IN BUSINESS, we work to meet or exceed customer expectations to build a successful growing business.  Understanding what customers are looking for and anticipating their expectations is one of the critical keys to executing a winning business plan. 

There are several methods for collecting data and analyzing results, trends and profiles to determine clear understanding of what has happened historically.  The challenge is that past behavior does not necessarily dictate future actions unless all relevant effects are considered.  The one effect on behavior that is underestimated and often unpredictable is perception
People will often defy all logic, facts and reason to take action based on what they think or feel on account of their perception of the situation.  This process of action, based more on perception than actual facts (reality), is often the leading element impacting behavior. 
Some obvious examples that occur every day include: 
  • Stock market pricing impacted by certain news or world events
  • The historic events of the “Dot Com Bubble” when stock prices rose to incredible values without any underlying financial results to support the stock valuation
  • The obsessive buying of a diet product because of sensational media coverage
  • Jury trials for civil class-actions where evidence is presented and facts are provided, but juries still make a determination based on their perception
  • Consumers who lose confidence in a product because of rumors, hearsay or propaganda
  • Colleagues in business who don’t support an idea or plan because of a lack of information or unqualified belief in another direction
The important point about perception is recognizing that people may often make decisions regardless of the actual facts in a circumstance.  All the effort in the world to explain and prove facts that are clearly evident may not change someone’s perception.  Conversely, in some circumstances, to ignore the opinions of outsiders is to ignore the marketplace’s perception.  Executives, designers or sales professionals should keep an open mind when it comes to the opinions of their customers’ perception of their product or service.

While something may be perceived one way by its creators or distributors, what really matters is how it’s perceived by the consumers.  The key is to recognize and accept the presence of perception and manage programs and business initiatives to respond to perception as part of the reality of business.