As a UX researcher or a research-loving product manager, you spend your days uncovering new insights that improve your understanding of your users. But sometimes getting all of those insights considered in product decisions can be an uphill battle.
That’s because product teams and decision-makers are often forced to prioritize speed and delivery over discovery. It’s probably not a surprise that the average research project takes 42 days to complete (or about 6 weeks). From a researcher's perspective, that’s more than enough time to gather, analyze, and identify relevant user insights to make timely, informed product decisions. However, from a PMs perspective, that could be the time it takes for a competitor to swoop in and gain market share.
Our goal in 2022 is to help you and your product team prioritize discovery, act on your insights, and make every product decision customer-informed. So we're sharing 4 tips to help ensure your research is not only used by your company, but embraced. If you're ready to make 2022 more collaborative and customer-centric, let's jump right in.
4 Ways to Ensure User Research is Embraced by Your Company
1. Demonstrate the value and impact of user research
Effective user research has an outsized impact on business and product strategy. But in a field often described as providing “customer empathy,” it can be hard to quantify that impact to numbers-loving stakeholders. So how can we demonstrate business impact while creating cultural change that facilitates an even stronger appreciation for the business value research provides?
One way is to “focus on outcomes and decision making”, says Helen Jing, UX researcher at Opendoor. While we’re all familiar with research readout decks and meetings aimed at sharing our insights, it’s equally important to track the impact that our research makes. Victoria Sosik, Director of UX Research at Verizon recommends that simply recording these moments and keeping them in a shared repository can go a long way towards helping stakeholders see the bigger impact research can make on the business.
In addition to measuring overall research impact based on research outcomes vs. outputs, making time for strategic projects - studies that look beyond the current roadmap - helps ensure the business will take notice of research. That’s because strategic impact is easier to identify. While making an impact through tactical research can improve feature-level outcomes, making an impact with strategic research can improve company-level business outcomes, making it obvious for stakeholders to see how valuable research insights can be.
For researchers who feel stuck in an endless cycle of tactical studies, it can feel like a challenge to block off time for strategic initiatives without falling behind on tactical research needs. Luckily, tools like Sprig can help you get really specific feedback from your own users, in context, as they engage with your product, which help answer tactical questions in just a few days. That way you can free yourself and your team up for strategic studies and longer, meatier live sessions.
While making an impact through tactical research can improve feature-level outcomes, making an impact with strategic research can improve company-level business outcomes, making it obvious for stakeholders to see how valuable research insights can be.
2. Get product teams hooked on research insights
By doing research before making product decisions you can greatly reduce the risk of a decision flopping with users or having a negative business impact. But the reason product teams make decisions without insights isn’t because they want to. It’s because of the demands of their schedule and pressure from the market, executives or their manager.
But what if product managers craved research insights and didn’t want to make a product division without understanding the impact on users first? The key to creating a culture where research is a must-have instead of a nice-to-have is not only demonstrating the impact of research, as we stated in the first section, but also putting research at the fingertips of the people who use it. In other words, reducing the perceived time it takes to go from research question to research insight.
This is especially true for tactical research needs that come up quickly and answers are needed…. yesterday 😉. We know what you’re thinking, can’t product teams just slow down? Well..sometimes yes, but oftentimes a looming deadline or sprint means they need to make a call soon, one way or another.
Delivering insights quickly doesn’t mean you need to sacrifice quality or scale. In-context research tools can help you speed up your qualitative research process while ensuring the data captured is specific and actionable (and because you’re learning from users in-the-moment at key journey stages that can be difficult to recreate in live sessions, the data provides a level of granularity rarely achieved out of context).
The result? Research that’s fast enough for business decision makers, and meets your high bar for quality and reliability.
3. Empower your product team through effective research governance
As we mentioned earlier, spending more time on strategic research and getting tactical research insights to product teams faster goes a long way to ensuring research insights get embraced by product teams. In some organizations (especially those with limited UX research resources) both of these things can be accomplished by enabling product teams to conduct some of their own tactical research. Depending on your company culture and research philosophy, this may or may not be a strategy you choose to employ. If it’s not, skip down to the last paragraph of this section 😊.
If you do choose to enable PMs and designers to conduct their own research (also known as democratization), using in-context research tools can make it easy to answer tactical research questions by inserting bite-sized questions within the product experience. You can enable quick learning while ensuring clear rules of the road between product and research teams. For example, research teams can set approved in-product research templates for product team use. You can also set global and survey-level recontact windows so no matter how many research studies are going on at one time (by either team), the total studies a specific user will see is controlled.
Feel more comfortable with the research team owning and launching all in-product studies? That’s common at companies with large, established research teams. Thankfully with tools like Sprig, you can still give access to product, design, marketing and more to view results so teams aren’t reliant on research readouts to get the data and information they need.
4. Include Qualitative/VOC Metrics in Company-wide KPIs
Product leaders at most companies understand that qualitative insights can be extremely valuable. But surprisingly few companies take the step of building the customer perspective into key business metrics. This is a major missed opportunity to rally the whole company around the customer experience and demonstrate the value of research.
Here at Sprig, for instance, we’ve developed an experience metric we call the Sprig Score, which is a company-wide KPI alongside other metrics like usage and revenue. This metric is derived from responses to a 3-question in-product survey that measures customers’ overall satisfaction, product effectiveness at delivering value, and the customer experience. (We chose not to use NPS as a core metric for our company in favor of questions that are more tailored to our business strategy and that we know will provide more concrete, actionable insights.)
By elevating experience metrics to the same level as other key business metrics, we ensure the entire company is focused on users with every decision we make.
Of course, you can and should use whatever metric works best for your company. It’s best practice to ensure whatever metric you choose aligns with your product strategy and business goals. Measuring outcomes isn’t a one-and-done exercise. Rather, it is a continuous practice that improves your team’s knowledge about your customers. That’s the best way to keep everyone on track with user needs, put those needs at the center of the roadmap, and build products that they actually love.
When research is embraced, every product decision becomes research-informed
The next time you finding yourself asking “how can I make sure my research is embraced by my company,” remember the 4 tips we discussed:
Demonstrate the value and impact of user research
Find ways to get product teams hooked on research insights (and ask for them daily)
Empower your product team through effective research governance
Include Qualitative/VOC Metrics in Company-wide KPIs
If you do these things, we’re certain you’ll feel more fulfilled and have a huge impact on your users, your research practice, and your company as a whole. If you implement some of these strategies and tactics, we’d love to hear from you. Just share on Twitter @Sprig and let us know what you did and what changed for you as a result.
Ready to start obtaining in-context insights to help your company embrace user research? Get in touch.