In the age of social media backlash and call-out culture, customer perception has become more critical for a brand's success.
Even though it's true that it's impossible to completely control all the factors influencing the perception of customers, improving customer opinions of your brand is entirely in your control.
Successful businesses like Starbucks comprehend the importance of customer perception. The coffee giant is committed to giving back to people and places that help in its success.
It even showcases this on its website to install trust in its customers' minds.
Starbucks takes a customer focus approach to get a positive perception by virtuously sourcing its coffee, funding college programs, and hiring refugees across 75 countries.
This global approach is possible for a company of such a big caliber. Remember, an elite and prominent business like Starbucks is more likely to stick in a customer's mind and help build a good reputation.
In the forthcoming sections of this write-up, I will provide you with the prominent ways to develop a positive customer perception. However, let's take it one step at a time and, first of all, understand the meaning of the term "consumer perception" in our first section.
If you already know about customer perception and would like to go through the five prominent ways to develop a positive customer perception, click here.
In simple words, consumer perception is the way customers feel about your product and brand. It's a brand perception that they form after every interaction they've had with your company, both direct and indirect.
However, if you think that consumer perception is all about whether customers 'like' you, you are wrong. It includes the feelings your business inspires in them, along with any descriptive words they utilize while talking about your business.
Comprehending how your customers perceive your company aids you in enhancing your marketing, spotting opportunities to improve your service delivery, and growing your business.
The perception process starts when a consumer sees or gets information about a particular product. This process continues till the consumer starts to build an opinion about the product.
When a customer sees advertisements, customer reviews, promotions, social media feedback, etc., about a product, they develop an impression about the product.
Now, everything that a company does affects the customer perception process.
The way the products are positioned in a retail store, the colors and shapes of your logo, the advertisements you create, the discounts you offer, everything has an impact on the customer perception.
A prime example of that is Avon. Avon employs a pink color with white and black accents.
The color that you see in the above image predominantly attracts women while men feel disconnected with pink color. Hence, the customer perception is built based on the colors employed in the logo.
However, if a product tries to attract both men and women, I suggest you use a color other than pink. As far as pink color is concerned, males still have a very long way to go for it to feel a connection with it.
Now that you have learned the definition of consumer perception, the next question is, what are the different factors that affect customer perception? Let's find the answer to that question in our next section.
In general, customer perception can be influenced by a lot of factors. Some of the major ones being:
1. Personal experience
Personal experience is, perhaps, one of the most essential influencers that can easily have a direct impact on customer perception. Here an individual’s personal experiences with a particular brand can play a crucial role in influencing customer perception. At the end of the day, this customer perception can leave a good or bad impression that can remain in their minds for eternity.
Remember, when a customer experiences a good service or purchases a great product, the quality of the goods and services matter the most. Hence, it becomes imperative to have set a good personal experience when you transact with the customer.
It's not a big surprise that the way you depict your brand through marketing significantly impacts the way customers perceive your brand. Hence, marketing is one of the critical factors influencing the perception of customers.
Your website, social media posts, and advertisements can all play a crucial role in developing your public image. This very reason makes it imperative for your company to be consistent across all company-owned media.
First of all, understand what you want your customer perception to be, and then come up with marketing strategies around it. This is the key to delivering customer-centricity.
The people that surround an individual have a crucial impact on the ultimate purchasing decisions. Irrespective of whether these contacts take place in person or via social media, it's natural for a person to listen and evaluate the feedback he/she receives.
You must pay attention to these influencers and try to create a positive customer perception amongst your target audience as you never know who the purchasers might contact to get the feedback before making the final decision of purchasing the product.
This makes the influencers are one of the most significant factors influencing the perception of customers.
4. Customer reviews
There are a lot of customers who look into customer reviews before purchasing a product. This goes to show that customer reviews can become a crucial factor in defining customer perception. If the customers find out that a particular product has a lower number of stars, the product does not have good customer reviews. The impression that it creates on the minds of the customers is negative.
These are some of the factors that can affect customer perception. Now the next question is, what's the best way to build customer perception? I will answer this question in our next section.
Customer perception helps you determine how much value your customers associate with your product.
Let's now look at the steps to build customer perception.
1. Survey the customers
Until you know your customers' current perceptions, you cannot possibly understand what you need to change. This is a highly critical step to build customer perception. Surveying your customers about your products can tell you precisely the areas in which your marketing needs to make an effort to educate customers to change negative perceptions and transform them into positive ones.
2. Touchpoint analysis
List all your touchpoints and the different ways in which every segment of your target market interacts with them. This analysis provides a snapshot of relationships with your customers. You can then employ it to ascertain gaps – areas in which you're not fully leveraging the opportunities to communicate value.
3. Develop a strategy
Draft a mission statement that defines the perception you wish your customers to have. Utilize the surveys and analysis information to develop a strategy for taking specific steps needed to create that perception.
A company that creates opportunities for engagement with consumers also makes positive perceptions among them. Perhaps it is due to the level of transparency it suggests and its dedication to building relationships with its customers.
Now that you know how to build customer perception, the next question is, what is the best way to measure customer perceptions? I will answer that question in the next section.
There are two different ways to access the data required to gauge how customers perceive your brand and themselves.
1. Ask your customers what they think
You can employ CSAT and Net Promoter Scores which every brand uses. In case you do not have these tools, you can utilize a post-sale customer satisfaction survey.
Psychographic surveys, also known as "attitudinal data," refers to data about people's desires, objectives, interests, values, and lifestyles. It provides a more comprehensive understanding of your audience.
Brand perception surveys typically integrate psychographic questions focused on determining specific relationships and associations customers may have about a brand.
Focus groups can come in handy when it comes to accumulating perception data, particularly while exploring the viability of a new product.
2. Listen to what customers say
Go online and listen to what your customers are saying about your brand. I'm not advocating you spy on your customers – instead, I suggest you pay attention to what they're saying publicly.
People typically post comments about brands on social media. Responding to their messages is a great way to improve the customer perceptions of your brand. To measure what people say about your brand, you need to track mentions of your brand across all social platforms. You can utilize tools like Mediatoolkit to monitor online mentions of your brand in real-time.
People even talk about your brand in online publications such as personal or business blogs and news articles. The best way to find out what they say is by signing up for Google Alerts. This is one of the best ways to find your biggest fans.
These are some of the ways to measure customer perception. The final question is, what are the different ways to develop a positive customer perception? Let me provide an answer to this question in the next section.
1. Work on customer feedback
I have already talked about the importance of collecting customer feedback and the different ways to collect it in the earlier sections. However, the truth of the matter is, if you do not work on the customer feedback, you receive the ultimate purpose of the exercise for which it was being collected gets wasted. This is one of the significant steps in decoding the perception process.
So, the very first thing that you need to do is to accumulate customer feedback in an unbiased manner. There will always be a temptation in your mind to overlook the negative feedback that the customers provide. But never do that. Often the negative feedback that you receive from the customers can prove to be a blessing in disguise.
Once the customers learn that you observe their feedback very closely and are eager to change your brand perception, it will go a long way in taking care of your online presence. One way to counter the situation is by offering them a discount for future purchases. You can even throw in a bonus product or get them in touch with your top specialists to resolve their customer support issues.
Always have someone who exclusively looks over the customer reviews and gives him/her the power to satisfy the customers. Keep the communication channel open till the problem is resolved. Then ask the customer if they are willing to update the feedback score that they had earlier given.
2. Be Customer-centric
Since customer perception is highly influenced by every interaction that customers have with your business, all your employees need to make the customers feel good. To create a positive customer perception, you need to develop a customer-centric culture by empowering your employees to act in the common interests of your customers.
Follow this process.
i) Start from the top
The top-level management needs to set an excellent example for the rest of the staff to act in the customers' interest. If they do that, the rest of the employees will follow them.
ii) Develop an employee-centric culture
Always make sure that your employees are happy in your organization. One way to do that is by paying them well, providing them lucrative opportunities to grow, and supporting them to do the right thing for the customers. Always put your internal people first, and they will follow this practice for your customers.
iii) Encourage every employee to interact with your customers
Whether it's your engineers or executives and even functional team in between, encourage everyone to interact with your customers. One way to do that is by running customer interviews or host events.
3. Listen to Social Media
Customer reviews on social media can make or break your brand perception. When you're already aware that people are talking about your brand, products, and topics relevant to your business on social media, it is time to listen to your customers through social media.
Now, without responding to your customer reviews, you will not gain much. Hence, it's essential to know the likes and dislikes of your customers, the brands they support, and the influencers they follow.
All this valuable information can take you a step closer to developing a positive customer perception. The opinions, patterns, and customer insights you gain from social media listening are all part of the perception process. With the help of this data, you can strategize to build a positive customer perception for your brand.
4. Take advantage of user-generated content
Almost three billion people use social media, and this number is growing as I write. People typically employ these channels as their main outlet to share interests, ideas, socialize and communicate with brands.
Today customers have become wiser. They want to know how others use your product or service. This is where compelling user-generated content (UGC) on social media can come in handy to develop a positive customer perception of your brand.
A prime example of that is this Wix Facebook post where the company has featured Wix user Molly Gambardella's colorful and eye-catching work of art. Showcasing your ambassadors on social media is a definite win-win situation, as it enhances your brand perception and customer awareness.
5. Be humble
Customer perception is often a mystery for companies; however, the truth is it shouldn't be so difficult. While there's no exact formula, a lot of what your customers perceive is derived from emotions your brand resonates with.
According to a Gallup study, more American consumers detach themselves from large organizations and move to smaller companies based on their attitude and perception. One exciting study states customers perceive small businesses as exemplifying the "American dream" and taking a stand towards honesty and authenticity.
One of the smartest ways to cultivate positive customer perception is to promote the unique selling proposition of your business. Whether it is your first touchpoint or the last one, the entire company should create positive customer perception by contributing to it in unison.
Whenever a customer comes in with a problem, address it and resolve the issue with utmost sincerity. Always keep this in mind: Customer perception is all about feeling and emotions. It's always better to inculcate an environment for positive customer perception from the beginning of the customer journey instead of fixing a negative perception.
With careful scrutinization of your customers' feedback, you can get a fair idea of your customer engagement, which can go a long way in pushing you towards positive customer perception.
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