You are in the Customer Perception Business

**This week’s eService is written by our guest blogger Angela Crawford, Chief Marketing Officer, Direct Opinions, a full-service professional market research firm.

Customers Control Your Brand Perception, But Are You Really Listening?
In an age where many consumers report making a purchase decision based solely on the reviews of other customers, it is exceedingly more important for companies to know what their customers might say before theyDirect Opinions Logo read it posted online for the world to see.  In fact, more than 88% of online shoppers incorporate reviews into their purchase decision.  Even if you are not selling a product online, whether it is face to face or via e-commerce, 91% of consumers search for feedback online before making a buying decision.  Therefore, companies who recognize that the customer is now in control of their brand perception have the opportunity to create a real competitive advantage that will last well into the future.

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Filling in a few bubbles or selecting the best multiple-choice answer doesn’t tell the whole story about a customer’s experience with your business. As a result, companies that deploy customer surveys often do so by collecting quantitative results, but not addressing the qualitative information they can glean from what their customers actually say. Simple email or online surveys, with multiple choice response options, do a great job at producing numbers to look at, but customer perception is more than a numbers game. Without open-ended questions, businesses are left with numbers, never really understanding the reasons why customers feel the way they do, or what the business can do to improve. They are missing an opportunity to truly listen to their customers.

The popularity of social media has taught us that people like to be heard, and the same holds true for your customers. As The DiJulius Group states in their article, It’s Not All About You, human beings are genetically coded to be self-centered. They want to talk about their experiences. The problem is, many businesses that make an attempt to gather customer feedback aren’t truly listening to those experiences if they are looking at numbers from survey results. Sure, all of us value the convenience of electronic communications. Using online surveys, though, is typically not enough to measure the complete customer experience and truly understand their feedback. Depending on the business and strategy, there may be a number of recommended methods to reveal the most actionable insights.

*Related – What if you posted all your Customer Reviews on your website?

In this changing environment, companies need to develop multiple mechanisms to gauge, and act upon, customer feedback. Partnering with an expert to gain insight into how to best leverage customer feedback will improve overall results. One method many companies continue to value is actually talking directly to their customers. Although customers may avoid telephone selling, many enjoy the opportunity to provide personal feedback to those companies with whom they have chosen to do business. Through this personal interaction, professional surveyors are able to capture the human emotion and details spoken directly in the words of each customer. Companies can then use these insights to uncover the customers’ true wants, desires, and needs.

Once executives have access to these calls, they are able to hear direct customer feedback and gain insights like never before. Hearing a need stated in the voice of their customer sets the stage for creating immediate actions to prioritize changes and innovations that may position the company over competitors well into the future. When you combine the quantitative measurements of a survey with qualitative listening, hearing the true voice of the customer, only then do businesses fully understand the direction they need to take to produce value for them.

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About The Author

John DiJulius

John R. DiJulius is a best-selling author, consultant, keynote speaker and President of The DiJulius Group, the leading Customer experience consulting firm in the nation. He blogs on Customer experience trends and best practices.

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