Tag Archives: Starbucks

Perception Is Reality


It’s true. If a person perceives a brand, a product, a service, a retailer, a restaurant, etc. to possess certain qualities, it colors all of that person’s interactions with that entity. Even when hard evidence shows the perceived belief is not true.

Certain brands have buzz and are perceived by many to be cool, superior, innovative, etc. The list includes Starbucks, Apple, Uber, IKEA—I’m sure you can name a few more. Even when those cool brands fail or when they “borrow” ideas from others, they are often given a pass because of positive customer perceptions.

The current TV series The People Versus O.J. Simpson reveals incorrect appraisals of potential jurors by both prosecutor Marcia Clark and defense attorney Johnnie Cochran. Each perceived African-American female jurors to be sympathetic to the prosecution’s case. Both were wrong. The scene showing Marcia Clark behind the glass monitoring a focus group as they offer comments about her is powerful and enlightening.

During my radio career, I was reminded many times that perception is reality. If a listener perceives that station A plays more music than station B, it doesn’t matter which station actually plays more music. If a listener thinks a personality is snarky and insensitive, that personality can perform tons of good deeds and still be perceived to be a jerk. A listener’s perception is that listener’s reality.

Because perceptions matter—whether they are based on facts, gossip, online chatter, peer pressure or subtle factors—it is important to work to mold perceptions. Public relations, marketing and social media all play a vital role in creating and reinforcing positive consumer perceptions of a product, a service, a radio station, an idea or a presidential candidate.

It is dangerous to presume that we know how customers or prospects perceive the goods, services and messages we offer. How do we find out what they think? We observe how they act. We monitor their online comments. We ask them. What is their perception? It’s their reality.





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Respect Your Customers

Everyone who deals with the public has stories to tell. The woman in line at Starbucks who complains that her drink takes five minutes to fix when there are ten people ahead of her. The person who sends in payment after deadline and thinks late fees only apply to others. The man who questions every charge on a service invoice. The person who thinks everybody is trying to screw him over in some way.

Those who work in the food and beverage industry may have the best stories. Many involve alcohol. Some involve people who say, “I’m a good friend of the owner” and expect deferential treatment. Some involve customers who make rude remarks about a server’s appearance. Some involve customers who are truly impossible to please.

Whatever business you are in, whether your customer base consists of a handful of clients or hundreds or thousands of patrons, all deserve your respect—unless they step over the line. Certainly customers who are abusive or whose behavior is disturbing to other customers should be asked to leave. (Or dropped from your client list.) But when a bar, restaurant, coffee shop, ice cream stand or food truck opens for business, there should be an expectation of and preparation for difficult customers.

In the much-discussed case of the sports bar server who identified a customer to the kitchen staff as a “f—ing needy kid,” an overall lack of respect for customers was demonstrated. Even if management did not promote this sort of culture, it should have made clear to staff that such lack of respect for customers is unacceptable.

Numerous online commenters say that it was partly the fault of the customer for having brought a young child to a sports bar. Others have pointed out that it was an inside joke between the server and the kitchen and was not meant to appear on the bill handed to the customer. And some bar and restaurant patrons have said that in the giant scheme of things, this was not an overly egregious offense. In any case, it should not have happened and the bar owner, correctly, made a sincere apology to the customer.

Now that national attention has come to the incident—the Huffington Post item posted Tuesday has 1,570 comments as of Thursday morning—this is obviously a “teachable moment” for all who deal with the public. Respect for customers—even “difficult” customers—is a message that all managers should communicate and enforce.

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Time For You To Raise Prices?

The costs of many goods and services are rising fast. Should the prices you charge for the services you provide increase in 2012? Are you charging too little or too much? Or are your fees just about right?

What’s going up? Gasoline, food, hotel rooms, Starbucks coffee, airline tickets, rental real estate, postage stamps, Powerball tickets, Super Bowl TV spots and even the Grand Slam breakfast at Denny’s are all becoming costlier. Some of these will affect your cost of doing business.

If you are selling widgets and your supplier charges you 15% more, you can easily explain to customers your price increase. But if you provide a service—like Public Relations or other business consulting—customers may be resistant to a fee boost.

Do you need to increase your fees? Ask around. Some who provide services similar to yours may not be forthcoming about fees, but many will be. Prospects may be able to tell you what they have paid for such services recently. Compare your fees—and the quality of your work—to your competitors. You may need to make adjustments.

If you have provided your services to a client for several years at the same price, a modest increase should not cause upset—if the client is pleased with your results. It may be better to give notice of a fee increase—say, 60 or 90 days. You may also be able to increase your revenue from a particular client by increasing the volume of work you do for that client.

When pitching your services to a new client, propose working at a fee that is higher than what your current clients pay. Work to negotiate a fee that is good for you and for your new client.

It is vital to remember that fees are not always the determining factor as to whether you get and maintain a contract with a client. Your track record, your reputation and your personal interaction with your client are just as important. But if your record, rep and personal style are creating good demand for your work, your fees should reflect that.

Determining the true market value for your services is not always easy. But when you do make that determination, it’s money in the bank.










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