What do customers really think of your company’s brand and products? The answer to this question might seem like a mystery but it’s all related to your customer’s perception.
Whether intentionally or not, everything your company does influences customer perception. From tiny details like the colors used on a product advertisement, to the experience the customer has using the product, all of these things go some way to forming the opinion the customer has on you.
With that in mind, it’s important to remember that you do have some measure of control when it comes to influencing customer perception. You need to be thoughtful and intentional about how you present your brand, and also that sometimes it’s the little details that count.
What is customer perception?
Customer perception is the beliefs, opinions and feelings that customers have towards your brand. It is highly subjective and based on a customer’s internal impressions of everything your brand says and does.
Customer perception can be positive or negative. Once a negative opinion has set in, it can be hard to change it. Your company should always be striving to create a positive customer perception in a customer’s mind.
What factors influence customer perception?
Customer perception is influenced by everything your company does and sometimes these factors are outside of your control. For example, when someone leaves a negative review about your business online this can negatively impact customer perception, but you have no power to make the customer take down the review. All you can do is respond empathetically and apologize to the customer for their bad experience.
How your customer service staff treat your customers has a big impact on customer perception. Your service reps must be courteous, helpful and efficient at all times in order for customers to form a positive impression of your brand. It’s especially important when customers are experiencing a problem with your product or service to take the opportunity to salvage your brand’s reputation in your customer’s eyes.
Customers bring all sorts of assumptions and biases to the table before they even have a single interaction with your brand. For example, maybe your company is a hotel and the customers has had a few previous bad experiences with hotels. They are on the lookout for any flaws in the service you deliver and are predisposed to view you in a negative light. It’s up to your company to create a positive experience and help the customer to change their view of hotels.
Price is a big deciding factor when it comes to customers choosing which product they want to buy. It’s not all about low prices either. Price is a big indication of quality and customers may be likely to go for the middle range rather than one that is too high or too low. Research other products in your market and gauge how to set your prices, and ensure your business is earning enough revenue from your products. Customers may not be happy if you raise your prices, but if you keep delivering value this will contribute to a positive brand perception.
Quality control is an important part of running a successful business. Your products and services should actually work and do what you say they are going to in order for customers to have a positive perception of your brand. If customers feel like they received value for their money, this increases the likelihood that they will do business with you again and hopefully recommend you to family and friends.
Your reputation as a business is somewhat under your control, and is influenced by factors such as coverage in the media and customer reviews. If your company appears in the media for an embarrassing reason such as a truly awful customer service blunder, this will negatively impact the perception customers have of you. In contrast, if you appear in a story where you have made a big donation to charity, this may make customers view you in a more positive light.
Marketing is the conscious shaping of your brand in the minds of customers. It’s the way your company hopes to strategically position itself for customers and communicate the company’s mission and values. Marketing campaigns have a big impact on customer perception, as successful campaigns will win you new customers and reinforce your brand in the minds of existing customers.
Why is customer perception important?
You may be wondering, what is the point of all this? Who really cares what customers think, anyway?
Well, any business worth its salt is heavily invested in finding out about customer perceptions. It can tell whether what you as a company is doing is working or not, and give you an idea of whether your customers are likely to return in the future.
If a customer has a positive impression of your brand, they are more likely to make further purchases and remain loyal to your brand. Positive perception provides customers with a certain immunity to your competitors who might try to entice them away.
Don’t try to fix what isn’t broken would be the mantra of customer perception. A positive perception means customers are satisfied with your service and they will stay with your company in the long-term.
Positive customer perception means that your customer is likely to recommend your business to others. Happy customers are vocal and they want to share their good experience, and they also want to pay your business back for the value they believe they have received.
How do you measure customer perception?
Understanding how customers perceive you involves gathering qualitative feedback via various channels.
Collect customer feedback
The easiest way to find out about consumer perception is just to ask them. You can send out a customer survey just after customers have had an interaction with your support team, a few days after they receive their product, or just send out an annual survey. There are many different types of surveys you can use including NPS, CSAT, and CES.
Keep an eye on customer reviews
Whether you like it or not, customers are engaged in reviewing your business online and these thoughts and opinions can be valuable to businesses who want to learn about customer perception. For better or worse, customers have taken the time to craft a thoughtful review and they usually contain valuable data about how you could improve as a company. This can impact potential customers’ perception of your brand.
Monitor social media conversations
Customers are talking about you on social media and discussing your products and services. Whether customers have had a negative or positive experience with your brand, they want to express how they feel and share it with others. When you monitor social media conversations, you have some measure of control over how your brand is represented online. You can thank customers for their kind words, and publicly apologize to customers if their experience did not meet their expectations.
How to improve customer perception
1. Gather customer feedback
Similarly to measuring customer perception, gathering customer feedback is the fastest way to improve. Your goal is to find out what customers really think about your business and then use it as guidance for the necessary changes. 52% of people globally think companies need to take action on the feedback provided by their customers.
One way to really improve the customer’s perception of your brand is to follow up with customers after you have acted on their feedback, which shows that your business truly cares. Customers will be impressed and feel like they have more of a stake in your company.
2. Offer noteworthy customer service
96% of customers say that customer service is an important factor in their choice of loyalty to a brand. Customer service is your big opportunity to make a powerful impact on customers, and turn what could be a negative experience into a positive one. Customer service is a key way that businesses maintain their reputation, and fulfill their promise to look after customers even following on from the sale.
It’s memorable instances of customer service that have customers flocking to social media or review sites to sing your praises. When your business has really gone above and beyond to help a customer solve their problem, this has a big influence on customer perception.
3. Communicate customer success stories
72% of customers say that positive testimonials and reviews increase their trust in a business. Customers benefit from examples of others who have been successful with your products or services. Customer success stories bring your products to life and encourage customers to have a more positive perception of your brand. It’s like customers reading reviews except your story is particularly targeted to show your product in its most productive light.
Showcasing customer success stories helps customers realize more value from your products and therefore makes them more satisfied with your brand. Make it a habit to proactively reach out to customers for testimonials that you can then share with other customers, reminding them why they bought your product in the first place.
4. Enhance the customer experience
Small changes in the customer experience can have a big effect on customer perception. For example, when you make improvements to your billing page so it is easier for customers to enter their card details, you make it more enjoyable for customers to purchase from you and therefore more likely that they will come back.
Go through all the steps that a customer would normally take when interacting with your business and find the points of friction. It should be so simple to buy from you that there is no question in a customer’s mind once they are on your website.
46% of businesses said their top priority over the next five years was customer experience, beating out price and product. It’s more important than ever to invest in the customer experience and influence how the customer feels about you.
5. Acknowledge and repay customer-focused behavior
In order to positively influence customer perception, the customer has to be at the heart of everything you do as a business. Customer service notices there’s a small flaw on the billing page, and this should be passed on to your user experience team for them to fix immediately. When everyone is focused on the customer, they are acting with more coordination and cooperation, and customers benefit directly as a result.
Make sure you put systems in place to reward any instances of customer-focused behavior. You’ll embed the customer in every part of your culture which will have a direct result in improving customer perception.
Gaining insight into customer perception doesn’t have to be difficult. You just have to know where to look. Customers are more willing than you might think to share their views and let your company know how they feel about your brand. Sometimes even the act of asking customers for their feedback has a positive impact on perception as it indicates that your company cares about their opinion.
There are some aspects of customer perception that your business can’t control, like past experiences or customers coming across negative reviews of your company online. Make up for it by redoubling your efforts over those factors that your business does have influence over and your company will flourish.