How do people perceive your company?

by Ron Pelger

When you enter a place of business such as an office, a warehouse, retail store, or a farm, what does your brain focus on immediately? It’s usually something distinct that catches your immediate attention. It sends a positive or negative message to your brain of an impression of a company or person.

For example, if an employee is chomping wildly on gum and blowing bubbles while handling fresh produce, how would you perceive that department or store.

What’s your impression of a company whose sales rep calls on you at your office reeking with tobacco and wearing a coffee-stained shirt?

Suppose you are touring through a greenhouse and you spot untidy growing areas, damaged ceiling and side panels, shoddy equipment and carelessly stacked product on pallets.  Would you feel comfortable in doing business with that supplier?

Everything we do or say sends what I call a “perceptive peripheral message” to others. Something conspicuous usually pops out at individuals within an all-encompassing view of the surroundings. That something can lead a person to form a lasting impression, be it good or bad.

Likewise, how do people see your own company? What impression do you send to the industry? One thing is for sure, you must capture customer perception in a positive way. Otherwise, your company reputation could be at stake and your business could suffer.

More and more retailers today send a “going out of business” message to their customers. It starts with out-of-stocks, one-layer stocking levels, old worn-out fixtures, missing signage, sloppy employee attire, etc. Would you continue shopping for food in that store environment? Probably not.

Would a retailer feel confident buying produce from a grower or shipper who has a shabby entrance lobby? How about a salesperson’s disorderly office? Worse yet, what if the company president’s desk is cluttered with distressed papers and spilled coffee cups? Could you instantly visualize your product arriving very much alike?

Suppose a new supermarket just opened down the street from yours. It promotes low prices, stocks product aggressively, offers free gifts, has superior service that draws away most of your customers.

What usually happens next?

In the produce department, a very common product reduction habit is to cease mass-merchandising of fresh-item displays in order to control shrink. Generally, a store will eliminate stocking fresh produce on a back table or two and filling in the space with bagged peanuts, dried fruit, candy, birdseed and items that have a longer shelf life. This is primarily to occupy the space. The next step is to remove some display fixtures altogether. Once again, this influences a customer’s peripheral perception. If it looks like you’re going out of business, then you most probably will go out of business.

To sum it up, it is important that you examine your company very carefully to make sure you are sending the proper message to your customers. Whether it involves product, a packing facility, distribution center, office, produce department, or a sales rep’s attire —— recognize the message you are sending to people.

When customers enter your business establishment, think about the general overall “peripheral perception message” you convey to them.

Remember —— what they see is what they will get.

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