Minding Your Own Brand: Why can’t they see it?

While browsing at my library’s used book sale I came across a book of Magic Eye images. As I flipped through it, I remembered this early 90s fad when these images dominated shopping mall kiosks, poster shops, Sunday comics, and coffee table books. I also remembered the first time I tried to see the hidden image amidst the swirls of colors. Everyone who could see the magic 3-D object couldn’t understand why I was having so much trouble. It was obvious to them and they would shout out hints on how to see it like, “Let your eyes cross, blur your vision, then refocus.”  For the longest time, nothing seemed to work. After staring at the image for a short eternity, I finally saw it. Then, because I was used to seeing the 3-D object, I couldn’t see anything but the hidden image. Most people were eventually able to crack the code, but there were a few people, like my grandfather, who either gave up trying or said they saw it just to shut everyone up. After re-living this perception-based fad, I began to reflect upon the concept of perception and the role it plays in building brand advocacy.

Our expectations plus our past experiences effect how we see a situation and because of that we often do not perceive things the same way others do. Like the people who cracked the Magic Eye code, small business owners and their employees are often so close to their products and services that they often perceive interactions very differently than their customers. Because of this, small businesses may feel they offer the best products and services in the world, but if customers don’t perceive it as the best and it doesn’t meet their expectations, then it is a crummy offering.

To someone who is close to the company’s everyday inner workings, a customer problem may seem routine, no big deal, and something that just happens. The employee may see the issue as something that “just slipped through the cracks” or had been the result of a process “we fixed or can easily fix now.” Employees often perceive a customer issue as the result of “one bad apple,” and they often say, “We have a procedure for that, but one person just didn’t follow it.”

Because of their familiarity with the business, an employee’s perception of a customer’s issues may be that the customer is harping on the negative and needs to move on. But for a customer, THEIR ISSUE is not routine and they don’t know the company fixed the process, protocol, etc. Until proven different, that one bad experience five years ago is reality for the customer, even though many of the things the customer recalls as being negative may have been fixed or no longer happens now. Even if their current issue is unrelated, they think, “Here we go again.” The customer’s perception is based on THEIR past experience which is all that they have to go on. Therefore, THEIR experience is REALITY: one bad employee is ALL of the small business’ employees and it is not just limited to employees; this goes for product quality, pricing, customer service, and so on.

So how does perception play into building brand advocacy?

Every time a customer interacts with your business, if you don’t provide and experience that which they “perceive” as extraordinary, they will remain passive if you’re lucky. They will stay that way until some other interaction changes their status either up or down.

However, if the interaction doesn’t work for the customer and they expect something you can’t deliver, they will be a detractor. This means they will tell the whole world how bad they perceive you to be.

On the other hand, if you (the small business owner) cultivate a culture which understands customer expectations and perceptions, you can ensure that every customer has an extraordinary experience each and every time. Because of this, your company will build passion in your customers and recruit advocates who will tell the world just how extraordinary they perceive you to be.

So if you find yourself saying, “We are such a great company, why can’t our customers see it?” Then ask yourself, “Are we giving customers an experience that they perceive is extraordinary?” If not, then ask, “How can we build an organization which understands expectations and provides brand experiences that people will perceive as extraordinary?”

Leave a comment

Avatar About the Author:

previous arrow
next arrow