As Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy this past September, Fast Company ran an excellent summary of Blockbuster’s woes by author Adrian Ott.

Her take?

Blockbuster misunderstood why people were choosing Netflix and Redbox in the first place, and they could never recover from their own clouded perception.

In their case, they underestimated the time their customers would be willing to spend in (or in transit to and from) their stores, when similar (and sometimes better) options were available online, or in less time-intensive settings.

You may not be running a video rental empire, but your business is almost definitely competing against external threats.  You may think you understand those threats, and how to combat them.

But you may also be wrong.

How can you tell whether or not your company is misdiagnosing its operational problems?

Ask your customers.

Social media makes it so easy to track and respond to customer complaints — or to solicit customer feedback on everything from their in-store experiences to their wish lists to their discussions about your company’s culture — that you no longer have an excuse for not knowing what your customers really think of you… and of your competition.

Here’s a test:

What do you think your value proposition is?

Do your customers agree?

(Do you know?)

Ask random customers for five reasons they’d suggest your products or services to a friend.  If their answers are wildly divergent from your own, you may have a problem of perception.

And no matter how far they are from what you think the mark is, when it comes to the public’s perception of your business, the customer is always right.

Just ask Blockbuster.