When Customer Perception Doesn’t Match Yours

Faris Alami
3 min readApr 11, 2023

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Image from Unsplash by Chanhee Lee

One thing I’ve learned in my years of working with entrepreneurs, small business owners, and the organizations that support them is that a mismatch in perception is almost guaranteed in every scenario.

Consider this one:

An entrepreneur opens a restaurant, and hires another entrepreneur to create a website for the restaurant. Months go by, everything appears to be fine. The web developer is happy with the dozen or so small businesses whose sites he builds and maintains. The restaurant owner, on the other hand, has visions of owning multiple restaurants around the country.

A few years go by, and the restaurant chain now has half a dozen sites — and the web designer is putting in more hours each month to stay on top of everything, but he’s still running the business alone, and the two entrepreneurs have regular conversations about the websites for each location, in which they work out differences of opinion. They’ve been a “team” of sorts for a long time and know each other’s style.

More years go by and now there are three dozen restaurants around the country, and the original restaurant owner is in a corner office in a cushy hi-rise office building.

Now when the web developer notices an issue with a site or feels information needs to be updated, he’s passed through layers of subordinates at the restaurant conglomerate — people who don’t know him at all, don’t know the history of the relationship between the two businesses — and honestly, don’t care.

There is a lot of misunderstanding and pain in a situation like that.

The restaurant owner is no longer involved in the day-to-day, and relies on an ever-growing team. The web developer is no longer able to chat with him like they did in the “old days.” His original “customer” — in the form of restaurant owner — is unavailable to him, and those to whom he has been shuffled — the marketing team — have no connection to him whatsoever. There is a growing misalignment — one that may or may not be easily resolved. The web designer might be OK with becoming a member of the restaurant team. Or, he may decide to cut ties and continue to cater to the small businesses on which his reputation was built.

Not so suddenly, the perception of each player in this game has drifted far away from the original, and become quite misaligned.

You have to keep updating the stories you tell about yourself and your business, the stories you share with the world. Hopefully, that influences how people think of your work or your brand — because the reality is that the brand is what they believe or think you are.

BEFORE YOU GO

We see our blogs as opportunities for dialogue. Please share your thoughts as comments.

  1. What can you do to ensure that you continue the conversations with your current customers?
  2. What can you do to ensure that your potential customers are aware of where you intend to go?
  3. What other suggestions do you have for making sure your customer expectations align with yours?

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Faris Alami is Founder and CEO of International Strategic Management, Inc. (ISM). He works internationally, presenting Exploring Entrepreneurship Workshops and other entrepreneurial ecosystem — related ventures.

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Faris Alami

Global Entrepreneurship ecosystem, SME and leadership development in local communities