Perception, what is it? A quick Google search offers this:
a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression
I can’t imagine anyone would consider opening a business that offers a physical/digital product or service without haveing good intentions in doing so. You have to believe that what you are offering is of value, serves the consumer in some positive manner, and will provide an atmosphere conducive to business growth. The notable exception is the obvious scam artists, but this is not about them.
HOW the intent of the business is perceived by the consumer determines the ultimate success, or failure, of the endeavor.
Here is the – kicker – in all this. You may have excellent ad copy that portrays a positive message. The product/service may be equal to, or better than, your competitors in value. All it takes to change the intent you worked so hard to portray is how the actions of you, or your management/support team(s), effects the customer/consumers perception.
Something as simple as an unanswered support request, or worse, one with a dismissive tone as seen by the consumer, can destroy the relationship you tried to build. Although you may have meant it in the best possible way, perhaps one of being concise and directing them to other aspects of the business model, that current or potential customer is now gone. How it was interpreted, right or wrong, determined the outcome.
In today’s environment, one of the greatest positive impacts on perception a business may have is in social media. This extends from posts on Twitter and Facebook, dialogue on Periscope, YouTube, and other such video-based interfaces, all the way down to discussions in Skype, Forums and yes, even Blog posts, and comments.
It is here, social media, that we often see the most grievous examples of actions that may alienate the customer base. Businesses, large and small, are all guilty of trying to present themselves in a positive manner to a social situation and having that intent backfire, causing disruption within the consumer/customer base.
You can look to Starbucks, Chick-fil-a, Chipotle, Verizon, and a host of others in the spotlight, caught up by the public’s interpretation of their actions.
A single post, a retweet, or a badly explained answer/comment on video can create an undesirable perception by those observing. Thus creating negative connotations towards you, your brand, and business future.
It is easy to dismiss the impact one person’s perceptions may have. You need to realize that for every disgruntled consumer you have identified, there can be dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of others that are in agreement. They just didn’t let you know about it. Given the broad reach of social media today, they can influence a multitude of others. Thus eliminating, or at least limiting, any opportunity you may have had with them.
This can have a greater effect on the smaller, sole proprietor, businesses model. Many times your customer base is tied together by singular demographics, social/cultural constructs, and other aspects that heighten the impact overall. A larger percentage may react, positively or negatively, to your actions. Obviously, your intent is for a favorable response. However, should this go awry, the reactions can be felt to a much larger degree, have a quicker impact on your business, and its ability to overcome unfavorable perceptions.
We should all strive to understand the impact of our intentions. We work very hard to try and place not only our business but ourselves, in a positive light with the consumers. The actions we take can speak far louder to effect our presence than the words we use to enact them.
No, the consumer is not always right, and no one is perfect. It is how we choose to place ourselves in the environment that we find surrounding us that determines the character of that presence, and the impressions carried onward.
At the end of the day, it is those intangible perceptions we have left with those we seek to engage that determine our success. Each step we take, every action (or reaction) we make along the path, affects the journey. Make sure you are moving forward, overcoming obstacles, not creating them.
Build that atmosphere conducive to business (and personal) growth around you. The benefits far outweigh the effort to do so.
With Sincere Thanks
“The only limits we have are those you impose upon yourself. Remove the limits!”
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