How Consumers Form Their Impressions of Companies

SNCR-How-Consumers-For-Impressions-Companies-Sept2014The quality of a company’s products and services is by far the most important factor for consumers when they form their impressions about a company, finds a recent study by Vanessa DiMauro and Don Bulmer in conjunction with The Society For New Communications Research. While quality is also the top factor that builds consumer loyalty and influences their purchase decisions, price and customer service switch roles depending on the consumer motivation in question.

Respondents – the vast majority of whom are US-based – were presented with a list of 11 factors and asked to rate their importance when forming impressions about a company. 8 in 10 rated the quality of products and services very important; by comparison, the cost of products and services was very important to 55%. Beyond those, the company’s customer care program (37%) edged what friends, family or other trusted people say about the company (34%) in importance, both slightly ahead of customer reviews and ratings on social media sites (30%). At the bottom of the list were what the media reports about the company (13%), what the company says in ads (10%) and the company’s social media presence (7%).

Although customer care appears to be less important to consumers than price when forming their impressions of a company, its influence is more pronounced in the loyalty stakes.

When respondents were asked in an open-ended question about the events or factors that cause them to be loyal to a company (loyalty was defined as continuing to use a company as opposed to actively seeking other options), 51% of respondents provided an answer relating to quality, the leading response. Close behind, though, was customer service (48%), which topped price (36%) in the loyalty rankings. Of note, fewer than 1 in 10 reported that rewards programs cause them to be loyal. Also of interest, the report notes that once customers become loyal to the brand, they’re less likely to turn to online sources to shape their future purchase decisions.

As for those purchase decisions? Asked to rank the importance (top-3) of 7 factors when choosing to buy products or services from a company, consumers rated the following their top factors:

  • The company offers the best quality (31% most important; 25% second-most important); and
  • The company offers the best price (23% most important; 28% second-most important).

Trustworthiness – despite being a top attribute for Millennials – was cited by fewer respondents (19% top ranking), as were recommendations from friends or family (13%), a fairly surprising result given research showing the power of word-of-mouth.

Meanwhile, it’s interesting to see quality pop up yet again as a significant driver of loyalty and purchase decisions. A recent survey found consumers most likely to define brand loyalty as shopping on the basis of quality rather than price; as a result, a company’s consistency in offering quality products and services emerged as their top loyalty driver. In an earlier survey of US CMOs, respondents believed that customers prioritize superior product quality and excellent service over low prices.

It looks like those CMOs might have been right on the money…

About the Data: There were 927 adult respondents to the survey. The 18-35 bracket constituted 45% share of respondents; those over 45 represented 36% share. Some 54% of respondents are women.