What Is Customer Perception and Why Is It Important?

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The market is transforming into a more competitive arena for all kinds of business. Similarly, the role customers play in making or breaking a business brand is becoming more crucial. Customers actively engage in businesses through the marketing concept known as Customer Perception.

But what is Customer Perception and why is it important?

Read on to see what these 16 experts have to say in response to these questions.

Kama Wilson

Kama Wilson

Co-Founder & Design Strategist, Smitten Design & Branding

What people think about your business based on personal experience

It’s been well-said that if you don’t deliberately craft every aspect of your business’ brand, your customers will craft it for you. This is customer perception–what people think about your business based on personal experience, social media, reviews, marketing, public relations, and other impressions they get.

Unfortunately, if you don’t take your brand’s impressions seriously, leaving them to the customer, it’s likely that their perceptions won’t be what you wish it were.

To establish a positive first impression

Obviously, there are numerous ways people get impressions of your business. But one of the most important things that many business owners ignore is the importance of establishing a positive first impression.

A customer’s perception of a business is established right here, and it’s more important than most of us realize. In just 1/20th of a second upon visiting your business’ website, a potential customer has already established an almost unerasable perception about you.

And, while it’s unconscious at that moment, that first impression actually dictates whether they click the back button a bit later on.

To get the most out of your advertising budget

If a perception of your business is made in such a short time by a website visit, it’s pretty obvious that taking a deliberate stance in crafting a customer perception across multiple channels is highly important. This is especially true if you want to get the most out of your advertising/marketing budget.

And conversely, not doing so puts your business in a place of significant lost opportunity–in dollars, time, and potential customers!

How can you deliberately create a positive customer perception of your business? Here are some touchpoints you can address:

Reviews

How are online reviews and former customer recommendations influencing perceptions? How are you interacting with the online reviews? Are you responsive, thanking them, or addressing concerns thoughtfully and respectfully? Do former customers gladly refer you to others?

Drive-by appearance

How does the drive-by experience of your business place’s location affect someone’s perception? Is it cluttered and rundown, or tasteful and welcoming? Is signage clear and inviting? Organized and well-groomed? All these points create impressions about how a customer expects to be treated inside your business.

Inside appearance

Does the inside of your business create a positive perception? Are the furnishings clean and tasteful? Is your bathroom clean and maybe even pleasant? Are signs up-to-date and easy to read? Are the corners left dirty, or is it obvious you care in even the details of your business?

Website

Is your site visually appealing the moment someone lands on it? Is it immediately clear who you serve and what problems you solve? Can people tell how your business is different from everyone else in your industry quickly? Do people see your website and want to learn more?

Does your website treat people with care, just like your staff would–being personable, friendly, answering questions, and being user-friendly?

Staff interactions

Do people get a sense of genuine care from your staff? A customer will perceive a lot of positiveness if your staff take time to treat them like a person, getting to know their needs and delivering service based on that, rather than on what they want to sell. Do your staff ask thoughtful, caring questions? Do they take time to listen actively?

Social media

If you engage on social media, are you responsive, listening, and interesting? Or is your postings dry, dull, and boring? Do you answer questions and engage? Do people get a positive perception of doing business with you in how you interact?

I’m sure there are even more areas you can address–from before people ever enter your business to the feelings they have well after they’ve left.

The more you can craft their entire perception, the more control you have of your business, the better your marketing will be effective, and the easier it will be to grow your business!

Robyn M. Bolton

Robyn M. Bolton

Founder and Chief Navigator, Mile Zero

Perception is reality

Customers base their decisions on their beliefs – beliefs about a company or product, beliefs about how people will perceive them if they choose a certain product, beliefs about who they are, and what they prioritize and values.

Unfortunately, beliefs don’t always reflect facts, which is why companies are so often baffled, even frustrated, by the “illogical” and “irrational” behavior of customers.

Many companies, especially those in data-based industries like tech and finance, try to use facts to overcome beliefs and change perception.

For example, financial advisors often focus their communication on types of investment vehicles, macroeconomic factors, and possible returns. They use industry-specific terms without pausing to explain because they believe it will make them sound smart and build the client’s confidence and trust.

Yet 70% of women change financial advisors after their partners die because, despite the “data,” because they don’t feel that their advisor understands them and has a perception that the advisor will struggle to communicate with them effectively.

It’s a way to differentiate from the competition and engender loyalty

Successful companies, however, not only understand the importance of perception, they invest in shaping it. Through branding, advertising, and public relations, companies shape customer’s perceptions as a way to differentiate from the competition and engender loyalty.

One of the best examples of this is Coke and Pepsi.

Taste tests prove that customers struggle to taste the difference between the two in blind taste tests, yet people swear that they can taste a difference, and steadfastly refuse to buy the other brand. Coke loyalists, especially Southerners, see the brand as an extension of their identify – Classic, original, and real – while Pepsi loyalists want to be affiliated with youth and music.

Bottom line: Perception is reality. It is what drives customers’ decisions, behaviors, loyalty, and communication with other customers. It’s shaped by a mix of data and feelings, and companies that want to successfully tap into both.

Jason David

Jason David

CEO, Software Portal

Perception is a feeling the customers have when they see your brand

It seems like every day there’s some new metric we need to be concerned with. Customer perception, however, is a bit harder to track. There is no die-hard analytics for it. It’s a feeling the customer has when seeing your brand. It could be positive, or it could be negative.

Many factors drive this perception. Customer service is a big one. Many companies fly entirely under the radar until someone has to interact directly with them.

Consider your cable company. When you sign up for cable initially, you’ll probably have an ok perception of them. After a month or so, however, and, if someone asks what you think, you’ll probably say, “Yeah, they’re fine. I mean, the cable works.” And this is what you’d expect. Until they have to deal with you directly. Either there’s a problem with the bill or the service is a bit sketchy. This interaction will sway your perception to the positive or the negative, depending on how it’s handled.

But why does customer perception matter?

It’s contagious

Because we live in a social world. Let’s say you have a poor experience. Maybe you feel they disrespected you or didn’t take your problem seriously. Now you make a post on Twitter and Facebook. Regardless of the validity of your claim, it’s currently out there.

Now it starts to snowball. Others who feel slighted by will join your campaign. Suddenly it’s in the zeitgeist. People who’ve never even dealt with this company will have a negative perception of the brand based on the perception of others.

Long story short, customer perception is important because it’s contagious. And, when someone is choosing a company to patronize, one with of which they have a negative perception is not likely to make the cut.

Daniel J. McBride

Daniel J. McBride

Private Investigator, American Eagle Investigations

Customer perception is a variable in the decision-making and buying process

Customer perception is important because it’s one of the largest variables that come into play in the decision making and buying process.

Obviously, cost and availability are large drivers in the sales funnel, but as we’ve seen countless times, those two factors aren’t everything. You see this with many brands and companies that have long wait-lists and higher prices compared to their competitors.

Why is that?

Because the customer or client perceives the value that the specific owner or brand is bringing to the table. This might be their unique prior experience or education, their superior production methods, the quality of goods used, or their expertise.

It’s called positioning or brand positioning, and it’s quite important with framing your offerings in whatever market you sell in because that leads to the customer’s perception of your business.

As a very simple example, I’m retired NYPD, which bodes really well being a private investigator in New York City. Not only does it show clients I have law enforcement and investigative background, but it happens to come from an amazing department in the city I still work in.

All companies need to find their unique selling proposition and leverage it through proper branding. What’s nice about this method of marketing and business is that you’re not tied to being the low-cost provider, but instead, you’re offering expertise and industry acumen

Charlene Walters, MBA, PhD

Charlene Walters headshot

Writer | Speaker | Business & Branding Mentor, Own Your Other

Everything a customer thinks about a business or brand

It encompasses all of the thoughts, feelings, and experiences they’ve had with that business throughout their customer journey. Each encounter builds upon that perception at every customer touchpoint along the way; a customer’s perception also includes all of the brand messaging they’ve seen from the company as well, so it must resonate with them.

To ensure effective communication and bring a high level of satisfaction

Customer perception is so important because, as businesses and brands, we want to ensure that we are communicating with our target audience in the most effective way to attract and retain customers and to bring about a high level of customer satisfaction and confidence.

We want consumers to get to know our brand personality and see how our business can help them solve a problem or fill a need. Ultimately, we are striving for their experiences to be positive and what they were anticipating.

In the end, a very positive perception will lead to a solid base of loyal and engaged customers for our business.

Donna Wick

Donna Wick

Publicist & Marketing Strategist, DW Omnimedia

How they perceive you, your product, your organization, etc.

Customer perception is exactly that – how they perceive you, your product, your organization, etc. It’s all about seeing your product through the eyes of your consumer – almost a lost art. Companies are so sure to promote their idea and their creativeness that they forget to factor in how the consumer will see this, perceive this.

Currently, there is a commercial for a toothpaste product and Halloween candy. In the commercial, a little girl throws up the candy, and the camera shows it. The next frame is the Brand. Someone at that Brand thought this was really clever, but all I kept thinking is that this stuff must taste horrible because the little girl threw it up when that’s not really what the spot was about.

There was once a cute commercial about Joe the Lying Salesman for a car company. For three years, Joe the Lying Salesman told lies about the product on TV, and at the bottom third of the commercial, there was a caption stating: “He’s lying. We only get 44 mpg”.

I could see creatively what the advertising agency was trying to achieve. The problem is, most people distrust a car salesperson. A CAR SALESMAN. So having Joe the Lying Salesman was taken at face value. Each year market share for the company dwindled, and today they are out of business. The perception was, “Yep, another lying car salesman!”

Jeff Arnett

Jeff Arnett

Founder, Arnett Designs

It’s what your clients or customers have to say about your business or brand

This goes into data such as customer reviews, surveys, product/business success, and more customer feedback tools. It is important to keep customer perception positive for the success of your business. Customer experience can play a huge part in client retention and loyalty.

To keep the brand in good standing

Perception plays a huge part in the success of your product, brand, or company. You must improve your customer perception to avoid losing customers or falling behind and maintain your brand in good standing. The customers’ experience with your brand or service will determine what they think about your brand, which is why it is important to fulfill consumer needs and implement excellent customer service.

Tyler Sellers

Tyler Sellers

CEO, Total Shape

The perspective of a customer towards the brand or its products

Why it is important?

For devising marketing strategies

Every brand wants to be recalled in a particular way. The feedback or opinion of the customers helps the brand to devise marketing strategies that are aligned with their desired perception.

For example, when we talk about Apple, the first thought that comes in mind “expensive and durable products.” The company has successfully created this perception in the customer’s mind.

For revamping branding strategies

If the brand has created the desired perception among the audience, then it’s good. Otherwise, customers’ perceptions will help it to revamp or make their branding strategies better than before by spotting pain points of customers.

D.J. Billings

D.J. Billings

Owner, Sparky Firepants

While we can’t control how customers perceive our business, we can control how we present ourselves. The way we act when we meet customers, how we sound on the phone, how our website looks, and what we say on it all contribute to how people see us.

Perception is everything

Before a person becomes a customer, they are trying to figure out who we are and if we are the right printer to help them. Whether we take a few days to answer an inquiry or get back to them in a few hours, it gives them a hint of what it will be like when they place an order. Because we want them to feel like they’re important and we’ll handle their order quickly and efficiently, we like to answer inquiries right away.

Our website has resources to help potential customers figure out how to create their art or calculate quantities. Hopefully, they’ll take advantage of those resources and see us as a business that has their best interest at heart. That builds trust before they’ve even bought anything.

You also have to be careful that the way you present yourself is honest. If you’re trying to be something you’re not to try to control customer perception, eventually they will figure it out, and it will backfire.

Nate Masterson

Nate Masterson

Business Consultant | CMO, Maple Holistics

The way customers see a brand

It’s the views, expectations, and thoughts that the public has towards a company, for better or for worse.

Helps drive the company’s success

The reason that customer perception is so important is that it helps drive the success of a company. If customers view a company favorably, expect the brand to deliver quality goods, and align with the mission of the company, they’re more likely to buy the brand’s products and recommend the brand to friends.

Conversely, if a customer is unimpressed with a company and has a low opinion of it, this can really hurt the company’s bottom line.

Anna DiTommaso

Anna DiTommaso

Owner, Creative80

How customers feel about your business

Customer perception is simply how current and potential customers feel about your business, services, or products. It’s becoming easier and easier to start a business, which means that competition is increasing drastically.

Customers have so many options now, that how well you do your job is something they can simply take for granted. Being good at what you do is no longer the only factor that customers take into account when considering if they want to work with you or not.

How customers perceive you, your business and your services or products is now a major factor in if your business will continue to grow. Prospects and customers have actually to like you and feel good about working with you.

Some great ways to work on improving customer perception are to create processes for consistency, collect feedback from customers, and focus on empathy. It’s important to remember that real people are behind everything.

Brian Cairns

Brian Cairns

CEO, ProStrategix Consulting

There has been a lot written about customer perception, how to truly measure it, and how to shape it.

The sum total of all his or her experiences and interactions with your brand

Let’s use Starbucks as an example. A customer’s overall perception of Starbucks is the sum total of their advertising messages, promotions, in-store experience (barista, waiting, crowded, noisy, etc.), product experience (flavor, aroma, etc.), price, and external factors (news, friends, family, etc.).

Why is it important?

It’s hard to change

Well, once it’s formed, it very hard to change. This is why brands spend so much time attempting to keep the experiences consistent so that they have the best shot at shaping the initial interaction.

Michael Anderson

Michael Anderson

Marketing Specialist, GeoJango Maps

Either a positive or negative feeling that a customer has after interacting with a brand

This could materialize at many steps along the conversion process, and it’s not limited to someone actually purchasing something. For example, a prospective customer could form a negative opinion of a brand after browsing their website or walking through their physical store.

The reason that customer perception is so important is that it has the opportunity to compound over time. This means that an exceptionally positive customer perception can help to influence future customers and vice versa. It’s hard to believe one bad review in a sea of one hundred positive reviews.

The goal of every business should be to ensure that their customers walk away from every interaction with positive customer perception. This will help the business grow as more and more people can vouch for them and their products or service.

Adam Mitchell

Adam Mitchell

Owner, We Buy Houses Fast in Dallas

The feeling a customer gets upon initial contact

Do they trust you? Do they feel your competence? These initial feelings make up perception and whether a customer decides to work with you or not.

Positive perception is highly important in the age of credibility because they can usually find someone else very quickly online. If you do not stand out, make a good impression, and give a warm fuzzy feeling, customers will move on.

Mike Raines

Mike Raines

Owner, Raines Insurance Group

I see customer perception, much like your reputation on how you treat people and how easily you are to work with.

I also see it as trust.

Do your customers trust you and respect what you can do for them? If so, these customers will refer you.

A referral from a current customer is the ultimate compliment as you know your customer sees you as someone they can comfortably refer their family and friends to. As your relationships with your customers grow, your reputation, and the way customers or future customers perceive you also grows and basically begins a snowball effect.

I make a rule to basically treat people the way you wish to be treated, no matter if its a simple service call or a possible huge sale.

Ben Walker

Ben Walker

Founder & CEO, Transcription Outsourcing

Customer perception is what your clients and potential clients think of you when they see your name or logo.

It is extremely important because that is how you will get and retain a good clientele base that keeps coming back. If you don’t have a good perception from those you work with, it will be very difficult to get referrals and to be able to use them as references when potential clients ask to speak with any of your existing clients.