What is customer perception? (Plus how to manage it)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 18 November 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

When a customer makes a decision about what organisation to purchase from, they often go with one they know and trust. This is why customer perception is so important for organisations, as it ensures loyalty and brand awareness, which drives sales. If you're looking to boost sales and brand reputation, working on customer perception is a great way to guide customer decision-making towards a specific brand. In this article, we answer the question 'What is customer perception?', discuss why it's important and explain how to manage it.

What is customer perception?

To answer 'What is customer perception?', customer perception is how customers feel about an organisation when they purchase products or services from them. This includes things like how a customer feels about the brand, whether they trust it and how the brand resonates with their values. Customers might feel positive or negative based on their perception of a brand, and these feelings stem from previous interactions with the organisation. It's a process that includes the following components:

  • Sensing: This component focuses on the physical and tactile aspects of brand interaction, such as what a customer sees, feels, hears, tastes or touches in relation to a brand. This ranges from things like the music playing in-store to the feeling of the box containing the products.

  • Organising: After sensing a product or service, customers organise their information about a brand and try to align it with their own beliefs and values. For example, a customer might choose to go to an all-organic restaurant because it aligns with their belief in eating healthy, organic food.

  • Reacting: This outlines a customer's reaction after sensing the brand and organising their thoughts about it. They might choose your brand, go with a competitor or not act at all.

Related: What is brand perception? (Plus how to measure it)

Why is customer perception important?

Customer perception is important for any organisation as it informs customers and has a strong impact on the action they take, such as purchasing from a specific brand. A positive customer perception helps to bolster things like brand loyalty, which helps with word-of-mouth referrals. There are two main ways in which customer perception is critical:

  • Value alignment: Value alignment is how closely related a customer aligns with the values of an organisation. In other words, if customers hold the same values as an organisation, they're more likely to trust them and purchase their goods or services.

  • Trust signals: A strongly positive customer perception usually means customers trust that brand. If an organisation is trustworthy, customers are more likely to engage with it by making purchases or referring others to that brand.

Factors that affect customer perception

There are several internal and external factors that go towards managing customer perception. Some of these factors include:

Previous experience

When customers interact with a brand, they take away many pieces of information that influence their future perception. Any touchpoints are a chance to guide their opinion so that they feel positive about the organisation. The key is consistently providing positive customer experiences to establish trust and develop loyalty to the brand.

Pricing

For many customers, price is the deciding factor when choosing one brand over another. Pricing either too high or too low dissuades customers for different reasons, so it's necessary to strike a balance between low cost and high quality. Good market research helps to define the best pricing strategy for a brand, but it's also necessary to factor in competitor prices and the organisation's financial needs.

Quality

Customers seek good quality products, but as with pricing, there's a balance to strike. When you offer a product or service that goes beyond customer expectations, the brand is much more likely to generate positive experiences for customers. This makes them feel like they got a great deal and builds trust in the product or service.

Accessibility

Making a company's offerings easily accessible and easy to obtain strongly affects customer perceptions. Aim to locate the organisation near its target market or bring its services to them, whether online, to their home or by providing disability-friendly services. That way, you're easy to reach, and customers may be more likely to choose you over the competition.

Customer service

The way an organisation treats its customers makes a big impact on customer perception. If you provide excellent customer service, customers quickly develop trust and brand loyalty because they're treated fairly. This reputation tends to follow brands through word of mouth, so good customer service naturally improves customer perception.

Marketing

Marketing campaigns target specific customers to inform them about the brand and what's on offer. There are many different demographics to target across multiple platforms, such as billboard campaigns or social media posts. The messages you convey help customers form an opinion about a brand.

Related: A detailed guide to corporate image and why it's important

How to manage customer perception

There are a few different approaches to measuring and managing customer perception. Below are some of the steps you may take:

1. Gather customer feedback via surveys

One way to learn about customer perception is to ask customers directly by having them fill out surveys. To incentivise the process, you might want to give customers who fill out the survey a discount when they purchase something from you. Some possible surveys to consider when gauging customer perception include:

Net promoter score (NPS)

NPS surveys are useful for finding out whether customers might recommend a brand to others. This is a useful indicator, as customers only make these recommendations if they trust the brand. The survey determines how customers generally feel about the organisation and what they did or didn't like about their experiences.

Customer satisfaction (CSAT)

CSAT surveys aim to determine how customers feel about the quality of a brand's service or product. This allows for quantitative feedback that's excellent for analysis. You might also choose more open-ended questions to get qualitative results about customer satisfaction levels.

Customer effort score (CES)

CES surveys ascertain how easy it was for customers to use a product or service. This is useful for uncovering how customers directly interact with a brand. It also shows how much effort customers require to find a benefit in using a company's products or services.

2. Conduct customer interviews

Conducting customer interviews is more involved than surveys, but it allows for more in-depth responses and comprehensive insights into customer perception. Interviews help you learn how customers feel about a brand and might highlight areas of concern. Take the time to tailor the questions so that they build your understanding of customer perception. Some questions to consider might include:

  • What made you purchase our brand or sign up for our service?

  • Why did you choose to stop using our products or services?

  • How do you think our organisation might improve its offerings?

  • Is there anything you want to add to our offerings?

Related: How to develop a brand identity (plus tips for success)

3. Review online discussions about the brand

Organisations benefit from reviewing online discussions about their products and services. In particular, this offers organic appraisals or criticisms of a brand from various customers. To do this, you might want to examine any reviews on your organisation's website. You might also search popular social media platforms to see how customers feel about a brand's offerings. Analytics allow you to gauge the overall popularity of a brand and how it compares to the competition.

Related: Customer service experience: definition and improvement tips

Tips for improving customer perception

To help you improve customer perception of a brand, take a look at the tips below:

Use insights to create new products or services

After gleaning insights into customer perception of a brand, try to incorporate them into new offerings to address customer needs and wants. This might include upgrading existing product lines to improve usability or make them more affordable. You might even roll out entirely new products or services that incorporate the insights from your customer perception analysis. As long as it aligns with what customers want from the brand, your new offerings stand a good chance of pleasing customers and improving customer perception.

Related: How to improve quality (and Porter's value chain explained)

Improve customer service

Customer service is one of the most important areas to work on when managing customer perception. This is one of the main areas customers look at when making brand-based decisions, so focusing on better customer service is a great way to increase customer perception. There are a few different ways to improve customer service, such as:

  • improving training and onboarding for customer service employees

  • bringing in secret shoppers to assess customer service experience levels in-store

  • asking for direct customer feedback through surveys and questionnaires

  • incentivising good customer service internally through staff rewards


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