A first impression is all it takes to make or break customer experience. We unconsciously develop an image of other people and things in 7 seconds. In those 7 seconds, our brains look for micro-expressions on someone’s face, body language, posture even the sound of your voice. If our brains pick up positive expressions, like smiling with squinting eyes, a soothing smooth voice, open visible hands/arms, and a relaxed posture, we will automatically like that person more. If you compare it to someone that has a smirk, cracking voice, hands in his pocket, and a collapsed posture, we will see that person as less trustworthy, not that likable, even obnoxious in some cases.
Yes, that’s right, we also have that first impression about objects or even images, colors, text, videos, etc. Actually, anything we can experience with our senses; what we physically feel, smell, hear, see and taste. You might think that’s nonsense but think back to the first time you’ve tasted from something and never tried it again, or that awful smell and never wanted to smell that again. Our brain is wired to release the chemicals dopamine and serotonin when we experience something pleasant; it actually gives us that happy feeling. Whenever we don’t feel happy, those chemicals aren’t released, and we (un)consciously trigger memories of sad, bad, hateful, resentful things we’ve experienced.
So how does it correlate to objects, images, colors, text, videos, etc.?
We are wired/build to recognize patterns; the closer those patterns represent nature, the more we like it. We are a part of nature, so our desire to belong and align ourselves with nature is always there. Even someone who is more interested in technology can’t escape liking shapes and lay-out/placement more when it is in line with the world around us and nature itself. The one thing most designers know and use is the “golden ratio” for example, even a simplified version of it is used in photography and art, the rule of thirds.
If you blindfold yourself and have to touch a random object without knowing what it is first, chances are pretty high you can guess what is. If we use our other senses of smell, hearing, and taste, it even increases that chance drastically. Our sight is the most deceptive sense we have, all because of how our eyes work and our brain translates what we see. Any optical illusion proves how deceptive our own eyes are. This comes back to how we are built to recognize patterns; our brain fools us to make it look as close to how it would look in our 3D world. Most optical illusions use some form of depth perspective or color contrast to fool us.
Yes, colors can fool our eyes and brain too. Color contrast can be manipulated by adding black or white next to a color, making it look lighter or darker than it actually is, even with the same color. However, there is more to color than meets the eye; we link colors to emotions and feelings. Some colors even represent opposites; I’m talking about red of course; it stands for love and hate. Linking color to emotions and feelings is as old as our existence itself. It comes from our instinct to survive in the wild, to battle the forces of nature. In nature, light either reflects or gets absorbed; it’s that reflection that gives our world color. Over time we linked, for example, the color blue to the cold because of ice and water; red, yellow, orange to warmth because of fire and the sun.
We link the world around us to colors, just like colors link the world to us.
Now that we know the basics of how our mind works, we can use that to communicate. That’s what design is all about, to communicate from one person to another. We’ve grown so accustomed to seeing videos, posters, billboards, websites, images, text, color, shapes, etc., in our daily lives. We can’t even wake up without seeing them; even worse, we dream about them.
The world is a jungle of sensations; to make sense of them, we need design, we need structure, we need consistency.
The job of a designer is to make sure that people understand your message. It could be anything, though, a simple symbol to differentiate the men’s and women’s restroom, or that giant billboard showing that new car from your favorite car brand, or an ad on tv about that lip-gloss. How those designs are presented to us will either make a positive or negative experience, and that’s where customer experience comes into play.
If you visit a website and can’t immediately find what you’re looking for, then you won’t stay there; you’ll visit the next website or even stop searching altogether. On the other hand, if you do find what you’re looking for, but the website has a poor design, text all over the place, no structure, broken buttons, or no buttons at all… you’ll probably skip that one too. For a positive customer experience, we need both. We need a clear message to everyone who visits; tell it to the people straight; a 6-year-old should understand your message. That message also has to be surrounded by design, structure, and consistency. The minimum basics on how they can get what they are looking for; either contact you, buy your product, read this blog,… aka a “call to action.”
Function beats looks, but looks create function.
Consistency can be created by using the same colors, the same shapes, a symbol/stamp, aka a logo, to recognize your business or organization. Your main goal is to sell to that potential customer; providing the easiest experience possible makes it easier for them to buy. These days we can buy something in less than a minute; that time will shrink even more in the next decade to mere seconds.
As a brand strategist, I fit everything we talked about into a roadmap to ensure your customers have the best experience with your brand. Knowing who your ideal clients are and where they spend their time is our starting point. Making a profile of your ideal client gives us insight into what they like and how they interact with the world.
We can’t sell soccer shoes to a basketball player even though both people like sports. The more we can narrow it down, the better the result. It’s not so much about the quantity of people you reach; it’s about the quality of those people as potential customers. If the people you do reach are more likely to buy your service or product, then you will sell more; it’s that simple.
On the other hand, we don’t really “sell” anything, or at least I wouldn’t focus on your sales only when running a business. If you provide your target audience with a welcome feeling, with a story they can relate to, listen to their stories, give them free value, they will start to like you, admire you, talk about you; they become true fans and loyal clients, even friends. It’s all about connecting to them emotionally, and since we’re all different, we all need something slightly different to be able to connect on that level. Customer experience is where that connection happens.
Knowing what we know about first impressions, the impact of color, shapes and their placement/usage, how our eyes and mind can be deceived; we can, in some way or another, guide emotions of people to like us or our business “more.” However, we can’t force people to like us, and we can’t please everyone. There will always be people that won’t like you and experience your customer service as “bad.” Don’t forget we also have emotions like jealousy, greed, power, hunger, hate, aggression, etc. Just like the color red can represent both love and hate, so can our brand change in the minds of our customers.
Customer experience is what people experience in the first 7 seconds they come in contact with your brand; so make them count!