computational time taken to process each review was increasing as the rules kept increasing.
    If we have 20 rules, that would mean each new review needs to be searched for those 20 rules. As the rule set increases in size the system starts to become computationally more complex and hence taking more time to generate insights.

Tom realises he was only seeing what he wanted in the data. He wasn’t really seeing what the data had to show.

Mr. SS advises that Tom visits a deep-tech NLP solutions company and explain his problems to them. And Tom does so. 

A deep-tech AI company uses the power of Machine Learning & Statistics through NLP. The central idea revolves around:

  • A machine learning algorithm seeing previously manually categorised examples (training data) figures out rules of its own (extracted feature models) for categorising new examples. Also known as Supervised Machine Learning. Its beauty lies in the fact that we just feed it categorized examples and it learns to do everything on its own. Just like a human would after the job is explained to them. 

  • Highly efficient ways of representing words, where-in words aren’t treated as separate entities but as clouds of senses and hence solving the problem of multiple meanings of words. Academic research shows that text categorization can achieve near-perfect accuracy using NLP. Deep Learning algorithms can be thought of as the next generation of machine learning algorithms that learn to do things even more smartly and can handle tasks much better than their ancestral machine learning algorithms. 

 

In summary, now NLP approaches provide Tom with the following benefits:

  • Higher accuracy on all tasks performed, making it a reliable and hence actionable source. 
  • No handcrafted rules, hence breaking Tom free of the manual effort and required brainstorming.
  • Computational freedom, once trained, the models are lightweight and hence reduce the production load as compared to rule-based approaches.
  • Time, Tom can now finally focus on things that matter, as he knows that the voice of his customers reach him transparently and not through his own coloured looking glass.

Text analysis approaches

 

If there is anything you can take away from Tom's story, it is that you should never compromise on short term, traditional solutions, just because they seem like the safe approach. Being bold and trusting technology will definitely pay off both short and long time.  

As most scientists would agree the dataset is often more important than the algorithm itself. We, at Sentisum, have mastered the use of deep learning models and curating your data to gain insights for our customers and we do the same for not one but multiple tasks like Sentiment Analysis, Keyword Extraction, and many others.

 

Topics: nlp, technology, text analysis

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