From the early days of Design Pickle, there has been a lot of attention put towards our international design team. While most people are indifferent as to where their designer lives, many people express strong feelings against the idea of working with someone outside of the US.

Last year this issue came up enough I took to my blog to cover the topic. In my article, The Design Industry Is Shifting. Don’t Be Left Behind; I explored the idea of how innovation caused shifts within the labor force and recognized such a change occurring within the creative space.

I don’t care for, nor do I spend much time on haters, so aside from sharing my masterpiece article (if I do say so myself), I stay out of conversations debating the issue. Instead, I spend most of my time thinking about ways we can better educate the markets about our unique and pickle-themed graphic design company.

Statistically speaking 98% or more of our clients sign up happy. Some are so ecstatic to find our service it’s amazing. Out of everyone who signs up 80% or more remain confident throughout their experience with us.

Are there bumps in the road? Of course!

Overall, graphic design is a personalized service. Each party has to get comfortable with one another. If a happy client cancels most often, it is for reasons beyond our control. They are hiring an in-house designer, they no longer work at the company, or they have completed all of their design projects.

What interests me are the unhappy clients.

The folks who start off happy but very quickly become irritated, frustrated and annoyed with our tool.

Unraveling Emotions

What is odd is most, if not all, unhappy clients go through the same experience as our happy clients.

So many nights I sit around, eat pickles, and wonder to myself…

  • Why do these folks start off so happy and become so oddly disenchanted with our service?
  • Why does one client love us, whereas another client, with the same designer and same experience, gets so frustrated?
  • How can we better intercept these unhappy clients?
  • Even better, how can we prevent unhappy clients from turning faster than an extra in The Walking Dead?

As I dug into the issue, one common theme emerged. This issue seemed to be the key difference between our happy and our unhappy clients and could be summed up in two words — human connection.

Discussing human connection is substantially less scientific than key metrics like churn, MRR or LTV. Even still, our happy clients demonstrate a greater connection to their designer and the process of design overall.

This makes a BIG difference to our team and was eye-opening for me.

Informally polling our clients who seemed to resonate better with their designer, it became apparent they had a firm grasp on the simple concept that — surprise! — their designer was a real person, with family, a life and was a design professional committed to their success.

The unhappy clients treated their designer and Design Pickle as a whole, as a faceless robot, soullessly ordering their designs and expecting miracles to happen when it comes to the process of design.

With this clear difference in my head, I took a step back and looked at how we were communicating on a human level with our website and sales process.

I can’t control what experiences people have before they hire Design Pickle, but I can certainly control what they experience when they find our brand.

More Human Than Human

Aside from a buried About page touting our core values and a few photos of the team, I saw the problem staring me right in the face.

Design Pickle was not about the designers, the team or the experience. I had created a brand that was about being funny or silly, and we positioned our “service” of graphic design much like a magic graphic design machine with no mention of the people behind the scenes.

The human connection was severely lacking — and I was to blame.

There’s no magic bullet for suddenly humanizing a brand. Branding or rebranding is much like an excellent risotto.

If you’ve ever made a risotto you know it takes time, patience and frankly, the process is pretty tedious. Over low heat, you stir, add liquid, stir, add liquid, and so on until it’s just right. If you take your eye off the rice, adios. There’s no mercy for overdone risotto.

To better humanize our brand, I knew we had to add new elements, slowly and at a steady pace.

To start, we added a team page, which I believe is very rare with international workforces. Front and center in our primary navigation is a link to all of our full-time staff.

To be 100% honest, I was afraid to put up a team page. Perhaps I thought people would try and steal my designers, or I was caving to the pressure of haters that I’m destroying America.

Either way, I’m over it now. Being able to put faces to the names that fill thousands of client inboxes every day is pretty awesome.

We’re looking at a lot more ideas. Things like personalized introductions to designers, welcome gifts, and a printed newsletter, but like an excellent risotto, we’re just on the first few cups of broth.

With more time, more ideas will roll out, and I hope to create an even better experience, connection, and service for everyone who finds their place inside pickle jar.

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