Sunday, February 12, 2006

Perception - A Customer Service Nightmare

I was having a conversation with one of my clients and the topic of customer miss-understanding. We have all had them I'm sure and they are enough to rip your hair out from dealing with them. The cause is poor communication. You are looking at the issue from your need to create sales and generate cash flow and this has little if any to do with the customers need. From a customers perception that is where they are coming from. It’s good to remember that communication is 99% of a sale. It is also the center of any relationship whether personal or business.

He had run a special as a leader to bring in additional traffic into his store. The ad was reviewed and reviewed before printing and distribution. In fact when it was published it was exactly as it was presented. The problem was that many of the clients read it differently than it was intended and when they came into the store to do business their perception of what the ad was about didn't match the intended proposal of the ad.

Every marketer in the country who has written copy has to deal with this. My research shows that they really don't face up to the issue because the individual isn't as important as the group. Yet statistically there is a sizeable niche that is affected negatively by mis-communicated ideas, which has a negative impact on customer loyalty and the brand. This runs true for sales people as well when they present their pitch. In fact, a fair share of the sales rejections comes not as I don't want what you have, but as they were never understood. The customer’s perception of the message was not inline with the intended message as was the case with my client’s ad.

The reason for this is that in marketing our products, brands, or services we focus on generalities, the one size fits all approach. This is the same with direct marketing. The reason why it works is a numbers game and the percentage that get the message are generally enough to keep business going.

In reality focusing on the micro niche and developing specific targeted messages would be of much greater benefit than business as usual in the marketing department. The importance of developing specific groups of organized customer interactions that send the right message can’t be emphasized enough. Creating the right perception and reaction to any given set of experiences adds to the influence of the brand.

As I proposed this to my client he rolled his eyes and argued that this would cost him a fortune. Yes, it does raise the cost, but you also significantly reduce your abandonment rates and defection rates while increasing significantly your customer loyalty and satisfaction indexes. Basically said the individual is more important than the whole. With large customer bases or small ones the results seam to be consistent.

Return increases at an average of twice the expenditure with results as much as 5 times the expenditure. Long term customer value increases and the cost of having to constantly develop new markets as a primary income generator are significantly reduced.

Creating meaningful customer experiences that focus on needs and perceptions is a very powerful approach to success. What you see very often isn't what the customer sees or understands because of their focus and that's a real problem for sales, relationships and the brand. Maybe to really drive successful businesses we need to change our focus and the position from where we are viewing the customer relationship.

As always you are invited to leave your comments and share your opinions. After all you are the community.

If you would like more information on customer service or customer experience management please visit
The Customer Development Center

1 comment:

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