Marketing can get complicated and intricate at times. It is because of the complexity of the human brain and the way it functions. Customers are dynamic in thought but tend to converge while displaying certain emotions and behaviours.
A lot of these complex thoughts and behavioural patterns that the customers exhibit can be combined into a concept called as customer perception.
What is customer perception?
Customer Perception is a marketing concept that tells us what customers think about a brand or a company or its offerings. It can be positive or negative feelings, perceptions, inhibitions, predispositions, expectations or experiences that a customer has.
If you understand the concept of customer perception, you will figure out that it is arguably the most important factor that decides the success of a brand, product or a company as a whole. How a particular brand or company is positioned also plays a vital role in this. The characteristics of a brand and its personality play a big role.
If we look at the company Apple, we can see that the company is positively perceived by most of its customers. In fact, there are die hard fans of Apple. The reason being that the company has been repeatedly innovative, it has good performing products which make a connect with their customers. As a result, Apple is one of the consistently top performing brands across the world.
Customer Perception decides how much a product sells and how a company is perceived. Let us study a few examples to understand the importance of customer perception and why it is important in customer decision making.
Factors Influencing customer perception
In general, customer perception can be influence by a lot of factors. Some of the major factors are
- Consistency of performance – How has the brand performed in the past and how it is performing currently.
- Emotional connect – Superb brands know that emotional connection with the customer is critical to brand development.
- Marketing communications – How the brand communicates with the customers using the various media vehicles.
- Holistic marketing – A brand cannot be excellent if it has good sales staff but pathetic support staff. A brand has to be a good all rounder and satisfy customers from all its touch points.
- Personal experience – Personal experience is one of the most important influencers that can easily have a direct impact on customer perception. Our personal experiences matter most. When a customer experiences a good service or purchases a great product, the quality of goods and services matter.
- Advertising – Promotional campaigns are an integral part of any organization. It takes important steps to create advertisements that can change your perception about a brand easily.
- Influencers – We all are surrounded by several influencers that have a direct and indirect impact on your mindset. It can change customer perception at the drop of a hat. Suppose you saw an advertisement about apparel and were impressed by the brand. Next day you met your friend who told you about the horrible experience he had at the brand outlet the other day. Your perception changes once again.
- Social media platforms – This is the age of technology where most people are on one or the other social media portal browsing to their heart’s content. When you read reviews or comments about particular products services of a brand, your sub-conscious mind automatically takes a decision.
Importance of customer perception
Make sure that a customer leaves happy from your place because he or she will take this emotion back to his friends and family and tell about his experience to one and all. Ensure that they feel valued after an interaction with you.
Remember, it is easy to felicitate a positive customer perception from the onset than to change his negative perception to an optimistic one.
1) Brand loyalty
It is important that both brand and customer perception tally. Sometimes what the brand is offering may differ from what the customer perceives. It can cause unfavorable reactions from one or other parties.
Make sure that the brand is in complete sync with the customers to boost their perception about its products and services. Once you gain his faith, it becomes possible to earn his loyalty gradually. This helps the brand to increase its customer base and proves an advantage in terms of customer perception.
2) Increase in sales figures
The actual aim of a business entity is to boost its sales figures. It implements several steps to lure in its customers. Remember, it is the consumer perception that drives his behavior and ultimately leads to buying decision.
An important advantage of positive customer perception is that it leads to an increase in sales because the customers react favorably to the company and its products.
3) Customer retention
Serious competition forces the brands to decrease their prices because they want to win over customer loyalty at any cost. Although the sales figures increase the actual revenues does not increase at the same rate.
When you already have a good and loyal customer base because of positive customer perception, it becomes easier for a brand at customer retention.
4) Strengthens the bond
An important advantage of good customer perception is that it strengthens the bond between the brand and its customers. An individual is likely to visit the place at least once if his interactions over there have been favorable.
Problems with Bad perception
1) Loses credibility
A company must keep its promises to its customers. Always strive for truth and make sure whatever you have promised you are delivering it to the letter.
False promises will create a negative impact on the customer, and you will lose your credibility in the market. An important disadvantage of wrong customer perception is that making false promises loses the trust of the common man.
2) Customer service impact
Make sure your customer service department is up to the mark if you want to avoid negative perception about your brand. When the customer service department does not work efficiently, it has a direct impact on the mind of an individual.
An important disadvantage in this scenario is that once a customer makes up his mind negatively about your brand, you will need to work extra hard to remove this preconceived notion from his mind. There isn’t a guarantee that you will succeed in your endeavor.
Customer perception is relative, but once it gets fixated on something g, it becomes difficult to change it immediately.
Do not get comfortable if you are getting positive feedbacks of your brand. When everything is going smoothly, people start taking all the things for granted and become complacent.
If a customer complains, it is taken lightly or passed to some other employee who forgets to pay timely attention to it.
This can cause serious repercussions as it will cause negative customer perception. Maintain a strict vigil on your employees so that they can work efficiently towards maintaining a positive impact.
Remember, it is important to push your employees to avoid complacency as it can prove a serious disadvantage in terms of customer perception.
How to have good customer perception?
Customer perception is about impressions and feelings. Facts and figures occupy a back seat where these two emotions are concerned.
The journey of a customer from the first to the last point in your outlet is very important. It will take him only a few seconds to judge and make up his mind.
Remember he is both the judge and jury, so the brand must remain vigilant in its effort to offer a positive brand impression on each customer. It is imperative to have good customer perception if you want to achieve growth and expansion in your business.
Creating good vibes about your business is not as difficult as it seems. You can take the help of several tools to achieve your target. Remember, even if you face any negative impact, it will need just some extra steps and voila you can convert it into the optimistic and positive customer experience. This will be able to change customer perception dramatically and work in your favor.
Customers need to feel valued hence treat them with warmth and genuine feelings. If any problems occur, listen attentively so that he can have his say. Communicate in a clear and precise manner and offer a viable solution.
It is important that a customer feels that you can relate to his problems. Be empathetic and compassionate. Show him that you care and are trying to resolve the issue as per his directives.
Case study Example of Customer perception
SAMSUNG NOTE 7! BOOM!!
The second you read this, the first thought that will hit your mind is that of the entire fiasco of the Note 7 phones bursting in the pockets of customers. It might not have happened to you or it might have even not happened with anyone you know personally. But the very fact that you have heard about this in so many places, makes you harbour negative feelings towards the model.
If you were to buy a new phone and someone suggested the Samsung Note 7 to you, you would immediately reject the idea. Even if Samsung recalls all the devices of this model that have already been sold and were to give a public announcement that the malfunctioning has been rectified, people will be hesitant to buy it.
This is because the perception that the customer has about the device is completely negative. It will prevent the customer from making the purchase and will lead him/her to another model or possibly even another brand altogether.
Another example of customer perception is of Brad Pitt. Yes, human beings are brands too. Personalities like Roger Federer, Tiger Woods and Michael Schumacher are brands. They are perceived in certain ways by the public and they have brand managers who manage their positioning and public image.
So when we talk of Brad Pitt, there are a lot of customer perceptions that we can see. There are some who are the typical ‘Brad Pitt’ fans. They will perceive the brand very positively and will watch his movies enthusiastically. These people will usually be the ones who like a lot of drama and are fans of the entire machoism displayed by the characters he plays.
There are others who might perceive him in negative light. Some might not be interested in his acting whereas others might be surprised at the number of extra marital affairs he has had. Even Tiger woods for that matter, was a strong brand in Golf but destroyed it in the end with the various sexual lawsuits to him.
So, if you combine the case studies that we showed with the factors that influence customer perception, you will see various action points of how a brand can influence customer perception. A brand has to be consistent, flambouyant, it has to communicate and connect with the customers and it has to give an all round excellent performance to impress the customers.
The above case studies and the reasons that influence customer perception explain to a great extent as to what customer perception is, how it is important and how it influences customer decision making.