How to Shape Customer Perception
Whether it’s planned or not every business has an image, and the most successful have learned that a positive image does not just happen. It is the result of a lot of planning, hard work and doing a number of things consistently well. Here are some of the essentials to shaping a high-quality service image in the customer’s eye:
Develop a customer profile. Get a clear picture of the kind of customers you want to win and keep. The more you can precisely define which customers you’re trying to serve, the easier it is to perceive your business through their eyes.
Look at your business through your customer’s eyes. Take a visual inventory of your operation. Start by evaluating your own appearance. Do you dress and make the effort to look like someone that your customers would come for advice? Next, look at your facilities. Does the customer see a clean, neat, professional operation or one that looks poorly maintained? Next, evaluate all communications that customers receive from you. Are your business cards, stationery and printed materials crisp, professional, and neat? Every single contact the customer has with your business is shaping his/her perception for better or worse.
Beware of overpromising and building unrealistic expectations. It may make you a sale but will likely cost you customers. The higher you build customer expectations, the harder it becomes to meet and exceed them. You run the high risk of customers feeling short-changed, not coming back, and telling others. It is a sure road to bad image. The key to a great service image is to under-promise and over-deliver.
Use problems as opportunities to demonstrate just what a great service your company gives. Customers judge the quality of service in two basic ways: 1) how well you deliver what you promise and 2) how you handle exceptions and problems. Most businesses treat problems as bad colds. They simply treat the bad symptoms and hope they go away. But the smart ones go that extra mile for the customer and show him/her just how dedicated they are to making sure that he/she feels good about doing business with them.
Develop a unique relationship with your customers and treat each one as someone special. Treating every customer in the same impersonal manner is one sure way to destroy company’s service image.
Keep in touch and keep them informed. If you fail to stay in touch with your customers, they won’t be aware of the good service you’re giving them until something goes wrong and they don’t get it. But by staying in touch after the sale or between sales, you can remind them of the fine service you give, make them aware of new products and services, and offer information to help them get more for their money.
Remember that a large part of good service is show biz. An important part of any service job is to entertain, amuse and make the customer feel good in as many ways as possible.
In summary, the acid test for the success of any business is the perceived overall value that the consumers think they are getting. The companies that offer value consistently to their customers are the ones that win and keep them.