A company’s success relies (at least partly) on its customers’ perception of it. The saturation of great products and even greater marketing techniques has made competition in most markets relentless and fierce, forcing brands to up their games with customized and personalized service offerings that set them apart from everyone else. When disruptions challenge normal consumer buying patterns and expectations, companies must be even more responsive, reacting quickly in order to remain top-of-mind and relevant to the people they serve. Here’s how customer perceptions can change during a disruption and what companies can do to maintain and even grow their market share when faced with one:
But First, What is a Disruption?
A disruption is any disturbance to the normal order of things. In the business world, it can be an internal company problem that affects service or information security, or it can be an external problem stemming from a political, economical or even public health (hello, COVID-19) crisis. Whatever its source or cause, a “disruption” differs from other types of problems because it impacts the majority of customers at the same point of time, thus requiring a coordinated and public company response.
How Disruptions Affect Customer Perception
Customers can be fickle and customer perception even more so. When a disturbance threatens a business’s success, top management must recognize — as well as respond to — it as quickly and as aggressively as possible. Failure to do so makes it easier for customer perceptions to change (often negatively) as a result. In this way, a company’s ability to adapt to disturbances will inevitably influence how well it survives them.
Nothing changes customer perception more than a change in customer need. A recession, for example, can prompt customers to forgo nonessential purchases (like personal gaming consoles) in favor of essential ones (like food and medicine).
For many, a crisis is also a time to reassess value. What once was desirable may not be useful or meaningful, and thus, not nearly as valuable, during a disturbance. Remember: a product is only valuable if someone wants it!
Furthermore, accessibility greatly affects customer perception, with sales frequently going to the products that are easy to get. How and when and where items are sold make a company’s products convenient and, therefore, desirable, depending on the circumstances. Case in point: restaurants that have been able to adapt their business models to include delivery and/or takeout options during the current pandemic are faring better than the ones that can’t or won’t.
Of course, customer perception hinges on trust. Companies must safeguard customer confidence in their products and their integrity, if they want customer perception to be positive and their business dealings to be profitable. Sometimes, simply being honest and forthright during a disturbance can garner customer trust and loyalty; just look at Domino's Pizza!
How CFR Helps Companies Respond to a Disturbance
This all brings us to what companies should — MUST — do during a disturbance: they should continually be on the offensive, conducting solid market research that helps them navigate the changing tide of customer perception so they can better control their journey to success. At Communications for Research (CFR), we use a variety market research techniques to harness consumer insights that can maintain, grow and even change customer perception, improving your business practices and your ROI! Contact us to learn more.