Challenges of Understanding Customer Perception

by Jeannie Walters

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There are many people out there who lack all self-awareness. I’m sure you know the type. Those who loudly blow their noses in fine restaurant dining rooms. The characters who silence the room with tasteless humor, but continue laughing at their own jokes. Or maybe it’s the office manager who always plays the victim – she’s shocked because she was fired a THIRD TIME by yet another boss who just “doesn’t understand her.”

Customer Perception

How do we become self-aware?

I personally don’t believe complete self-awareness is possible. After all, we’re on the inside looking out, never on the outside looking in. How do we truly know how others perceive us? How do we know when we’ve really impressed someone or when they were just being polite?

Customer perception is no different.

Organizations face the same challenges individuals do. It’s difficult for anyone to truly understand the actual experience their customers have. After all, each person within the organization has a role to play. There are specific, time-sensitive challenges and objectives tied to each person’s livelihood. It becomes the individual’s sole responsibility to focus on reaching those goals. If my goal is to meet a certain sales quota, that’s undoubtedly what I’m going to focus on every single day.

It’s not easy to admit we can’t see the forest for the trees. I often remind people that I only like to work with “enlightened leaders,” because most leaders are not as ready to hear the truth as they think. Is your company being as self-aware as possible for your customers? It’s easy to fall into a pattern that distorts your view of the true customer experience.

Customer Perception

Here are some patterns I see ALL THE TIME.

  1. Different departments focusing on different parts of the customer journey result in customers having to re-learn how things work. Over and over again. [Cough-cough] Hello, GOOGLE?
  2. Sales goals or other short-term initiatives mean customers get different treatment from day to day. Want a better deal? Wait until the end of the month, when sales people are scrambling to meet those quotas!
  3. Customer service seems exceptionally good because after a customer locates the service department, everything gets taken care of. But nobody’s looking for issues that could be addressed proactively for customers.

How can your organization become more self aware?

That is a difficult question. How about as an individual? Much of it is relative to mindset about honesty. When you look in the mirror, what you see is not necessarily what others see. So if you’re trying on a wedding gown, you want someone objective to tell you “you look spectacular” as well as “I think you should try something else.” In this case, you readily admit you need a third party to help you make the right choice.

Customer Perception

Many are surprised to know my Customer Experience Investigation™ initiatives with clients tend to be long-term. If you approach customer experience as a project with an end-point, you mas not see it right away, but it’s doomed. Customer experience is not a project or a thing, but a living, growing relationship. Your marketplace, your services, your employees, your clients change like the weather. The only way to truly get your arms around the experience is to continually, relentlessly evaluate it from the outside looking in, which is where my team comes in.

Encourage your culture to think- not just about how the customer is interacting with your product or department, but about the total customer experience. Then swallow your pride, bring in that third party when you try on your customer experience for size, and listen to the truth.

Image credits: To see all my photos, davitydaveDuy Truong via Creative Commons

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Jeannie Walters

Jeannie Walters is the CEO/Founder of Experience Investigators, a global Customer Experience consulting firm. She has 20 years of experience helping companies improve loyalty and retention, employee engagement, and overall customer experience. Jeannie is a Certified Customer Experience Professional (CCXP,) a charter member of the Customer Experience Professionals Association (CXPA,) a Professional Member of the National Speakers Association, LinkedIn Learning instructor, TEDx speaker, and President-Elect of the National Speakers Association Illinois chapter. Learn more here.

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