Perception is one of the biggest hurdles when dealing with customers. Our customers see things differently based on their viewpoint or experiences, and their perception becomes hard to change.
The customer’s perception also dictates whether they think they are getting good customer service. While the old adage ‘The customer is always right’ can’t be taken literally, if you approach their perception as if it is true (i.e. that they are right), you will be in a better position to deal with it.
In addition, if their perception causes disagreement or argument, it can make it more difficult to deal with the real issue. The argument about whether the customer’s perception is right overshadows the real issue and antagonizes the customer, making it much more difficult to end up with 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 perception sufficiently to allow you to deal with the real issue at hand, and successfully satisfy the customer.
A Real Life Example
A number of years ago, a Project Manager made a comment to one of my customers that was perceived very differently from what was meant. The customer became upset about what was said and escalated the issue. On investigation, it appeared that interpretation and terminology caused the customer to take the comment negatively. To resolve the issue, instead of arguing with the customer about what was meant by the comment, the Project Manager wrote a letter first to apologize for the comment and then to clarify the real issue. Getting an apology satisfied the customer, who was then much more receptive to resolving the real issue in a positive, cooperative manner.
Never argue with a customer’s perception. The best way to deal with their perception is to resolve it as a real issue. This gives you a chance to explain (or apologize) based on what the customer sees, not what you see, and will make it easier to get past their perception and deal with the real issue necessary to satisfy the customer.