Visual representation of customer perception. A kitten looks into a mirror, the reflection is a tiger growling. Text overlaid: "Customer Perception and how to improve it"

The Ultimate Guide to Customer Perception in 2021

Written By Andy Parker
August 24, 2021

Customer perception can have a big influence on the success or failure of a business.

If you’re looking for answers to the following questions:

  • What is customer perception?
  • Why is customer perception important?
  • How do you measure it?
  • And how do you improve consumer perception?

You’re in the right place.

Let’s get started.




What is customer perception?

What is customer perception? Put simply, it’s what a customer thinks and feels about your brand or products.

Customer perception is formed through every interaction they’ve had with your business in their customer journey or customer experience, from a friend’s recommendation all the way through to a purchase.

It includes the perceptions of both current and potential customers.

It’s not just about whether a customer likes or dislikes your business though, it also relates to the words, feelings, and even colors that they associate with it.

Graphic depicting customer journey, a key facet of customer perception.
Customer journey includes every interaction a customer has with a business on their way to becoming a brand promoter.

Let’s use Apple as an example.

Pretty much everyone will have some kind of opinion of the Silicon Valley giant.

For some, this could be a positive one. They’d probably associate words like “innovative” or “cool” along with the color white, basing this on purchases they’ve made from the brand, the opinions of their friends and family, and advertising campaigns they’ve seen.

Equally, other people may have a negative perception of Apple, and would be drawing on a completely different set of experiences to form this.

Monitoring and improving consumer perception is useful for both large and small brands, as it enables them to identify and improve pain points in their customer journey.

Ultimately, improving the customer journey and providing a better customer experience represents an opportunity to maximize revenue and profit.

Why is customer perception important?

Now that we’ve answered the question “What is customer perception?”, you may be wondering “Why is customer perception important?”

It sounds obvious, but it’s going to be much more difficult to grow your business if customers have a strongly negative perception of you.

And there’s a huge wealth of research that backs this up.

Not only do 33% of customers leave a brand they love after one bad experience, but 86% of customers are willing to pay more for a great one.

Graphic depicting text "86% of customer are willing to pay more for a great customer experience".

Furthermore, 71% of customers prefer buying from brands that align with their values.

Developing an excellent customer perception is increasingly becoming the key battleground for competing brands, with some suggestions that customer experience will overtake price and product in terms of importance to customers.

Meanwhile, brands are also recognizing the importance of consumer perception, with customer experience ranking as the most important priority for business owners in one study.

So, customer perception is clearly vital for most businesses.

But not all.

In an ‘exception that proves the rule’ kind of situation, Irish budget-airline Ryanair achieved a customer satisfaction score of only 45% in 2019, leaving them bottom in a list of 100 top companies for the sixth year in a row.

Screenshot of Ryanair's review page, showing an overall score of 1.3 out of 5.
Ryanair’s Trustpilot reviews are not flattering.

Despite this, they still generated revenue of €7.7 billion in the same year.

Even though customers held an overwhelmingly negative perception of the brand, they continued to spend money.

For most businesses and industries though, Ryanair’s ‘low price, poor customer service’ tactic doesn’t really represent a viable strategy.

So why is customer perception important? All of this allows us to conclude that generating a positive customer perception should be a key goal for the vast majority of small and large businesses.

Our final stat really drives it home: 84% of brands that invest in customer experience and consumer perception report an increase in revenue.

How do you measure customer perception?

You can use a wide range of qualitative and quantitative data in order to measure your customer perception.

If you need a reminder, quantitative data is relates to cold, hard numbers, while qualitative data is more open-ended and relates to properties and attributes.

When you’re measuring customer perception, it’s a good idea to use a mix of qualitative and quantitative data in order to provide you with the broadest range of information.

Measuring your consumer perception is of course crucial if you want to start improving it, but the good news is that you’re almost certainly already using at least some of the methods listed below.

Here are just some of the ways you can measure customer perception. This list is not exhaustive, and it might be useful to go over any existing KPIs that you’re already tracking to see what insights you can glean.

Track what people are saying about you on social media

Image showing hand holding cell phone with multiple social media icons displayed.

The use of hashtags on many social media platforms makes this laughably easy. Just search for the hashtag of your business name, plus any slogans you use, and you’ll instantly have a snapshot of what people think about you.

If you have a social media department, they should already be doing this, so it’s merely a case of asking them for the information.

If you don’t have access to any social listening tools, at a bare minimum you can copy and paste these comments into a spreadsheet to look for any keywords that regularly appear and use your best judgement to assign a positive or negative attribution to each comment.

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Easy
  • Relatively quick for most brands

Cons:

  • Not as useful for B2Bs and companies with smaller social followings
  • Social media platforms don’t necessarily reflect your customer demographics

Frequent review sites

Image showing phone with comment box above

You’re probably already doing this, but you should track the most popular review sites for your industry. This could be Trustpilot, Google My Business, Capterra…whichever review site is popular in your sector or country, take a look.

Then, if you’re lacking any analytics software that can help you with this, go through the process mentioned above for social media: create a spreadsheet and use the Ctrl + F function to search for any common words or perceptions that give you an idea of what customers think of you.

Pros:

  • Cheap
  • Easy

Cons:

  • Customers are more likely to leave bad reviews than good ones
  • For smaller businesses or B2Bs with a small client base, it can take time to gather enough data to draw conclusions

Look for mentions in online publications and blogs

Image showing open laptop with Google's search box.

One massive advantage of Google basically running the internet is that they have useful features like Google Alerts. This notifies you by email in real-time, daily, or weekly when someone mentions your brand (or any keyword that you choose).

That way, you can track online publications and blogs to find out what people are saying about you.

Pros:

  • Incredibly easy to implement
  • Very low-cost

Cons:

  • Larger businesses may be overwhelmed with mentions
  • Smaller businesses may only rarely feature in publications and blogs.

Use existing data from your customer service department

Three customer service representatives altering customer perception.

Many businesses view customer service departments as a resource drain. This is understandable, as customers rarely call you up to tell you how happy they are with your service.

However, your customer service department also holds a wealth of information on customer perception.

While this may well mostly include problems and negative feedback, realistically you’re not going to create any actionable insights in this process if you just focus on the positive things customers are saying.

Speak to your customer service reps and use any data you have to identify any common customer complaints and analyse the way in which customers deal with these.

You should ask yourself questions like: How many repeat callers do you have? What percentage of customers contact your customer service department?

As we established in the What is Customer Perception section above, the customer journey is an ongoing process, and great customer service is essential.

Pros:

  • Focusing on negative feedback allows you to make improvements
  • Good way to use an existing data to discover consumer perception

Cons:

  • Can take time and analytics platforms to accurately process any data

Set up focus groups and interviews

Image of focus group discussing a brand's customer perception

Focus groups are a great way to find out what people think about your business or product, and have been a tried-and-tested method of gauging customer opinion since the 1940s.

One-to-one interviews are another way to gain insights about your customer perception. In order to remain unbiased, both of these methods will require involvement from a third party, and both methods are a good way of finding qualitative data.

Pros:

  • Deep level of insight
  • Customer feedback in their own words

Cons:

  • Can be expensive
  • Sometimes difficult to get honest opinions
  • Trickier for B2B companies to organize

Utilize Psychographic Data

Image of man analysing psychographic data on tablet.

Psychographic data, which is also known as attitudinal data, will tell you all about people’s values, attitudes, interests, and personality traits. All of these factors heavily impact a person’s perceptions and views on the world; and hence also their view on your brand.

Psychographic data is obtained via surveys, and asks questions like: “Are you a creative person?” or “Are you adventurous?”.

Psychographic data is important because it allows you to further segment your customers. Demographics like age, location, and gender do provide a certain level of insight.

But in order to truly examine your customer perception it is useful to find out how different subsets within your segments view themselves and the world.

Pros:

  • Deep level of insight
  • Can inform your entire marketing strategy (i.e. 83% of current customers are adventurous)

Cons:

  • Can be expensive
  • Participants may not be 100% honest on survey

Explore your Customer Effort Score (CES)

Person rock climbing during sunset, a metaphor for customer's expending a lot of effort

In a Customer Effort Score (CES) survey, a respondent is asked how difficult they feel it is to obtain a given result from your company. This is commonly used after a customer service query, i.e. “How easy was it to solve your problem today?”.

Customer effort score gives you a deeper understanding about customer perception of your business, and is great for highlighting problems within your customer service department.

Pros:

  • Can be done internally
  • Cheap to implement

Cons:

  • Usually only used in customer service
  • Survey based, so not 100% reliable

Track your Customer Satisfaction Score

Two satisfied customers smiling at laptop screen.

You can find out Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT) by surveying customers after an interaction with your brand.

This could be after they’ve purchased a product (“How happy are you with your new frying pan?”), or after a customer service interaction (“How would you rate your experience with our Customer Service team?”).

Customer satisfaction is useful because it gives you an overall quantifiable score for aspects of your business. One downside is that it may not give you further insight into why customers think the way they do.

Pros:

  • Specific score of how happy customers are with your business
  • Only requires email software to implement

Cons:

  • Sometimes lacks specificity
  • As with all surveying, customers with negative experiences are more likely to respond

Net Promoter Score

Net Promoter Score (NPS) is a way of measuring your brand promoters against your detractors to give you a fixed score, and it’s a widely used metric for improving consumer perception and experience.

In a Net Promoter survey, respondents are asked how likely they would be on to recommend your product to someone they know on a scale of 1-10.

Graphic depicting the different number scoring of net promoter score.

You then subject the percentage of people who have given you a “Detractor” score of 1-6 from the percentage of people who have given you a “Promoter” score of 9-10. This percentage represents your Net Promoter Score.

It’s a good way of discovering whether the general perception of your business is positive or negative.

Pros:

  • Only requires email automation software to implement
  • Strong statistical indicator of your customer perception

Cons:

  • Unless combined with other surveying data, it doesn’t give you insight about where you need to improve.
  • Survey data can be unreliable.

How do you improve customer perception?

Once you’ve discovered how customers perceive you, you can start to improve or alter it!

This will be different for every business, and your desired perception can even change based on your customer segments.

For example, if your business has broad appeal you may well want older customers to perceive you in a different way to younger ones.

One thing that’s important to bear in mind is that you shouldn’t be too downhearted if customers don’t perceive your business in quite the way you’d like them to.

People are never going to be as excited about a legal software company as they are about new clothing brand.

Never fear though, altering customer perception is the whole point of marketing!

Hopefully, the discovery process has generated some insights about what you can improve.

Use some of your findings to alter your product(s), or pricing strategies if applicable.

Otherwise, here’s 10 ways of improving your customer perception from a marketing perspective.

Create a more immersive online experience

Image of woman overlaid with code and computer hardware images in different colors.

As technology stands, there is no way of completely replicating the immersive experience of a brick-and-mortar store online. Despite that, you can still work on ways of creating an immersive online experience.

Chatbots, more personalized site offerings, and AR are just some of the ways you can mimic the instore experience for customers.

While this won’t be achievable for some businesses, it’s well worth keeping an eye out for the latest technological advancements and trends to see if there’s anything that’s suitable.

Use social proof

Screenshot of customer reviews from wordstream.
Customer testimonials. Image by Wordstream

If you looked around for reviews as part of your discovery phase, publish any good ones on your website! This great for two reasons.

Firstly, social proof is great for driving sales, but it also makes the site feel more ‘human’ for visitors.

Shopping online is fundamentally a isolated activity. By breaking up your brand voice with authentic customer reviews, you mix up the tone of your website and enhance consumer perception.

Furthermore, 70% of customers will trust a recommendation from people they don’t even know. Reviews reassure potential customers that your business is perceived in a positive way by other people, which will help to shape their perceptions of you.

Create a more ‘gamified’ experience

Screenshot of Google's offline mode game.

Gamification may not come cheap, but there are plenty of examples of businesses who have incorporated games into their user experience to positive effect.

Aside from increasing engagement and improving customer perception, gamification also offers a way for businesses to collect customer data and stay relevant in an ever-changing online world.

You can think outside the box here as well. One great example of gamification is Google Chrome on desktop when you’re unable to establish an internet connection.

If you click on the T-Rex, you’re actually taken to a hidden jumping game.

While you’re unlikely to spend hours playing this, it does distract you from some of the frustration of not being able to get online. It’s a great example of gamification being used to improve consumer perception.

Ensure your UI/UX is as straightforward as possible

Image of computer showing a websites UI

This isn’t really revolutionary, but it’s definitely worth saying anyway. Make sure the user interface of your website is as easy-to-use as possible.

There are thousands of businesses just like yours who would love to take your customers. Requiring your customers to navigate a convoluted and complex website is therefore not a good idea.

Pages per Session, Bounce Rate, and New vs Returning Customers are all metrics you should be tracking to improve UI/UX.

If you’re not 100% sure about what you should be including in your landing pages, check out out our complete landing page checklist, which has all the info you need.

Providing an easier experience for customers will, in turn, enhance their perception of you.

Utilize user-generated content

Screenshot of Apple's instagram page, showing a user-generated content post

Customers don’t want to feel like they’re dealing with a faceless corporation. Even if you run a smaller business, it can be easy to fall into the trap of using “business language” in the majority of your communications.

User-generated content is one way of adding authenticity to your brand voice while simultaneously demonstrating how your products are use in the real world.

According to BusinessWire, consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view user-generated content as authentic compared to content created by brands.

Graphic of text saying "Consumers are 2.4 times more likely to view user generated content as authentic compared to content created by brands.

This is particularly interesting because the same study discovered that consumers felt that less than half of brands currently create authentic content.

A great example of good user-generated content is the above post from Apple, where they reposted a picture taken with an iPhone by one of their customers.

The post received a good amount of engagement, and allowed Apple to present an example of someone enjoying their product.

Follow up with customers and speak to them like they’re humans

Image of smiling customer service assistant

You’ve probably noticed that servers in restaurants will often come and check on you to make sure you’re enjoying your food. There’s a reason for this. Not only does it allow the restaurant to do something about it if you’re not happy, but it also allows them to get feedback from you.

Realistically, not all customers are going to tell you when something is wrong. Unless they’re trying to return an item or want to cancel their service, many will just accept the problem and have a more negative view of your business.

Which means you’ll never find out how you can improve their perception of you.

A survey from Super Office discovered that 97% of companies do not follow up with customers.

Proactively reaching out to customers, whether they’ve contacted you or not, allows you to ensure your customer service department is performing to the best of its ability.

Use positive language

Image of the word yes on a black picture hanging on a green wall.

Using positive language in your customer interactions and messaging is a great way of improving customer perception of your brand.

To give you an example, compare the following statements from a customer service representative:

“Sorry, we can’t do that”

“We don’t have a direct way of doing that, but here’s what we can do”

People naturally respond more favourably to positive language, and this is something you should consider using on your website and social media profiles.

Assess whether your branding is fit for purpose

Text reading: branding, identity, logo, design, strategy, marketing.

If you used focus groups or interviews in the discovery phase, consider asking people what they think of your branding and logo. Take Coca Cola as an example. You probably instantly thought of the color red when you read those words because it’s synonymous with the brand.

Color Theory in marketing is a fascinating field, and you should ask your customers what they feel and think when they look at your branding. You may well be surprised by the results.

Multi-channel presence is essential

Image of laptop showing facebook loading screen.

It’s pretty much essential to have a presence on social media nowadays, if only because so many customers are on the platforms. While this is not exactly a surprise, it’s important to have keep your brand tone and voice consistent across all these channels.

Customers think of brands as a single entity rather than a collection of individuals. If they receive a totally different type of communication via email as what they see on your website, it’s going to be jarring and impact your authenticity.

It’s therefore important to have a multi-channel presence.

Improve your internal communication

Image of two office workers smiling and talking.

When a business gets to a certain size, it can be easy for departments to become isolated.

How many times have you rung up customer service before to explain a problem, only to be diverted to a different department where you have to explain your problem again?

You should ensure that the different sections of your business are communicating freely with one another and sharing data.

This will help you to create a more personalized customer experience, which will improve your consumer perception.

Conclusion

Customer perception can be tricky to manage, and it’s incredibly personalized to each brand.

Hopefully, you’ve got a clearer idea of what is customer perception, and why is customer perception important.

While it may seem like a lot of effort, the fact is investing in customer experience for improved perception can double your revenue within 36 months.

There is so much competition online nowadays for a customer’s attention and patronage, so it’s crucial for brands to stand out where they can.

Start improving your customer perception today, and reap the benefits.

Need help altering your customer perception and customer experience? Contact Klint today for an experienced digital marketing agency with a track record of providing growth.

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