Perception is Everything

Perceptions are developed very quickly and without your permission.  They do not account for your hard work, your good intentions, or your progress.  It doesn’t matter that you are short staffed, that your computer is slow, or that you’ve just had the busiest day ever.  What your customer perceives about your organization is based solely on their experience.  Perception is powerful.

Having well-trained, empowered people in your customer facing positions, working with efficient and effective processes are key – but the truth is, they don’t have to be perfect all the time.  The really great news about perception is that you can manage it around organizational weaknesses, but you have to be aware of it to manage it well.


I have tough love to share; effort is not enough.  Without expertise and a keen understanding and execution of your customers’ expectations, effort is a waste.  It sends me into an absolute frenzy to hear employees and managers defend poor service levels because their efforts were so grand.  That may very well be the case, but the efforts didn’t get the job done and they don’t have your customers asking for more, so you worked hard and not smart.

I was recently in line at one of the big coffee giant’s stores on my way to work.  I didn’t leave myself 20 minutes to get my plain coffee, so seeing the line when I walked in had my blood pressure on the rise.  I took a quick count of the people working: 2 at the register, 2 making coffee, 1 on the drive thru lane, and 2 others and decided that they seemed to have plenty of help to make the line go quickly.  I did not anticipate that their process was broken and that all the help in the world wouldn’t deliver their product or service the way either of us had envisioned.

Over the course of the 20 minutes it took to get my plain cup of coffee and the croissant I’d been talked into, I heard them announce “sorry, we’re sooo busy!” at least 12 times.  This is a phrase I had forbidden among my team for years (despite the absolute reality of it in retail) because customers can smell an excuse a mile away, because it’s inconsequential to the customer, and because the customer’s perception then becomes, “well, if they’re too busy, I’ll take my business elsewhere – somewhere that appreciates my time and money.”

My morning coffee now comes from the amazing family owned and operated Java Bean down the street!  The moral of the story?  You may appreciate your customers, but if your customers don’t perceive it, then a tree just fell in the forest and didn’t make a sound.

Please share an exceptional customer service story that you’ve experienced – my Positive PR Wall is looking for new additions!


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