How to Put Customer Research to Work

In a sense, we’re all becoming research psychologists as we strive to understand and serve every dimension of the customer. This post will discuss how to put customer research to work to foster a more customer-centric organization.

A recent CEO Survey by Gartner Research confirmed that customer experience management is top of the CEO’s agenda. So, it’s fair to say that customer centricity is now a recognized strategic business goal.

But great customer experience is not an automatic outcome from really smart people working together. Exceptional experience is engineered—the result of an integrated set of key factors working together within the enterprise. Every enterprise needs to find their experience equation—a combination of routine & repeatable capabilities that are integrated in the business fabric or culture.

In a sense, we’re all becoming research psychologists as we strive to understand and serve every dimension of the customer. In this post, I will discuss how to put customer research to work to foster a more customer-centric organization.

Customer Research and Modeling as a Strategic Business Asset

Every experience practitioner has experienced a consistent “wow moment” when the stakeholders see the results of our deep discovery research in the form of personas and journey maps.

Often, this is the first time an organization has seen their customer’s values, goals and pain points in a such a concise yet deeply articulated way. We know that qualitative and quantitative research, used in a complementary fashion, along with well-crafted customer personas and customer journey maps, reliably communicate breakthrough customer insights and opportunities that change the way companies serve their customers.

And while experience teams have found remarkable ways to craft rich models of the customer, they are often done as an eclectic set of drawing tools that are by nature disconnected from the original customer research. Furthermore, current tools used by experience teams do not encourage collaboration or sustainability of these processes in an organization, which present a number of challenges.

Uncovering breakthrough insights and aligning the enterprise around customer needs is a fragmented process.

Challenges to Making Customer Research Actionable

Challenge 1. Integrating Experience Research Efforts

In most organizations, customer research teams operate in silos. CX teams, marketing teams, and UX teams naturally have different goals, research tools and orientations. As enterprises recognize the need to connect their customer research, this lack of coordination results in redundant—and often conflicting—insights about the same customer.

Qual vs. Quant research

Research teams can be siloed off, and can miss opportunities to work together.

For example, UX teams in the trenches will conduct qualitative research or usability testing and uncover extremely valuable insights–e.g. pain points, emotional responses, and feedback on the usefulness or desirability of features. UX readout sessions frequently reveal critical insights that should be leveraged by marketing and CX teams.

Quantitative research and segmentation models developed by marketing are a natural platform to connect and add context to personas created by UX teams.

Likewise, research on the omnichannel voice of the customer (VoC), and the active modeling of journey maps by CX teams, provide yet another integration point for research insights to connect around a common model of the customer. Unfortunately, these teams often feel threatened by their differences and conclude they are at cross-purposes. To overcome this challenge, it’s worth devising a structured approach to get your CX and UX teams working together.

Challenge 2. Aligning Around Persona Initiatives

Like research, personas are strategic assets that characterize the needs of the customer in rich, narrative form. As they gain traction in enterprises, we find a new set of challenges.

First, when designed in drawing tools like PowerPoint, personas are disconnected from their original research and immediately become stale because they’re frozen in time.

Keeping personas isolated from other customer research reduces their effectiveness.

Also, because they tend to be done for a specific project, they aren’t designed with the intent to be utilized across other projects with other teams. This gives personas a one-dimensional quality (i.e. a project lens).

As personas gain ground in an organization, we start to see that one size does not fit all. If teams such as marketing, sales and engineering are using personas, they each have different needs and require seeing different content of the same persona. With the limitations inherent in tools such as Powerpoint, it’s challenging to build different views of the same customer for different audiences or purposes.

Enterprises often wrestle with a proliferation problem—different versions of the same persona spread out across teams. Or somewhat oppositely, an accessibility issue—the difficulty finding personas buried in a project or on someone’s hard-drive.

Finally, it’s not unlikely to see some teams within the same organization using personas at very advanced levels, while other teams are just starting, and no communication, sharing, or collaboration between them.

Challenge 3. Aligning Persona and Journey Mapping Initiatives

A journey map is the stage upon which the persona comes to life, capturing experience at multiple touch points, as well as the emotional landscape that reveal opportunities to make your experience better.

Now widely recognized as a strategic business tool, journey maps characterize key interactions from the customer’s point of view—while also providing an opportunity to layer in front/back stage dynamics from the enterprise point of view.

This map features the emotional landscape of a customer journey.

Personas and journey maps form a continuum with journeys being a natural extension of personas. This interdependency is becoming obvious to CX teams embarking on journey mapping initiatives who may suffer from persona proliferation. Often, a key step of journey mapping development is to consolidate or shore up persona work.

Journey mapping can be done at many ‘levels’ of granularity. But the customer-centered maps should leverage the customer research and persona work. Teams doing journey mapping therefore have the same issues mentioned for personas.

Typically authored by interaction designers fluent in Illustrator or other expert drawing tools, the benefit of powerful visualization comes with the cost of a) the lack of connection from original data sources and b) inaccessible to update or maintain by collaborative teams.

It is not uncommon to see these maps ‘die on the vine’ after their initial use (in the same way personas do). To overcome this challenge, successful CX teams establish a solid experience strategy to provide a home for them.

Bring Customer Research Projects Together in a Shared Research Program

To overcome these challenges, many customer experience teams realize they need a better way to integrate, create, maintain and share personas and journey maps to leverage their long-term value and ended up creating a platform to directly address these challenges.

The best models of personas and journey maps come from the synthesis of both qualitative and quantitative research. They are built using methods that combine both types of data to create integrated personas and journey maps.

Ideally, multiple researchers should be able to collect notes or unstructured research from contextual inquiries and categorize and tag key snippets. These excerpts and their tags should then be mapped to experience components, like tasks, pain points, stages, or channels.

Mapping contextual research

Qualitative data should be categorized, tagged, and mapped to experience data points used in journey mapping and persona creation.

When stored as studies in a common repository, the research is preserved in its original form, while the analyzed portions of the research are available to feed into shareable assets, such as personas and journey maps.

Quantitative research, such as structured surveys, should also be stored in a central repository, so they can be analyzed through an affinity exploration process and presented as graphs or charts in your personas and journey maps that are linked to the underlying data sets. This way your personas and journey maps will always show the latest information, as you collect additional data.

Example: Connecting Customer Research to Persona Modeling and Journey Mapping

The persona below represents an underlying affinity group of research participants that were interviewed and given a survey. Demographic and psychographics are derived from the underlying participant data as averages or frequency distributions. The Goals and Task models were derived from tagging and mapping these aggregate behaviors into reusable experience data.

Journey maps can utilize the same qualitative or quantitative research, built seamlessly on persona initiatives. Or additional research can be conducted targeted at the journey experience and added to the model.

Journey maps are a vehicle for making persona data actionable.

In this example, after a qualitative study was done, an additional survey was conducted to extend and validate issues during the first flight experience. The survey responses were imported, aggregated and brought into the journey map to reinforce issues occurring during the ‘book a flight’ stage of the experience.

In this way, both the direct interview data and survey data contribute to the current state journey as an integrated view of the customer experience. For teams collaborating on addressing the experience opportunities, these research and modeling assets are available to all authors and can be directly extended through additional research and modeling seamlessly. 

Align Your Entire Organization Around Your Customers’ Needs

As enterprises fully adopt customer-centered practices, they recognize that experience research, personas and journey maps are strategic business assets that need to be nourished, promoted, shared and accessible across the enterprise.

There’s an interesting moment that occurs in an enterprise when people start to ask, “Who owns our experience research, personas and journey maps? Where do we keep them, and how can we leverage them?” The answer to that question is one of the most important things enterprises will address in this age of customer centricity.

Part of the answer and solution is figuring out how to better put experience research to work. And that will involve developing a strategic infrastructure that supports an integrated view of the customer.

The right infrastructure provides an operable framework for all of the other activities to take place. This can often mean having tools that support the teams that are charged with making customer centricity great in the organization.

Curious to see a video version of this blog?

Learn how you can put your customer research to work with UX360.

Image credit: “Feedback checklist” by AJC, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

In a sense, we’re all becoming research psychologists as we strive to understand and serve every dimension of the customer. This post will discuss how to put customer research to work to foster a more customer-centric organization.

A recent CEO Survey by Gartner Research confirmed that customer experience management is top of the CEO’s agenda. So, it’s fair to say that customer centricity is now a recognized strategic business goal.

But great customer experience is not an automatic outcome from really smart people working together. Exceptional experience is engineered—the result of an integrated set of key factors working together within the enterprise. Every enterprise needs to find their experience equation—a combination of routine & repeatable capabilities that are integrated in the business fabric or culture.

In a sense, we’re all becoming research psychologists as we strive to understand and serve every dimension of the customer. In this post, I will discuss how to put customer research to work to foster a more customer-centric organization.

Customer Research and Modeling as a Strategic Business Asset

Every experience practitioner has experienced a consistent “wow moment” when the stakeholders see the results of our deep discovery research in the form of personas and journey maps.

Often, this is the first time an organization has seen their customer’s values, goals and pain points in a such a concise yet deeply articulated way. We know that qualitative and quantitative research, used in a complementary fashion, along with well-crafted customer personas and customer journey maps, reliably communicate breakthrough customer insights and opportunities that change the way companies serve their customers.

And while experience teams have found remarkable ways to craft rich models of the customer, they are often done as an eclectic set of drawing tools that are by nature disconnected from the original customer research. Furthermore, current tools used by experience teams do not encourage collaboration or sustainability of these processes in an organization, which present a number of challenges.

Uncovering breakthrough insights and aligning the enterprise around customer needs is a fragmented process.

Challenges to Making Customer Research Actionable

Challenge 1. Integrating Experience Research Efforts

In most organizations, customer research teams operate in silos. CX teams, marketing teams, and UX teams naturally have different goals, research tools and orientations. As enterprises recognize the need to connect their customer research, this lack of coordination results in redundant—and often conflicting—insights about the same customer.

Qual vs. Quant research

Research teams can be siloed off, and can miss opportunities to work together.

For example, UX teams in the trenches will conduct qualitative research or usability testing and uncover extremely valuable insights–e.g. pain points, emotional responses, and feedback on the usefulness or desirability of features. UX readout sessions frequently reveal critical insights that should be leveraged by marketing and CX teams.

Quantitative research and segmentation models developed by marketing are a natural platform to connect and add context to personas created by UX teams.

Likewise, research on the omnichannel voice of the customer (VoC), and the active modeling of journey maps by CX teams, provide yet another integration point for research insights to connect around a common model of the customer. Unfortunately, these teams often feel threatened by their differences and conclude they are at cross-purposes. To overcome this challenge, it’s worth devising a structured approach to get your CX and UX teams working together.

Challenge 2. Aligning Around Persona Initiatives

Like research, personas are strategic assets that characterize the needs of the customer in rich, narrative form. As they gain traction in enterprises, we find a new set of challenges.

First, when designed in drawing tools like PowerPoint, personas are disconnected from their original research and immediately become stale because they’re frozen in time.

Keeping personas isolated from other customer research reduces their effectiveness.

Also, because they tend to be done for a specific project, they aren’t designed with the intent to be utilized across other projects with other teams. This gives personas a one-dimensional quality (i.e. a project lens).

As personas gain ground in an organization, we start to see that one size does not fit all. If teams such as marketing, sales and engineering are using personas, they each have different needs and require seeing different content of the same persona. With the limitations inherent in tools such as Powerpoint, it’s challenging to build different views of the same customer for different audiences or purposes.

Enterprises often wrestle with a proliferation problem—different versions of the same persona spread out across teams. Or somewhat oppositely, an accessibility issue—the difficulty finding personas buried in a project or on someone’s hard-drive.

Finally, it’s not unlikely to see some teams within the same organization using personas at very advanced levels, while other teams are just starting, and no communication, sharing, or collaboration between them.

Challenge 3. Aligning Persona and Journey Mapping Initiatives

A journey map is the stage upon which the persona comes to life, capturing experience at multiple touch points, as well as the emotional landscape that reveal opportunities to make your experience better.

Now widely recognized as a strategic business tool, journey maps characterize key interactions from the customer’s point of view—while also providing an opportunity to layer in front/back stage dynamics from the enterprise point of view.

This map features the emotional landscape of a customer journey.

Personas and journey maps form a continuum with journeys being a natural extension of personas. This interdependency is becoming obvious to CX teams embarking on journey mapping initiatives who may suffer from persona proliferation. Often, a key step of journey mapping development is to consolidate or shore up persona work.

Journey mapping can be done at many ‘levels’ of granularity. But the customer-centered maps should leverage the customer research and persona work. Teams doing journey mapping therefore have the same issues mentioned for personas.

Typically authored by interaction designers fluent in Illustrator or other expert drawing tools, the benefit of powerful visualization comes with the cost of a) the lack of connection from original data sources and b) inaccessible to update or maintain by collaborative teams.

It is not uncommon to see these maps ‘die on the vine’ after their initial use (in the same way personas do). To overcome this challenge, successful CX teams establish a solid experience strategy to provide a home for them.

Bring Customer Research Projects Together in a Shared Research Program

To overcome these challenges, many customer experience teams realize they need a better way to integrate, create, maintain and share personas and journey maps to leverage their long-term value and ended up creating a platform to directly address these challenges.

The best models of personas and journey maps come from the synthesis of both qualitative and quantitative research. They are built using methods that combine both types of data to create integrated personas and journey maps.

Ideally, multiple researchers should be able to collect notes or unstructured research from contextual inquiries and categorize and tag key snippets. These excerpts and their tags should then be mapped to experience components, like tasks, pain points, stages, or channels.

Mapping contextual research

Qualitative data should be categorized, tagged, and mapped to experience data points used in journey mapping and persona creation.

When stored as studies in a common repository, the research is preserved in its original form, while the analyzed portions of the research are available to feed into shareable assets, such as personas and journey maps.

Quantitative research, such as structured surveys, should also be stored in a central repository, so they can be analyzed through an affinity exploration process and presented as graphs or charts in your personas and journey maps that are linked to the underlying data sets. This way your personas and journey maps will always show the latest information, as you collect additional data.

Example: Connecting Customer Research to Persona Modeling and Journey Mapping

The persona below represents an underlying affinity group of research participants that were interviewed and given a survey. Demographic and psychographics are derived from the underlying participant data as averages or frequency distributions. The Goals and Task models were derived from tagging and mapping these aggregate behaviors into reusable experience data.

Journey maps can utilize the same qualitative or quantitative research, built seamlessly on persona initiatives. Or additional research can be conducted targeted at the journey experience and added to the model.

Journey maps are a vehicle for making persona data actionable.

In this example, after a qualitative study was done, an additional survey was conducted to extend and validate issues during the first flight experience. The survey responses were imported, aggregated and brought into the journey map to reinforce issues occurring during the ‘book a flight’ stage of the experience.

In this way, both the direct interview data and survey data contribute to the current state journey as an integrated view of the customer experience. For teams collaborating on addressing the experience opportunities, these research and modeling assets are available to all authors and can be directly extended through additional research and modeling seamlessly. 

Align Your Entire Organization Around Your Customers’ Needs

As enterprises fully adopt customer-centered practices, they recognize that experience research, personas and journey maps are strategic business assets that need to be nourished, promoted, shared and accessible across the enterprise.

There’s an interesting moment that occurs in an enterprise when people start to ask, “Who owns our experience research, personas and journey maps? Where do we keep them, and how can we leverage them?” The answer to that question is one of the most important things enterprises will address in this age of customer centricity.

Part of the answer and solution is figuring out how to better put experience research to work. And that will involve developing a strategic infrastructure that supports an integrated view of the customer.

The right infrastructure provides an operable framework for all of the other activities to take place. This can often mean having tools that support the teams that are charged with making customer centricity great in the organization.

Curious to see a video version of this blog?

Learn how you can put your customer research to work with UX360.

Image credit: “Feedback checklist” by AJC, licensed under Creative Commons 2.0

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2018-04-21T10:38:10+00:00