When a potential customer approaches your company for the first time, they probably already have an opinion about your business. It might come from a friend’s experience, a social media review or an article in a newspaper they often read. How all these sources craft their messages shapes customer perception, which is one of the biggest factors in whether your company will sink or swim in the vast pool of competitors.
So What is Customer Perception?
As a definition, customer perception refers to a set of thoughts and opinions a customer has about your company and its services. Their opinion is what motivates a customer to engage with your business, what makes them come back and purchase more.
How Customer Perceptions Influence Your Business
❗“The customer’s perception is our reality” is a quote by Kate Zabriskie, which is often used when talking about this topic. Why? Simply because it’s true.
In contemporary globalized markets, it is very easy to find an equivalent and switch from one provider to another. For a modern successful business owner, consumers and their opinions of the product are vital — they can define whether a launch of the new product is successful, whether the customer will renew a subscription and so on.
For instance, according to Pew Research consumer survey, 80% of individuals check reviews before shopping to have a better understanding of the products they buy and the companies they buy from. This creates an impression even before the customers actually see the product for the first time in real life.
According to surveys and research, customer perception has an influence on:
- Attracting new customers and retaining the existing ones
By having positive opinions, thoughts and experiences related to your company and brand, a new customer may decide to join and try out your products, while an existing customer is more likely to become a return one.
- Driving up sales
Naturally, the more interested consumers are in what you sell and the more they believe in your message, the more they are willing to cooperate. Much of the research shows that there is a strong relationship between the two.
- Creating loyalty
Having a consistent, positive reputation is a driving force for your customers to become even more involved with your business. Being impressed by the culture and values of your company may inspire them to become ambassadors or even employees!
- Competitive advantage
The ability to better grasp and understand your target audience and tailor a product or services to their needs gives you an upper hand in adjusting to the market changes faster.
Factors Affecting Customer Perception
To be in touch with their target audience, companies dedicate to recyclability, promise extra perks and bonuses or adjust their production to offer budget prices. The set of subjective qualities or values that a customer associates a business with is also sometimes referred to as a brand image. That also is what helps form a certain idea, a perception of your company. Though, as the saying goes, it’s not only what you say but what you do as well. Except from self-established culture, a few other factors play a big role in how a company is regarded.
1. 💼 Marketing
As “Father of Advertising” David Ogilvy said: “Every advertisement should be thought of as a contribution to the complex symbol which is the brand image.” Many extensive articles and research papers have been written about the good, the bad and the ugly of marketing campaigns. They are one of the factors companies are able to control the most and among the tools that work best for communicating directly to the consumer and shape their perception of your products.
2. 📱 Social media
Although social media is usually considered a part of a marketing strategy, we believe it deserves a separate column. The prevalence of social media in our everyday life is a well-known fact nowadays. What was used as a platform for companies to share updates in a conservative and professional manner, now has been going through a fascinating shift. Because contemporary consumers appreciate honesty and boldness from their brands, some have been finding new, creative ways to engage their audience on social media. Jokes, special offers, quizzes, as well as just generally showing interest in what your customer has to say online proves a willingness to go the extra mile in both big and small businesses.
3. 👋 Customer service
Even if people don’t often realize it, customer service plays a pretty important role in the perception journey. For most, dealing with a customer service agent will be the only time they communicate two-way with your company. The ability to show genuine helpfulness will make the customer feel that you have their back.
4. 👎 Reviews and critiques
As mentioned above with a survey example, reviews are quite important for an average consumer in navigating their purchases. What consumers write to their peers after purchasing or using your products will surely alter the ways individuals see your brand as a whole.
5. 📺 Media coverage
Similarly to customer reviews, a media outlet may decide to write about your company, your product or your service. If an outlet has a large or frequent reading, an article can reach a larger number of people than reviews usually would, which also contributes to a public opinion of your business.
How to Measure Perception
Since you know about customer perception and its importance, now you might also want a piece of this cake. To make this productive, we should start from the primary step and examine the ground your business is standing on. The question poses: how do you get to know what the target audience thinks of your brand? The answer to this question requires qualitative and quantitative data. Scared? Don’t be just yet. Here is a little cheat-sheet with the most popular ways to measure customer perception.
- Gather Reviews
Online reviews and social media posts are modern word-of-mouth. By examining them, you can learn about first impressions and common issues your customer may have.
- Conduct Surveys
Distribute well-made surveys to your target audience in order to understand the population better and access their opinions about specific questions that interest your business.
- Get Direct Customer Feedback
Give your customer a way (an email address, chat or phone number) to provide feedback or ask questions if they have any, document the inquiries for further analysis.
- Find out a Net Promoter Score
A common practice of asking your customer “How likely are you to recommend our business/product?” The average of those scores is a Net Promoter Score.
- Know Customer Satisfaction Scores
Simply asking your customer “How satisfied are you with our business/product/support?” gives you an insight into the effectiveness of certain measures, tools, etc
❗Tip: All hail automation! An emerging trend in this area is to use an AI program called web crawler which uses a set of keywords (for instance, your company name) and gathers relevant news articles, blog and social media posts around the web for you to analyze later.
How to change customer perception
So now you have measured the perception customers have of your business. If that was the first time, you might not have much data to compare but you probably are able to draw some general ideas from the information you have. With time, the data will accumulate more and more — be sure to keep track of it. Cross-product, cross-platform or cross-time comparison of consumer perception data could help you see rise, decline or even patterns relating to certain measures. By closely examining those with a team of analysts or even by yourself with respective analytic software, you will be able to figure out which marketing, IT or customer service solutions will be working best specifically for your clients. You will also be able to craft personalized customer profiles and adjust your product to their needs.
🤩 A few ideas of what you can do to tweak customer perception:
- Invest in services
- Prioritize communication with your customer
- Use emotional and personal connection marketing
- Look into customer profiles and personalize offers and content
- Use appropriate language when communicating
- Strive for consistency in your approach
- Don’t forget to collect and answer to feedback
- Don’t be afraid to fail — just know how to respond to it
Improving consumer perception and reputation of your work overtime will turn into you harvesting all the business benefits that come along.