Customer Perception

Why positive customer perception is crucial for success of your SaaS business

Perception. It’s everything.

What your marketing says about you and your product has less of an impact on your success than what your customers say about you. What they say is determined by what they think about you. They think how they feel about you. And that brings us back to perception.

Perception, simply put, is how your customers feel about your business, brand and product. It is their opinion of you.

Customer perception impacts everything, from acquisition, retention, churn, revenue, and even your ability to raise capital. So, to say that it has an exceedingly deep impact on the success of your SaaS business is not overselling it.

Customer perception is not a blackbox. There are definitive areas under your control, and things that you can do to establish a positive perception for your brand. So, what can you do to improve your customer perception, or start building one, if you don’t have it already.

Customer perception is closely tied to User Experience

You do a few Google searches around customer perception, and you will realise articles related to improving customer experience keep on cropping up.

customer perception 1

From managing and improving customer feedback to outright customer experience enhancement, your search results feature articles from all these categories. The simple reason is - customer experience plays a crucial role in shaping your brand’s perception.

If you offer a horrendous customer experience, whether via your product or your support, there is no amount of marketing, branding or positioning that will be able to help you establish a long-term, sustainable positive customer perception. The best you’ll be able to do would be build a house of cards by throwing money at your marketing and brand positioning, but one gust of wind, and it will all come tumbling down.

The easiest and the simplest way to look at ‘customer perception’ for your brand is asking yourself one simple question. How would customers talk about my brand when they are talking to someone? What would be the first thing they’ll say.

For example, I recently started using a SaaS product around managed wordpress hosting. If you ask me about it, I’ll say “Their product could be better, but they offer an amazing support experience. Any request I have had, they have been able to answer to those and integrate them in record time.”

Now, what does that say about the business? And what would it mean to a potential customer? It is an early stage company, so product shortcomings are often expected, excused and tend to get lesser with time. But, a great customer support infrastructure. It is quite important to most of us. So, all in all, while that is not the best customer perception this company managed to form, it is most certainly a positive one.

Customer perception is more than just whether your customers like you or not. It is the first feeling a mention of your brand inspires in your customers. What would they say about you when asked?

Understanding how your customers perceive your SaaS product will help you streamline your marketing, identify opportunities to accelerate growth, improve your services and drive engagement with your product.

How customer perception enables growth for your SaaS product?

How customers perceive your business is reflected in every action they take. Take simple examples.

If my customers’ perception of my content engine is that of offering valuable content, they are more likely to share their email address to stay updated with the latest posts. However, if they think my content is more about trying to sell my product and less about imparting value, the likelihood of them sharing their email with me would drop drastically. If my perception is that of a trigger happy marketer spamming them day in and out, that likelihood will quickly drop to zero.

The same analogy goes for engagement on social media platforms. Whether or not a customer would want to stay connected with us will always depend on how they feel about us.

Would you willingly invite someone to a party that you feel to be someone who gets drunk and creates a scene every single time? It is the same principle!

Trust is important on all levels, and it is important for all businesses. Customers like transacting with businesses they can trust, associating with individuals they trust. A little bit of trust goes a long way.

But, customer perception goes beyond just these simple parameters of trust and friendliness.

For example. Benne Analytics is a privacy first, growth focused analytics platform. If we are able to help our customers see how much we value privacy and able to create that perception, we are more likely to attract customers who value privacy as much as we do. Why? Because the customers know that our product’s values are aligned with their own values. As customers, we like associating with businesses that have similar values as us.

If your customers trust you. If they respect your values, your sincerity to helping them, and your commitment to serving them better all the time, you will find them to be quite forgiving and accommodating of the occasional shortcomings that inevitably plague all businesses.

How do your customers form a perception about you?

Marketing helps. Sure.

But your customers aren’t limiting themselves to messages you want them to be exposed to. Their perception is influenced by multiple factors. While your marketing is telling your customers, how you want them to see you, they due their own due diligence to form an informed opinion about you, your product, and your brand.

1. Reviews and feedback from other customers

Arguably the biggest contributor to a positive customer perception, and an even stronger contributor to a negative perception.

You, as a customer, go through online reviews of a product you are considering to purchase. Your customers do the same.

This is the truest form of social proof. Yes, the testimonials on your website help. But your customers are quite likely to look for feedback about your product independently, without any bias. The testimonials on your website are what you want them to see. A blog post on some review website that comes up when they search for your brand is what they find themselves. And because of the independent nature of these reviews, they tend to hold more water as compared to something you, as the brand, chose to push out.

What should you, as a brand, do? If your customers are looking for independent reviews about your SaaS product, so should you!

And you should do it objectively, without any bias.

Positive reviews? Great! Look at them to understand what exactly earned you that positive review. Something in there will help you arrive at possible contenders for what your brand’s perception is going to be like.

Negative reviews? Don’t fret, and most importantly don’t aggressively defend your product. Take time to understand the reasons behind that negative review, and what could have been done to avoid it. This can help you determine a future roadmap. And how you respond to these reviews will determine if this negative review creates a negative perception about you, or a positive one. Have empathy when responding to negative reviews. Acknowledge the shortcomings and lay out the plan on how you will make it better.

2. Quality of your customer support

If you have ever tried a product launch on a platform like Product Hunt or Appsumo, you do not need to be made aware of how important top-notch quality customer support is.

Products that support their customers frequently outperform all expectations of performance during their launches.

How you support your customers, act on their feedback and handle their queries and requests speaks volumes about how important they are to your business. Your customers invest in your product, your dreams, your vision, and having a great customer support system in place is a direct indication of how much you value their support and that you are just as much invested in their success and in delivering them a delightful experience of using your product.

A poor customer service, on the other hand, indicates that you are either paying little attention to the success of your customers, or do not have the necessary capability to take care of them. Neither of the two scenarios paint a flattering image of your product and your business overall.

3. Company values and ideals

Transparency and sincerity are the key here. As I mentioned earlier, customers prefer associating with businesses that have similar values to their own.

For example, if a company dedicates a part of its revenue to combating climate change or reducing carbon footprint, customers who are eco-conscious appreciate that initiative by the business.

But you need to be sincere and walk the talk. Take the example of Patagonia. When Patagonia received a $10 million dollar tax cut, they donated 100% of that amount to combating climate change - an action that was welcomed by their customers since the company was indeed acting in line with what their long standing company values are.

4. Marketing

Most people believe the primary function of marketing is to shape customer perception. That’s not true though.

Your customers form their perception based on the actions your business takes. If you do good, you create a good perception. It is then that the primary role of marketing in this regard comes up. In reinforcing that perception.

Your website, ads, content, social media presence - all play a vital role in helping you reinforce your perception, and guide users in the right direction. This is why it is considered crucial to have consistency in your marketing communique across different channels and platforms.

For example, assume you are trying to cement in the perception of being a developer-centric product. How do you reinforce that image? By making sure that everything that a developer needs, they can find. On a marketing landing page, you do that in many ways, such as:

  • If you have a “getting started” section, its goal should be to enable developers in adding the required code to their website right away to see the product in action.
  • The page should include quotes from other developers on how easy the implementation was, and how expansive the documentation is.
  • The page should list out the different platforms developers can include the code in, along with step-by-step instructions for each.
  • The page should have a sample code, along with link to documentation

Take the simple example of our product, Benne Analytics. We wanted to highlight how easy and simple it is to add Benne Analytics to your website, so quite prominently we show the simple short snippet a business needs to add to their website code to activate traffic measurement.

customer perception 2

This helps developers get a sense of how quickly they can get started with using Benne Analytics on their websites.

Wrappin’ Up

I would like to revise the line I started this whole piece with. Perception isn’t everything, but it is pretty darn close.

“…people will forget what you said…what you did, but…never forget how you made them feel.”- Maya Angelou

And how you made them feel determines whether they are comfortable enough in your presence or not. Whether they trust you enough to do business with you again, or continue doing business with you. Whether they are willing to stake their reputation by recommending you to their friends, family and network. Essentially, if you create a bad perception, you are not just losing business of 1 customer, you are losing out on his whole network.

Thoughts and feedback? Talk to me.

That’s it for today, see you tomorrow.

Cheers,

Abhishek

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