Due to the complicated nature of marketing and the sophisticated ways of the human brain perception, customers always display a certain range of emotions and behaviours when dealing with a brand.
What’s customer perception?
Customer perception is a marketing concept that refers to the customers’ thoughts about a brand or a company’s services. Encompassing positive or negative feelings, perceptions, expectations or experiences, it informs about a customer’s attitude towards a product. Its importance for the company’s brand and product is beyond any doubt, for it’s one of the most important factors that defines the overall success of a brand, product or a company in general. Customer perception defines how much a product sells and how a company is perceived on the micro-and macro-level.
Factors defining customer perception
Consistency of performance: brand performance in the past and in the present;
Emotional connection: establishment of emotional connection with the customer for the brand development;
Marketing communications: brand communications with the customers via media. A brand has to be consistent, able to efficiently communicate and connect with the customers.
Real life examples of customer perception
Apple, as a company, is generally very positively perceived by its customers. The reason for its breathtaking success is a combination of nicely performing products and marketing that harmoniously connect with their customers. As a result, Apple is one of the consistently top performing brands across the world. The things are not so radiant all the time: the perception of a product might be negative as well. If you consider buying a phone (Samsung), but suddenly you find out that Samsung recalls all the devices of the selected mode, you might be rather hesitant when it comes to the purchase. The chances are high that it will prevent a customer from making the purchase and will lead him/her to another model, or possibly even another brand altogether.
Why customer perception matters?
In today’s digital age, virtually all goods and services are click away and can be found online. It’s an obvious fact that consumers want good quality, but they also want to know they are getting good value. That value isn’t just judged by the product or service they are purchasing, but by the availability and usability of the customer service that supports it. It’s not enough anymore to have brand recognition, consumers want to feel good about a brand and a company. They want to do business with consumer-oriented corporations featuring positive world views.
Factors that influence individual’s perceptions
1 - Advertising: The campaigns your company runs offer implied perceptions about your products. What you say about your brand/company and the messages you deliver help others form opinions.
2 - Influencers: The people that surround an individual have a massive impact on their decisions. Whether these contacts take place in person or via social media, it’s natural that a person listens to and evaluates the feedback he/she receives.
3 - Personal experience: This factor is one of the crucial determinators. If one experiences firsthand the quality of a product/service, it will positively or negatively impact their perception.
What should you do to maintain a positive customer perception?
Companies have the tools to create a positive experience for their customers and even when unforeseen events create negative impressions, the best organizations rise to the challenge and can often win back an unhappy customer. So, what exactly should one keep in mind when trying to create and maintain positive customer perception?
Don’t make false promises: Companies should strive for truth in advertising and truth in general communication. If you say a product does something, make sure it REALLY does it and when someone calls your customer service department and you tell them you can help, make sure they do just that.
Listen: Sounds easy enough but this can be a challenge for some organizations. When customers talk, listen. It’s essential to listen to what customer’s expressed need and then to try to find a solution that fits his/her unique needs.
Communicate: Quickly, clearly and often. Train your agents and representatives to be knowledgeable, compassionate and responsive when communicating with your customers. Ensure they are providing facts not excuses.
Use your social channels effectively: social media presents unique opportunities and challenges for communication. Many social channels actually track a company’s responsiveness to customers and rate them. In addition social media creates an open forum for customer complain. The vocal minority can seemingly hijack your good name, but it is possible to take negative comments and demonstrate positive outcomes.
Responding quickly and with knowledge and compassion can not only result in a favorable outcome with the situation at hand but increase positive feelings about your company with the casual observers on the channel. Be proactive when a negative review posts and work to rectify the issue openly when possible.
Streamline: Wherever possible, make the decision making process easier. Are your product/service benefit statements clear? Can existing and potential customers easily see how you stack up against the competition? Make purchasing and customer service easy and don’t make customers jump through hoops to get resolution. This just exacerbates the problem. If you can offer solutions that demonstrate you know your customer’s time is valuable you make it easy to keep doing business with your company. Offering quick response, centralizing information to prevent the need for re-explaining issues and utilizing call back software are just some of the ways you can improve the perception of your company.
Never get complacent: It’s easy to get comfortable when everything appears to be going well, but push your company to keep measuring your customer’s satisfaction and keep training your teams. Both internally and externally, ask questions and learn from situations that have occurred.
One of the smartest ways to cultivate a positive customer perception is to accentuate and promote what makes your business different from the competition.
Your audience is constantly inundated with advertising, making it hard to break through the wall of sensory overload surrounding them daily. But it doesn’t always take a larger budget or viral marketing campaigns to reach your ideal customer.
Sometimes all you need is to know what you can offer that your potential customer wants, but your competitor does not, i.e., your unique selling proposition.
Customer perception is about feeling and fact. From the first touchpoint to last, the entire company is involved in this perception and can contribute to it in a positive way. Customers not only need to feel good about your brand/company and its service, they need to be treated well and the products and services need to perform as advertised.
When problems occur, manage expectations, communicate effectively and work to resolve the issue while ensuring you make the customer feel valued and respected. It will always be easier and more cost effective to create an environment for positive customer perception from the beginning of the customer journey than it is to fix a negative perception.
Although seemingly obvious to many entrepreneurs starting a new business, customer perception can be a difficult field to navigate. Logic tells us that a great idea coupled with a strong business plan, expert functionality, and efficient customer service should be enough to lead us on the path of entrepreneurial success. Yet reality teaches us that there’s a reason why 50 percent of businesses fail in the first 5 years, and customer perception often plays in a role in that unfortunate outcome.
But with careful examination of your audience’s response to your business’s marketing and customer engagement, you may be savvy enough to see your company succeed where others fail.