Social Pulse: An Opportunity to Create Trust with Consumers

By: Nicole Martin, MPH

April 9, 2020

Clarabridge Analytics
Clarabridge Engage
Customer Experience
Digital Customer Service
Social Media
Voice of the Customer

Consumers expect companies to demonstrate listening through their actions, not just their corporate messaging as a result of lingering negative sentiments from the 2008 recession.

Date of Data Pull: 4/9/2020 9:28AM
Source: Twitter, API Connectors
Current Volume: 8,183,380
Date Range: March 12, 2020- April 9, 2020
Tweets Related to COVID-19 & Supplemental Topics Classification Models Used: WHO Framework Model, Emotions Model, & Industry Specific Models

Nearly a decade after the Great Recession, 77% of Americans believed bankers would harm consumers in their own self-interest.[1] Lack of confidence in Wall Street (48% of Americans felt hardly any confidence in regulators or Wall Street) and lack of confidence in big business (only 10% of Americans expressed confidence in big businesses over the past year[1]) has created resentment and polarization that lingers in consumers’ minds as they face the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.[2] Unlike the internal mistakes that led to the Great Recession, corporations and banks now can rewrite the narrative to promote connection between industries and consumers.

The Findings

Corporations have the opportunity to support consumers during a time of fiscal uncertainty as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Below shows the intensity of emotions within conversations about unemployment, housing, and student loans.


Figure 1: Emotional Intensity Within Unemployment, Housing & Student Loan


Figure 1: Student Loans and Housing have higher proportions of emotionally intense conversations compared to conversations related to Unemployment


Highly emotional conversations related to housing and student loans indicate where corporate policies should align to actions and accessibility to services. Consumer confidence dipped as a result of rising unemployment and a forecasted drop in consumer spending this year.[3] This drop in confidence stems from past performance, with the 2008 economic downturn serving as the front-most point of reference for how the market adapts to a crashing economy.[4] Trust originates from interpersonal relationships, specifically collective action towards shared-values. A critical lesson for businesses from the 2008 recession is that simply communicating understanding is not enough; action, accessibility and policies that allow for the consumer to feel like a priority (not a revenue source) are essential for long-term trust. Companies can leverage omni-channel listening with market pulse data gained from social sources to see how their actions align to their corporate messaging. Student loans, mortgages, and labor practices illustrate the relationship between communicated policy and actions taken.


Student Loans

As part of the COVID-19 federal stimulus package student loan interest and payments were suspended through September 30, 2020.[5] However, non-federal loan volume has steadily risen since 2011[6]. Major education lenders say they support their student customers, but in reality borrowers reaching out to receive this support encounter friction in the form of restrictions and complicated “fine print”.



Lending companies creating high-effort customer experiences miss out on an opportunity to build trust by not demonstrating the shared-value of collaboration. Corporate actions for borrowers demonstrated above reflect high effort experiences for lower quality benefit, fueling similar sentiments as those originating from the 2008 recession.



With regard to mortgages, state interventions—specifically California’s partnership with major banks to alleviate mortgage payment relief — set a precedent for the types of actions consumers look for in corporate leadership.[8]

Figure 2: Topics Within Housing Impacts

Figure 2: Conversation topics related to mortgages and rent. Delinquency fears and unemployment dominate highly emotional conversations within housing impact. 4.6


Within highly emotional conversations one universal theme remains: what is the true cost of short term “solutions”? Consumers lack clarity on how the policies, while they sound supportive, impact them in the long term. Inability to access services enhance distrust rather than build trust. By creating helpful customer experiences that demonstrate shared-values, trust strengthens between consumers and lenders, positively impacting sentiments.


Labor Practices

In addition to the sentiments surrounding the ability to pay critical expenses, companies should also look at how they treat their employees to maintain loyalty from consumers. Clarabridge’s “Sentence Type” feature showcases the types of conversations related to workers at highly utilized companies during this time such as Amazon and UPS.

Figure 3:  Sentence Types Within Worker Conversations

Figure Three: With regards to retail worker conversations, high levels of appreciation (thanks) are seen compared to consumer requests and suggestions.


Highly intense appreciation for workers shows the need for companies to provide better benefits as consumers sympathize with workers on the frontlines:



Unlike the impacts of unemployment during the 2008 recession, the external nature of the COVID-19 pandemic flips the market to benefit the employee rather than the employer.[8] Companies that communicate messages of safety and care but fail to reflect that in how they treat their employees demonstrate to consumers they are “all talk.” Action must align to messages to show shared-values and concerns for the communal impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Historical precedent influences the rationale behind consumer reactions measurable today. Individuals feel banks and companies are “once again” more interested in profit than helping the average American. However, compared to the 2008 recession, the COVID-19 pandemic is an external force impacting the economy. Companies have an opportunity to rebuild individual trust and reshape consumer confidence in their organizations. Providing effortless experiences to receive benefits, supporting employee health, and acting in the best interests of American consumer needs can strengthen consumer-company relationships and enhance loyalty.


Looking for a different kind of news show? Check out “Some Good News,” this week featuring endless collective actions to support the United States through the COVID-19 Pandemic:

What’s Next

Our analysis thus far shows that companies are listening to and understanding consumer needs. Next, I will begin to examine companies successfully demonstrating empathy through their policy/programs and identify early indicators of success. Together, we will continue to see the importance of follow-through in communications to build community and how we continue to foster those relationships after the COVID-19 pandemic.


Other Articles in This Series:
Social Pulse: A Craving for Understanding
Published April 2, 2020

Social Pulse: The Way We See COVID-19 Relate to CX & the Globe
Published March 26, 2020

Social Pulse: How is the World Reacting to the COVID-19 Pandemic?
Published March 20, 2020

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Nicole Martin is currently a consultant at Clarabridge. Prior to Clarabridge, Nicole received her Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from The George Washington University. During her time at GW, Nicole wrote her graduate paper on sexuality, sexual behavior, and mental health. In addition, Nicole taught as a Graduate Assistant for the Biostatistics Department at The George Washington University. During her time at Clarabridge, Nicole has worked with healthcare accounts to enrich their analytic capabilities, created customer journey maps for property and casualty insurance companies, and continued to support innovation for clients across various industry verticals.



[1] Ekins, E. (2017, September 19). Wall Street vs. The Regulators: Public Attitudes on Banks, Financial Regulation, Consumer Finance, and the Federal Reserve. Retrieved April 6, 2020, from

[2] MacGuineas, M., Overton, S., & Donvan, J. (2020, April). Small Businesses in the Covid-19 Era. Small Businesses in the COVID-19 Era.

[3] Guida, V. (2020, March 31). Coronavirus hits the economy where it hurts: Consumer confidence. Retrieved April 6, 2020, from

[4] Earle, T. C. (2009). Trust, Confidence, and the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. Risk Analysis, 29(6), 785–792. doi: 10.1111/j.1539-6924.2009.01230.x

[5] Semuels, A. (2020, April 2). The Stimulus Act Shows Us the Risk of Private Student Loans. Retrieved April 6, 2020, from

[6] The Institute of College Access & Support. (2019, April). Private Student Loans Facts and Trends. Retrieved April 6, 2020, from

[7] State of California. (2020, March 25). Governor Gavin Newsom Announces Major Financial Relief Package: 90-Day Mortgage Payment Relief During COVID-19 Crisis. Retrieved April 6, 2020, from

[8] Cheng, M. (2020, April 1). Does being made “essential” finally give gig workers the upper hand? Retrieved April 6, 2020, from

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About The Social Pulse Series

Clarabridge has embarked on an independent research project to actively analyze the “emotional pulse” of social media users worldwide during the COVID-19 pandemic. The effort’s main goal is to assess how people are feeling using Clarabridge’s Natural Language Understanding to glean insights from millions of unstructured data records. We hope to inform the public, provide insights to the scientific community and educate Clarabridge customers. The analyses in this series leverages Twitter data collected beginning March 12th using keywords such as “coronavirus,” “covid19”, and “covid-19” from Twitter. We continue to refine data collection and models as the situation evolves.

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