In business, perception is everything.
As Ivanka Trump once said, “Perception is more important than reality. If someone perceives something to be true, it is more important than if it is in fact true.”
While this quote has often been criticised, there is some truth to this.
This is because building a great product simply isn’t enough.
If customers have a negative perception of your business or product, then it’s all for naught.
So what is customer perception and why does it matter more than reality in business?
In this post, I’ve gathered all the facts and details to help you understand why perception is reality and how to maintain a positive customer perception – so let’s jump right into it.
Table of contents:
- What is customer perception and why is it important?
- How to create and maintain a positive customer perception
1. What is Customer Perception and Why Is It Important?
Customer perception refers to customers’ opinions about your business or products.
The whole process of customer perception starts when prospects collect information about your business or product based on advertisements, reviews and social media feedback.
Then, consumers interpret the information collected to develop an impression about your brand and what it has to offer.
Everything your business does has the power to affect customer perception, from your website colour schemes to your logo to your business cards and beyond.
For example, if you use a pink logo, that will be associated by most people with romance, sensitivity and tenderness.
That may be a great idea if you’re trying to appeal to the female gender.
However, if you target – or want to target – a male audience, you may want to use different colours for your logo.
The problem with customer perception is that people tend to process information through a filter of personal experience and preferences.
Typically, customers’ perception is influenced by the following factors:
- Online reviews
According to Findstack, 72% of customers use Google reviews to find businesses. This means that what customers find when searching for your company’s online presence can greatly influence their perception of your business and product.
- Social media marketing
Social media marketing has completely transformed the way businesses influence customer perception. In fact, social media platforms are a powerful tool that helps you keep your business top-of-mind and reinforce the brand image you want to portray.
- Influencer marketing
Influencer marketing is based on the principle that customers are more likely to make a purchase if an opinion leader tells them about a product they are interested in. It is based on social proof, which is the natural human tendency to imitate other people’s behaviours.
- Company’s mission and values
Your company’s mission and values can largely affect customer perception. This is because customers want to do business with companies that put them at the centre of everything and have similar values to their own.
- Customer support
Even if your product is the best in the market, your brand image can quickly take a toll if you don’t avoid common customer service mistakes. How you handle customer complaints and answer FAQs can mean the difference between positive and negative customer perceptions.
- Personal experience
Nothing can influence customer perception as much as the experience customers have with your business throughout all aspects of the buyer’s journey – from navigating your website to placing an order to receiving the product they bought from you.
However, there are other factors that can negatively impact customer perception – especially if you’re a startup or fledgling business.
This is because most small business owners are so busy that they pack each day to the brim – meaning that they simply do not have enough time to focus on hidden factors affecting customer perception.
They are shareholders, marketing executives, salesmen, and many more. One moment they’re the CEO and the next they’re the head of product and even the receptionist.
Does that scenario sound familiar?
As you feel pulled in so many different directions, it’s easy to overlook the factors you need to improve to overcome low initial trust perception.
Here are some practicals examples of how customers can form a negative opinion about your brand even though you strive to deliver a great product and exceptional customer service:
- Free email account & homemade business cards – Unprofessional, amateurish way of doing business
- Using a home address as a business address – Unprofessional and untrustworthy, inexperience running a business
- No website or no Google My Business presence – Unreliable, not serious about business
- Too paper-based – Outdated processes, not embracing technology
- Holding meetings in a cafe – Cheap, not established business
Even if your small business is having a great influx of work, it is important that you find ways to make it look bigger and more established.
This plays a huge role in shaping the way you do business and nurturing customers through every stage of the buyer’s journey.
We’ll get into all the details in the second part of the post, but first, let’s see why customer perception is paramount to brand success:
- Affects your brand image and encourages word-of-mouth marketing
- Enables you to build long-term relationships with your customers
- Influences purchasing decisions, which, in turn, influence your profits
- Helps you generate repeat business
- Makes a positive impact on employees’ morale
- It is fundamental to ongoing business success
That being said, let’s go further to discover how to enhance your customer perception.
2. How to Create and Maintain a Positive Customer Perception
These 7 steps will put you on the right track to creating and maintaining a positive customer perception while increasing brand awareness and customer loyalty.
- Create a personalised customer experience
Delivering a personalised customer experience is the core of building positive perceptions.
In an age where consumers are bombarded with choices, treating people as individuals and delivering tailored offers can mean the difference between a successful and unsuccessful business.
- Create an emotional connection with your customers
According to Harvard Business Review, emotionally engaged customers are three times more likely to re-purchase and recommend a product or service.
These days, brands that appeal to the customers’ emotions are those which thrive the most and have the best possible chances to boost positive perceptions.
- Make your small business look bigger
Small businesses often have a tough time competing with the big guys. This is because bigger companies have established reputations, large marketing budgets and media attention.
However, as a small business, you don’t need a huge budget to look bigger than you really are.
With a virtual office, you get everything you need to establish a professional presence – from fully equipped meeting rooms to permanent business address to landline number – all at a fraction of the cost.
- Collect customer feedback
You can’t create a positive customer perception without knowing what your customers already think about your brand.
By collecting customer feedback, you are able to measure customer satisfaction, show your customers you value their opinions and, ultimately, create a positive brand perception.
- Improve customer service
In a competitive market, it’s safe to say that customer service quality is one of the definitive drivers of your business’s profitability.
As a small business owner, you might be tempted to answer your own calls – especially if you don’t have any employees. But are you able to pick up the phone every time it rings, including outside of business hours?
Even if your budget is limited, your can ensure outstanding customer service with a professional virtual receptionist – a qualified and trained agent who serves the same role as an in-house receptionist, but it’s much more affordable.
- Monitor all online brand mentions
Collecting and reacting to every online public mention of your brand is one of the greatest ways to proactively manage customer perception.
- Follow up with customers
Following up with a client after a sale can help your business greatly enhance customer perception.
There are multiple strategies you can use to reach out to a customer after a sale. For example, you can ask for feedback, provide a special offer, send articles or videos, or even ask if they need help.
Conclusion: Customer perception isn’t just a key element to consider – it’s everything.
A swing in customer perception is very likely to lead to lost revenue and reputation and ultimately, damage your brand.
In that case, no amount of work on reputation or product quality will improve sales.
While on the other hand, positive customer perception helps you create a prosperous business that reaches its full potential.
If you’re looking to enhance your customer perception on a tight budget, B2B HQ would be happy to help you out. Our premium virtual offices in Melbourne are the perfect alternative to coworking spaces and expensive brick-and-mortar offices. In one neat and affordable package, you’ll get a myriad of services to build reputation, make your business appear larger, and influence how customers think and feel about your business.