Stop the Overwhelm: Use Neuroscience to Communicate Clearly with Customers
Updated: Feb 2
Do you find new customers are overwhelmed during onboarding? Do you repeat the same things over and over because customers just don’t remember what you told them in the first place? To make things easier from day one, use visuals. Neuroscience tell us that images are better than text for customer onboarding.
In my popular article, The Neuroscience of Onboarding, I share how brain science comes into play during customer onboarding. In order to build trusting relationships with new customers, you need to address how people deal with first impressions, confirmation bias, and buyers' remorse. It turns out that neuroscience is also involved with how you communicate important information during onboarding, implementation, and beyond. That’s because our brains process visual information more quickly and more easily than text.
Customers are overwhelmed
I work with companies that sell complex software. In order for success to be possible, there is data to migrate, APIs to connect, customizations to be made, and new processes and technology to learn and use. These can be formidable for new customers, especially when they aren’t tech savvy. Your new users are likely overwhelmed in the early days of purchasing a new solution and all that it entails for their business.
When you throw long task lists and complicated requirements at new customers, they can’t process the information. Communications Designer, Dr. Echo Rivera, indicates it’s easy to send new customers into cognitive overload during onboarding because, “Our working memory is that space where we're processing, thinking, and trying to fit that new bit of info into its new ‘home’ in our brains. It's really easy for us to get overwhelmed during this process—especially if there are distractions, we're tired, or get confused.”(1)
Communicate with visuals
If you want to retain your customers, you need to understand how they learn and retain the details you share with them. That’s where visuals come in. I’m sure you know the phrase, “a picture is worth a thousand words.” That’s because the human brain processes visuals up to 60,000 times faster than text.(2) Research shows that people pay attention, understand what you tell them, and use that information effectively when you show them images.(3)
I learned from Customer Success expert Ed Powers that the brain is essentially an association machine. “It’s easier for the brain to connect an image (or framework) with an abstract concept than it is describing it using language and text.” Ed shared with me. The reason is symbols are much faster and easier to process by our intuitive subconscious than our effortful conscious brains. Visuals are so effective because about 80% of our sensory computing power is visual processing. A study conducted on active learning showed that 10-20% of the participants were able to remember spoken and written information while over 50% of visuals and images was remembered.(4) Words and text are stored in short-term memory while images are stored in long-term memory.
Take a look at the image below, “Humans Loves Good Visuals.” It pretty much sums up the many letters, words, and paragraphs I use in this article to communicate how important visuals are. In fact, you probably will retain what is communicated in that image longer than these words you are reading now. Strategy expert, Melissa Majors, told me that our brains process every letter we see as a separate image. When you see images, you remember what you learned faster.(5) Since it’s easier to process a visual signal more quickly than to read a sentence or a paragraph full of text, use visuals to share important information with your customers.
Take the time to create simple images
Save time when you communicate with customers by taking the time to create images. Start with basic images to show the journey you are on together, then build on them as you progress on your journey. In addition, include simple diagrams that illustrate the integrations and connections required to go live with your product. I often use the smart art features in most presentation applications. Once I have basic images, I work with graphic designers and marketing teams to make the images look fabulous. Below are examples using my Orchestrated Onboarding(TM) framework.
Convey what happens at each stage.
Create a branded image.
Show the progress
Keep new and existing customers engaged along the onboarding journey and beyond. Leverage images to communicate important information such as milestones, deliverables, key points along the journey, and to show how far you have come. When you show customers their progress visually you actually keep them more engaged. It’s like the tug at the end of a race. Even though you’re tired, when you see the finish line you suddenly get a burst of energy to drive yourself forward. Well, it’s the same for customers when you show them how close you are to go live and other milestones. This phenomenon is called the “goal gradient effect.”(6)
Show progress along the journey.
Rather than playing tug-of-war with new customers, leverage neuroscience to align with the way brains process information. Move away from the overwhelm of too much text and toward images that convey important information during onboarding and implementation. Your customers will appreciate you for it.