The impact of customer perception on customer loyalty and retention
Both negative and positive customer perceptions impact their desire to return to your brand for future purchases. A negative perception results in a customer being much less likely to return for future sales unless they have no other alternative.
The negative perception also results in bad word of mouth that can cause your customer base to decline in numbers along with your sales.
In contrast, positive customer perception leads to positive online reviews and generates customer loyalty and retention. The customer has a favorable impression of your brand, they like the service they receive, and you've made them feel important to the business.
Customers are very aware that their money talks louder than anything else, which means their decision to frequent your brand shows you're doing the right thing to impress and keep a customer.
The role of perception in customer decision-making
Perception helps a customer form their decision-making process at all levels of the interaction between brand and customer.
It starts with the reason why a customer decides to engage with a brand in the first place. That reason is usually the need to buy something that the brand offers, the competitiveness of the price point, and the quality of the service or good in relation to the price point.
A customer brings these perceptions with them as they embark on their shopping journey, no matter if it's in person or online.
Sometimes a physical shopping destination has an advantage over a website due to the fact the customer can put their hands on a physical good and assess its quality/price in seconds, something that can aid in customer decision-making and perception. An e-tailer has to work harder to gain a positive customer perception in order to build brand loyalty and retention.
Pleasing the customer is the basis of a satisfying customer experience in either type of setting. A customer that has a positive interaction with the brand is one that has their perceptions confirmed and solidified that this retailer is worth frequenting.
A customer that returns for more of the goods or services provided by the brand and has the same positive interactions is one that is solidifying their positive perception of the brand and increasing the likelihood that they're going to become a loyal customer.
How to influence customer perception
In order to generate a positive brand perception, you have to be proactive in your efforts to make the customer feel good about their shopping experience.
The experience begins when the customer walks in the door or lands on your website, and ends when they leave. It's up to you to meet and exceed customer expectations and experience to solidify a customer's positive perception of your brand.
Provide high-quality products and services
The goods and services you offer need to be in line with your brand image and price points.
For example, you're selling educational and high-quality toys that aren't found in most department stores. These toys cost more than most mass-produced toys, and you're very clear about their higher price to the buying public.
Customers are aware of this fact when they come to your store, but you also provide top-notch service to your customer base in the form of explaining the benefits of the toy to the customer. That includes services such as making sure they're satisfied with their purchase before they pay, offering support in the form of answering questions and taking the toy back if it doesn't work out.
Alternatively, if you're selling items or services that don't command a high price point, you can still provide quality service that makes your customers feel like they got a bargain.
Be upfront about what you're selling, always give full disclosure about what the customer can expect from the good or service, and provide sales terms that make sense to both you and the customer.
This is known as managing expectations, something that costs a little time, but can result in strong customer satisfaction because you gave the customer a clear explanation about what they were buying before they purchased.
Customers don't like to be surprised, nor do they like feeling that they paid too much for an item. Taking the time to explain the price or providing extra value to the purchase goes a long way towards giving the customer the perception they were valued, their money was well spent, and their purchase of a good or service improves their life.
Manage customer feedback and complaints
Customer feedback tells you if you're doing something right or doing something wrong. It's true you can't make everyone happy, but if you're receiving a common complaint from a large number of customers, it's a sign you need to fix the issue.
Ignoring the issue only makes it worse and can alienate your customers. There's a benefit to negative feedback in the form of improving your product or service and applying that fix to other offerings that may suffer from a similar issue.
Responding to all types of customer feedback lets you know what you're doing right, what you're doing wrong, and lets your customers know they've been heard.
Taking action based on the feedback also makes the customer feel valued. Once you've fixed the issues, you can send out a customer survey to your customer base and find out if the problems have been solved. You can also use the survey to find out what makes your customers happy.
Create positive customer experiences
Customers want to feel good about their shopping experience, no matter if they're running into the grocery store for a quick shop or looking for a unique gift for someone on a website.
Setting up your physical business in a way that makes it easy for a customer to find what they're looking for goes a long way toward creating a positive customer experience.
Your staff can also aid in the customer experience by providing service that's appropriate for your establishment by responding to questions in a polite manner, helping an indecisive customer make a decision, and allowing a customer to shop without interference unless specifically asked for help.
Another way of creating a positive customer experience is to create a strategy that's based on customer feedback. Customer feedback or online reviews informs you of weak points in your business, identifies problems that need addressing, and what your customer feels or could be looking for when they visit your business.
Feedback is always contextual in that it applies specifically to the type of business you run, but it helps you identify what needs fixing and what to leave alone. Implementing the changes according to feedback enables you to create an environment that is customer-focused, and friendly, and improves customer retention.
Customers use social media to express their likes and dislikes about a company or brand. They may do it under their own name or anonymously, but they talk all the same. You can build a relationship with your existing customers by responding to their concerns, and compliments, or having fun with light banter.
All of this serves to put a "face" on your brand that shows customers you want to get to know them and help whenever possible.
Social media also gives you an opportunity to offer exclusive deals, discounts, or products to your customers. This increases their loyalty, deepens a positive perception among existing customers, and shows potential customers the value of following the brand's social media account.
Another benefit to engaging with customers on a social media account is the fact that the posts typically show up in search results.
Someone who's looking for what your brand has to offer can look at the social media posts and read through them. The more positive content you have that demonstrates customer satisfaction goes to show the reader that your brand is willing to listen to its customer base and respond with in-depth information.
How to measure customer perception
Understanding customer perception is an imprecise study, but you can measure how customers feel about your business by analyzing their actions, feedback, time spent shopping on a website, and purchase activity.
These metrics can be obtained through surveys, engaging with customers on social media, and using website metrics to learn more about who's coming to shop at your business. This information can be used to inform your marketing efforts as well as find areas of your business that need improvement in terms of providing a positive customer experience.
At Mailchimp, we have tools and services that help you learn more about the effectiveness of your marketing campaigns, if you're attracting your ideal customer, and reach as many customers as possible without sacrificing the quality of your customer service.
Our tools can help you measure success, make it easier to target your ideal customer, expand your marketing reach across multiple social media platforms, and track metrics that show you where to focus your marketing efforts. Our tools help you shape your customers' perception of your business and boost your revenue as a direct result.