13 Questions to Ask Your CX and UX Consultants Before You Select a Partner

Here are 13 questions you should ask as you evaluate your shortlist of candidates to serve as your CX or UX consulting partner.

So you’ve been fighting for your budget, developing a plan, selling your project internally, and now have the go-ahead—but you don’t feel that you have the customer and/or user experience (CX or UX) team to get the work done.

You’ve looked around at a number of digital agencies, CX or UX boutiques, system integrators with CX or UX groups, and ‘Big 5’ consultancies touting digital experience strategy, design, and end-to-end development capabilities.

After reviewing their websites, reading industry analyst recommendations, and talking with some of your colleagues, you’ve narrowed your search to a few that seem to have the knowledge, team, and experience that you need to successfully complete your project. In this post, I’ll share 13 questions you should ask as you evaluate your shortlist of candidates to serve as your CX or UX consulting partner.

Three ingredients of a strong CX or UX partner evaluation program

Before jumping into the questions to ask during your evaluations, you first need to set up your evaluation process for success. Here are three ingredients for a strong partner evaluation program:

  1. Avoid blind Requests for Proposal (RFPs) so that you can actually meet and get to know the CX or UX consulting company that you might be working with. The RFP process can lead to more confusion, and many firms will not participate, since the process doesn’t allow for them to honestly present themselves and their individual strengths.
  2. Plan to have at least one face-to-face meeting with each CX or UX team prior to the final proposal. In contrast to an RFP, a face-to-face meeting will avoid losing potentially strong candidates before the process begins, as well as help you confirm whether the number and quality of the candidates on your shortlist is sufficient.
  3. Communicate your project budget as a range rather than a single number. You will have companies at higher and lower costs. Each consultant may have a different concept of the scope, which can lead to wildly different costs. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples, because in the end you’ll usually get what you pay for in terms of experience and quality.
Meet UX consultants in person

Arrange for in-person meetings to get a true feel for the team.

Now that your evaluation program is set up for success, here are 13 core questions to help you separate an exceptional CX or UX consultancy from the mediocre ones. Remember, you are not just buying a design or a deliverable. Ideally, you are selecting a great long-term partner too.

Question 1. Do the CX or UX consultants really understand your needs?

Are the consultants proposing a boiler-plate, presenting very standard answers to your particular problem, or not asking questions that may help them to determine the actual scope of the project in terms of timing and work? If so, they may not really be listening to needs or determining what are your particular business goals in relation to the problem. Good consultants will look to their team of professionals to ask questions that will help them to determine how they may need to shape and staff a project based on your needs as a partner, not their own.

Question 2. Have they developed a step-by-step plan and shared this with you? Is their proposal grounded in reality?

Once the consultancy has had an initial meeting with you and has asked their questions, note whether they developed an approach—or better yet, a detailed plan expressing how they are beginning to think about your project. Look for consultants who are willing to share and refine their approach with you based on common understanding of the high level goals and assumptions around a project. They may be more willing to work with you throughout the project to adjust plans, as you have already begun the process of working together prior to signing the contract.

Question 3. Are they willing to adapt and work with you as a partner?

When developing the proposal, have they included time to work on site and/or to work with and around your scheduling as well? Working with a partner is always a two-way street. In order to be successful with a good consultant, you may have to follow their process at times to gain efficiency, and at other times they will need to work using your own processes where applicable.   If the consultancy is unwilling to be on site or requires you to absolutely conform to their process/methodology, this may lead to trouble down the line.

Question 4. Are they willing to be flexible and are they demonstrating their flexibility in their response/proposal?

Most good CX or UX consultants will take your feedback on their proposal and take some time to think through the ramifications of adjusting the project plan and estimate. When they say, “Let us take this back and think it over,” you should have the patience to wait for their response. If the response they return with has been thought through properly, it will incorporate your feedback and update relevant assumptions in scope, timing, and most importantly cost. They may also provide one or more alternative approaches, as their team may have had similar experiences on past projects.

Question 5. Do they have a track record of success in working with their client’s internal teams?

A great CX or UX consultancy should have experienced people who have the ability to work with their own team members, or embed themselves within your team and never miss a beat. While they should have the ability to lead teams through an engagement using the appropriate CX or UX techniques, they should also be able to work side by side with your team using their skills wherever necessary. This is a great question to bring up with their reference clients.

UX consultants fit in

Your consultants should strive to easily fit in with your team.

Question 6. Do you have access to their management and delivery team members, or is it just the “sales team”?

If the consultancy only has specific sales people working with you on a proposal and not actual team members and regional management, you may end up with a disconnect between the proposal and the solution created by the actual delivery team.   While salespeople may have a great deal of experience, they may not have the same specific day-to-day experience as the team members and their management team. This may lead to incorrect project planning assumptions and disconnects in expectations.

Question 7. Are they proactive during the evaluation process?

If your consultant is actively seeking information from you, working with you during their proposal creation process and seeking to create an honest dialogue between the sales lead, the consulting team members, and your team, then they are more likely to work with you in a similar manner during your engagement.

Question 8. Have you met actual consulting team members who may be available to work on your project or at least representatives of those who are appropriate for your project? Is there an A and B team?

It is important to get a feel for the people who you will be working with. Did the vendor only ever introduce you to management or sales people, and not specific team members? When you have a chance to meet their team members you can learn a lot about the culture and personality of their teams through their descriptions of previous experience and other related work. Face-to-face meetings go a long way to getting some insight as to how their team works together.   You will also want to see bios of all potential consultants that might be available to work on your project to get a feel for the depth and talents of their overall team.

Question 9. Is their other work relevant? Have they shown the ability to work across a wide variety of industries?

Are their case studies either directly relevant or at least partially relevant to your CX or UX problems or platform technologies? Some vendors may not have encountered your exact problem but have had overwhelming success with a number of different situations where they were brought into to help a company by coming in with an open mind and different perspective. When a vendor brings experience from your industry, as well as other verticals, new ideas can emerge. Don’t immediately discount a CX or UX consultancy because of their particular vertical experience. The very idea of a proper research and design process allows CX and UX specialist to learn quickly and work in any vertical, as it is a discovery process. CX and UX teams should be leveraging your knowledge of your business and your users/customers as well as seeing first hand what your users do in relation to your application or site.

Question 10. Do you like their personality and culture as an organization? Does the team appear to get along with each other?

When you have meetings with their extended CX or UX teams, take the time to understand how their team members work with each other during the initial sales meetings and proposal. Do their team members get along with one another? Do they speak to their specific CX, UX and/or Development tasks within the proposal? Does there seem to be disconnects between what each person is saying or are they all on the same page? You may be working with this group for possibly months or even years, so it’s certainly important that they are likeable and good fit for your organization.

Question 11. Are there other ways the company can help you that you may not have realized before?

Keep an open mind. Many times during your discussions with CX or UX consultants, there are other value-added services that they may provide that you didn’t know about before. These can be integrated or added to your engagement that will lead to benefits down the road. Can they help to train your CX or UX group or help to develop your practice? Can they provide additional assets such as interactive style guides, persona libraries, evolving journey maps, or inputs into your agile development process? Is their front-end development team also capable of working with you and with your technologies? Can they help you to develop a holistic CX or UX strategy in addition to helping you meet your immediate project needs? The more strengths they have, the more they can maximize the value of your experience team. Thinking longer term will help to see your choice as a potential strategic partnership and not a one-off engagement.

Question 12. Are they well rounded?

While hiring a CX or UX consultancy will help achieve your immediate objectives, hiring a team that combines design and development and the ability to deliver end-to-end solutions will enhance their value in the long run. This combination usually enables their CX and UX consultants to work with their own in-house developers in a more seamless way, creating efficiencies and improvements in quality. Look for the separate and distinct disciplines of engagement management, experience strategy, visual design and branding, experience/interaction design, front-end development and technical architecture/development.

Hire well-rounded UX consultants

Your consultants should be well-rounded and boast many abilities.

Question 13. Did they provide references? Have they developed relationships or do they tend to work with many clients once?

When a consultant provides references, always check to see that there is a relationship behind them as well. If they are providing a reference, it is obvious that the engagement or engagement(s) that they had with them went well but it is also important to note if there was follow on work or additional engagements afterwards. Did they build a good working relationship with all the client’s team members? Did they also go above and beyond expectations or were the results just ok? You will also want to know what the long term as well as immediate value they brought to their organization.

When you do bring on the right CX or UX consultancy, it should be a seamless fit, and feel like they are an extension of your team.

Businesses should choose consultants who meet their needs for specific projects, fit with their cultures, and can adapt to their ways of working, then develop long-standing relationships with them.
– Pabini Gabriel-Petit, The Future of Large UX Design Firms

Having the proper technical CX and/or UX skills is mandatory. But you should ensure that an external partner’s values and abilities, such as adaptability to your organization’s style, flexibility, and relationship management skills all match up to the unique needs of your enterprise. Carefully evaluating these qualities will make all the difference in maximizing your organization’s CX and/or UX capabilities and lead to many successful projects with the best possible results.

Contact us to explore these questions, and find out if TandemSeven is the right partner for you.

Here are 13 questions you should ask as you evaluate your shortlist of candidates to serve as your CX or UX consulting partner.

So you’ve been fighting for your budget, developing a plan, selling your project internally, and now have the go-ahead—but you don’t feel that you have the customer and/or user experience (CX or UX) team to get the work done.

You’ve looked around at a number of digital agencies, CX or UX boutiques, system integrators with CX or UX groups, and ‘Big 5’ consultancies touting digital experience strategy, design, and end-to-end development capabilities.

After reviewing their websites, reading industry analyst recommendations, and talking with some of your colleagues, you’ve narrowed your search to a few that seem to have the knowledge, team, and experience that you need to successfully complete your project. In this post, I’ll share 13 questions you should ask as you evaluate your shortlist of candidates to serve as your CX or UX consulting partner.

Three ingredients of a strong CX or UX partner evaluation program

Before jumping into the questions to ask during your evaluations, you first need to set up your evaluation process for success. Here are three ingredients for a strong partner evaluation program:

  1. Avoid blind Requests for Proposal (RFPs) so that you can actually meet and get to know the CX or UX consulting company that you might be working with. The RFP process can lead to more confusion, and many firms will not participate, since the process doesn’t allow for them to honestly present themselves and their individual strengths.
  2. Plan to have at least one face-to-face meeting with each CX or UX team prior to the final proposal. In contrast to an RFP, a face-to-face meeting will avoid losing potentially strong candidates before the process begins, as well as help you confirm whether the number and quality of the candidates on your shortlist is sufficient.
  3. Communicate your project budget as a range rather than a single number. You will have companies at higher and lower costs. Each consultant may have a different concept of the scope, which can lead to wildly different costs. Make sure you’re comparing apples to apples, because in the end you’ll usually get what you pay for in terms of experience and quality.
Meet UX consultants in person

Arrange for in-person meetings to get a true feel for the team.

Now that your evaluation program is set up for success, here are 13 core questions to help you separate an exceptional CX or UX consultancy from the mediocre ones. Remember, you are not just buying a design or a deliverable. Ideally, you are selecting a great long-term partner too.

Question 1. Do the CX or UX consultants really understand your needs?

Are the consultants proposing a boiler-plate, presenting very standard answers to your particular problem, or not asking questions that may help them to determine the actual scope of the project in terms of timing and work? If so, they may not really be listening to needs or determining what are your particular business goals in relation to the problem. Good consultants will look to their team of professionals to ask questions that will help them to determine how they may need to shape and staff a project based on your needs as a partner, not their own.

Question 2. Have they developed a step-by-step plan and shared this with you? Is their proposal grounded in reality?

Once the consultancy has had an initial meeting with you and has asked their questions, note whether they developed an approach—or better yet, a detailed plan expressing how they are beginning to think about your project. Look for consultants who are willing to share and refine their approach with you based on common understanding of the high level goals and assumptions around a project. They may be more willing to work with you throughout the project to adjust plans, as you have already begun the process of working together prior to signing the contract.

Question 3. Are they willing to adapt and work with you as a partner?

When developing the proposal, have they included time to work on site and/or to work with and around your scheduling as well? Working with a partner is always a two-way street. In order to be successful with a good consultant, you may have to follow their process at times to gain efficiency, and at other times they will need to work using your own processes where applicable.   If the consultancy is unwilling to be on site or requires you to absolutely conform to their process/methodology, this may lead to trouble down the line.

Question 4. Are they willing to be flexible and are they demonstrating their flexibility in their response/proposal?

Most good CX or UX consultants will take your feedback on their proposal and take some time to think through the ramifications of adjusting the project plan and estimate. When they say, “Let us take this back and think it over,” you should have the patience to wait for their response. If the response they return with has been thought through properly, it will incorporate your feedback and update relevant assumptions in scope, timing, and most importantly cost. They may also provide one or more alternative approaches, as their team may have had similar experiences on past projects.

Question 5. Do they have a track record of success in working with their client’s internal teams?

A great CX or UX consultancy should have experienced people who have the ability to work with their own team members, or embed themselves within your team and never miss a beat. While they should have the ability to lead teams through an engagement using the appropriate CX or UX techniques, they should also be able to work side by side with your team using their skills wherever necessary. This is a great question to bring up with their reference clients.

UX consultants fit in

Your consultants should strive to easily fit in with your team.

Question 6. Do you have access to their management and delivery team members, or is it just the “sales team”?

If the consultancy only has specific sales people working with you on a proposal and not actual team members and regional management, you may end up with a disconnect between the proposal and the solution created by the actual delivery team.   While salespeople may have a great deal of experience, they may not have the same specific day-to-day experience as the team members and their management team. This may lead to incorrect project planning assumptions and disconnects in expectations.

Question 7. Are they proactive during the evaluation process?

If your consultant is actively seeking information from you, working with you during their proposal creation process and seeking to create an honest dialogue between the sales lead, the consulting team members, and your team, then they are more likely to work with you in a similar manner during your engagement.

Question 8. Have you met actual consulting team members who may be available to work on your project or at least representatives of those who are appropriate for your project? Is there an A and B team?

It is important to get a feel for the people who you will be working with. Did the vendor only ever introduce you to management or sales people, and not specific team members? When you have a chance to meet their team members you can learn a lot about the culture and personality of their teams through their descriptions of previous experience and other related work. Face-to-face meetings go a long way to getting some insight as to how their team works together.   You will also want to see bios of all potential consultants that might be available to work on your project to get a feel for the depth and talents of their overall team.

Question 9. Is their other work relevant? Have they shown the ability to work across a wide variety of industries?

Are their case studies either directly relevant or at least partially relevant to your CX or UX problems or platform technologies? Some vendors may not have encountered your exact problem but have had overwhelming success with a number of different situations where they were brought into to help a company by coming in with an open mind and different perspective. When a vendor brings experience from your industry, as well as other verticals, new ideas can emerge. Don’t immediately discount a CX or UX consultancy because of their particular vertical experience. The very idea of a proper research and design process allows CX and UX specialist to learn quickly and work in any vertical, as it is a discovery process. CX and UX teams should be leveraging your knowledge of your business and your users/customers as well as seeing first hand what your users do in relation to your application or site.

Question 10. Do you like their personality and culture as an organization? Does the team appear to get along with each other?

When you have meetings with their extended CX or UX teams, take the time to understand how their team members work with each other during the initial sales meetings and proposal. Do their team members get along with one another? Do they speak to their specific CX, UX and/or Development tasks within the proposal? Does there seem to be disconnects between what each person is saying or are they all on the same page? You may be working with this group for possibly months or even years, so it’s certainly important that they are likeable and good fit for your organization.

Question 11. Are there other ways the company can help you that you may not have realized before?

Keep an open mind. Many times during your discussions with CX or UX consultants, there are other value-added services that they may provide that you didn’t know about before. These can be integrated or added to your engagement that will lead to benefits down the road. Can they help to train your CX or UX group or help to develop your practice? Can they provide additional assets such as interactive style guides, persona libraries, evolving journey maps, or inputs into your agile development process? Is their front-end development team also capable of working with you and with your technologies? Can they help you to develop a holistic CX or UX strategy in addition to helping you meet your immediate project needs? The more strengths they have, the more they can maximize the value of your experience team. Thinking longer term will help to see your choice as a potential strategic partnership and not a one-off engagement.

Question 12. Are they well rounded?

While hiring a CX or UX consultancy will help achieve your immediate objectives, hiring a team that combines design and development and the ability to deliver end-to-end solutions will enhance their value in the long run. This combination usually enables their CX and UX consultants to work with their own in-house developers in a more seamless way, creating efficiencies and improvements in quality. Look for the separate and distinct disciplines of engagement management, experience strategy, visual design and branding, experience/interaction design, front-end development and technical architecture/development.

Hire well-rounded UX consultants

Your consultants should be well-rounded and boast many abilities.

Question 13. Did they provide references? Have they developed relationships or do they tend to work with many clients once?

When a consultant provides references, always check to see that there is a relationship behind them as well. If they are providing a reference, it is obvious that the engagement or engagement(s) that they had with them went well but it is also important to note if there was follow on work or additional engagements afterwards. Did they build a good working relationship with all the client’s team members? Did they also go above and beyond expectations or were the results just ok? You will also want to know what the long term as well as immediate value they brought to their organization.

When you do bring on the right CX or UX consultancy, it should be a seamless fit, and feel like they are an extension of your team.

Businesses should choose consultants who meet their needs for specific projects, fit with their cultures, and can adapt to their ways of working, then develop long-standing relationships with them.
– Pabini Gabriel-Petit, The Future of Large UX Design Firms

Having the proper technical CX and/or UX skills is mandatory. But you should ensure that an external partner’s values and abilities, such as adaptability to your organization’s style, flexibility, and relationship management skills all match up to the unique needs of your enterprise. Carefully evaluating these qualities will make all the difference in maximizing your organization’s CX and/or UX capabilities and lead to many successful projects with the best possible results.

Contact us to explore these questions, and find out if TandemSeven is the right partner for you.

UX360 - Enterprise Journey Mapping Platform

Power Platform

UX360 - Enterprise Journey Mapping Platform
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2017-08-10T17:31:39+00:00