However, when the company's brand promise isn't aligned with market reality, it causes a brand perception gap. The bigger the gap, the less likely it is that your prospects will buy the first time or that your past and current customers will buy again.
In many ways, it is better to lose a sale to a potential first time buyer than to lose a customer. This is because the negative word of mouth (WOM) originating from a disgruntled customer can spread like wild fire and that WOM may be the very reason you couldn't close the deal with that first time prospect - it's a vicious cycle.
- If your marketing communications say that you make the highest quality widgets on the market, they better be pretty friggin' good.
- If you offer a "no questions asked guarantee", there better not be any hurdles put in place for getting a refund.
- If you claim that customer service is your top priority, your phones better be answered promptly by a helpful, knowledgeable and courteous customer service rep.
- If you advertise that you will beat any advertised price, beat the price or watch potential customers beat a path for the door.
But what if you've been honest in communicating your brand promise, are truly dedicated to creating a positive customer experience, but negative perceptions exist that ypou don't know about that may may be impacting your bottom line. What you don't know will hurt you.
- It's hard to find information on your web site - and the lengthy download forms are a pain in keester.
- You are unaware of the one rude telesales rep that is causing customers to hang up in frustration.
- Product instructions are poorly written and confusing to follow.
- Your customers consider your product/service acceptable for the price point, but wish it had a particlar feature(s) to make them consider your product/service amazing.
- Loyal, repeat customers don't feel special and wonder why there is no "frequent buyer" program in place.
These are not issues that would generally prompt a customer to write a complaint letter, but may be just enough for them to delay a purchase, check out your competition or not be your strongest brand evangelist. None of these scenarios are acceptable in this competitive and tenuous economy.
So what to do? To paraphrase Chicago Mayory Richard J. Daley, "Survey early and survey often". There are several inexpensive online survey tools such as Survey Monkey that make it easy for you to take the pulse of your customers and prospects on a regular basis to find out what they really think about your offering and what you can do to improve it.
Online surveys more than opinion polls. They are guerilla R&D that is invaluable for meeting and exceeding the customer expectations set by your brand promise. Back to Huey Long...
- Survey Early - Meaning early in the customer relationship - Which is immediately after the first purchase. "Thanks for your business. How do you like our widget?
- Survey Frequently - Touch base several times during the year. "How's that widget working out? Is there a way we can make it better?
Social media is another way to contact polls and increase engagement. People like to be part a company's decision process. However, due to the public nature Facebook or LinkedIn poll, the questions need to be fairly benign. For example:
We're thinking about adding a new frozen yogurt flavor. Which one do like best:
c) Boysenberry/Bacon Swirl
Does you company have a brand perception gap?
Find it. Measure it. Fix it.