Editor’s Note—August 2015

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When Perception Is Reality

by Gary Weidner, Editor / Published August 2015


The concept of “perception is reality” may have taken root on September 26, 1960. The occasion was the first televised debate between a couple of presidential candidates. On TV, Richard Nixon looked nervous, but John Kennedy appeared composed. As a result, Kennedy was perceived as a stronger leader. Not only did that debate significantly affect the election, it also changed how U.S. politics works. Managing (manipulating?) public perception became a major, if not the foremost, concern of politicians.

I tend toward absolutes. Facts define what something is in reality. Unfortunately, a fact of life in dealing with people is that perception often counts more than facts. Sales and marketing people are keenly aware of the role of perception, and they know that customer perceptions are crucial to sales and repeat business. In a distributorship, the sales people are likely to pay attention to customer perceptions.

On the other hand, the service people may naturally tend to focus mostly on nuts and bolts. Most of us like to quote, “Don’t judge a book by its cover,” but to one degree or another, we all do that. Suppose a mechanic arrives at a service call in a pickup that looks like it was loaded by Sanford and Son. The mechanic emerges from the truck wearing shorts and a tank top. Compare that scenario with one where the mechanic arrives in a reasonably clean utility-body truck and emerges in a uniform. (The uniform might bear the marks of one or more prior service calls.) Certainly the customer is likely to feel more confident in the mechanic perceived to be more professional.

During the service call, the mechanic who clearly explains to the interested customer (some aren’t interested) potential causes of the reported problem and what will be done to diagnose the problem builds in the customer’s mind an impression that the mechanic knows what he/she is doing. There are plenty of other ways mechanics influence customer perceptions; compliments to distributors who take that into account.

Side note—For a while now, most distributors have been referring to their mechanics as “service technicians.” I suppose that’s intended to create a perception of the service person as someone more sophisticated than a mechanic, in a manner similar to the title “customer account executive” frequently assigned to armies of telemarketers.

Service people, on a service call you’re not just repairing a machine; you’re creating an impression, so think about how to make it a good one.


Gary Weidner
(800) 525-7038