By July 4, 2010 0 Comments Read More →

Perception is Reality

Perception is Reality

Perception is a key hurdle when dealing with customers. Whether you deal with internal customers or external customers, you have probably encountered a customer who has a perception of your service that you don’t agree with.

Your customers will see things differently based on their viewpoint or experiences so you shouldn’t be taken off guard.

Just remember, their perception is reality to them and the key to great customer service is knowing how to deal with it, since changing their perception is not an easy thing. This isn’t the same thing as the customer always being right – which they aren’t – it’s more about how to deal with their perception that they are right.

The customer’s perception influences whether they think they’re getting the service they expect or not. if you approach their perception as if it is true (i.e. that they are right), you will be in a better position to resolve it and convert the dissatisfied customer into a satisfied customer.

If how you treat their perception causes disagreement or argument, it fuels the fire and makes it more difficult to deal with the real issue. The argument about whether the customer’s perception is right or not overshadows the real issue and antagonizes the customer, making it much more difficult to convert them to a satisfied customer.

Naturally, there are times when the focus needs to be on changing the perception, but when this is the case, it should be done very professionally and diplomatically, without implying that the customer is wrong. Often the facts, carefully positioned, will help change their perception sufficiently to allow you to deal with the real issue at hand, and successfully satisfy the customer. They key is to let them change their perception without you confronting that perception head-on.

While this takes more time and a little more finesse, you will get better results. You also need to let go sometimes and deal with the underlying issue, not the up-front position. And mostly, you need to accept that in the customer’s eyes, you have not met their expectations and rather than fight it, simply fix it.

The best example I encountered was when one of my managers said something that was perceived by the customer very differently from what was meant. The customer became upset about what they perceived was happening and escalated the issue. It appeared that interpretation and terminology caused the customer to come to believe something that wasn’t true. To resolve the issue, instead of arguing with the customer about what was meant, the Manager simply apologized – therefore acknowledging the customer’s perception - and then clarified the real issue - providing information and facts to shift their perception and resolve the issue that wasn’t really an issue.

Getting an apology satisfied the customer, who was then much more receptive to the facts and information and then their perception changed on its own. This resolved the problem in a positive, cooperative manner.

Effectively dealing with customer perception means accepting that the customer’s perception is real. If you or your staff put up a defensive posture and defend your own position every time, you will never satisfy these customers. This is usually based on intense pride and a bit of an attitude on the part of your staff. They need to put it in check when dealing with customers – keeping a satisfied customer, whether internal or external, is more important to your company.

About Michel Theriault

Michel is the founder of Success Fuel for Managers. He is an author, speaker and consultant focusing on topics relevant to Managers and aspiring Managers in businesses of all sizes who want to get results, get attention, and get ahead. He is also a contributor to Forbes and AllBusiness Experts . Michel is available for speaking engagements, training and consulting. Connect with him or send an email.

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