5 tips to fulfill the product leader’s new hunger for customer research

Posted on August 29, 2018
3 min read


Product teams own the vision, strategy, design, and launch of solutions that solve customer problems and improve their lives. However, research shows that product teams often struggle to follow a process to support positive outcomes. According to 280 Group, 56% of product leaders say too much focus is placed on execution (development/QA), while other phases of the product lifecycle (ideation/launch) are ignored. Mind the Product also found 49% of product managers said their foremost challenge is being able to conduct proper market research to validate whether the market truly needs what they’re building. Without a process for gathering customer insights to guide the design and creation of products and solutions, product teams waste time trying to resolve internal misalignments on feature decisions and launch new solutions that miss the mark. A recent Forrester report, Product Management's New Hunger For Customer Research Done Right, re-emphasizes this conundrum. The report finds that while product leaders “clearly recognize the importance of conducting customer research, many are still learning how to avoid common research mistakes that can lead to career-ending product failures.” In fact, one in five products being delivered fails to meet customer needs.

Collecting data ≠ collecting insight

To avoid the pitfalls of bad customer experience (CX) research, Forrester details four key best practices including:

  • Research should be user-focused—not product-focused.
  • It's not possible to eliminate bias from data—so you have to compensate for it.
  • Listening to only happy customers won't lead to better products.
  • Collecting data does not equate with collecting insight.

While all of these are important, the last point offers an excellent example worth re-sharing. Forrester cites Head of Research and Insights at Atlassian Leisa Reichelt’s talk at Mind the Product 2018, where she said,

Not all data can be taken at face value. Just because you can put it in a graph doesn't make it science.

Atlassian asked employees to use dots to indicate how much they agreed with statements written on a wall. One statement, "I can find what I'm looking for within my Atlassian tools," trended heavily to the right, indicating that employees were satisfied. But by speaking directly with employees and documenting their qualitative answers, Reichelt found that this satisfaction wasn't necessarily about the tools themselves—many employees said they were satisfied simply because they had devised workarounds to make the tools easier to use. The report noted:

The takeaway: A single type of data—like dot counts without commentary—rarely tells the full story. Product managers need to recognize what should count as ‘evidence’—learning, for example, to balance quant and qual or behavioral and attitudinal data—to build customer-centric products.
Launch products your customers will love

Forrester also offers a handful of great recommendations for helping product teams fill the gaps. Chief among them was: Help product teams experience customers' realities. The report says:

If you have raw artifacts like customer interview videos or recordings, or poignant quotes, lead with those—they will help bring customers' experiences to life and spark more openness toward understanding customers deeply.

Here are a few more tips to get on-demand customer experience research throughout the product development cycle to provide better CX while accelerating process efficiencies.

1. Empower teams to take a customer-first approach

Any product team member can launch studies using an intuitive platform. See how our product team relies on customer research at UserTesting so anyone can access in-the-moment insights about our product in as little as one to two hours to incorporate feedback within a sprint.

2. Capture customer sentiments on a wide range of experiences

Get feedback on web pages, apps or other experiences on desktop, tablet or mobile devices. Conduct live customer interviews at early stages of development.

3. Quickly pinpoint the wants and needs of your target audiences

Deploy studies to an on-demand panel with general demographics or use your own customers to invite specialized audiences to your study.

4. Make faster, more informed decisions based on evidence

Share video highlight reels to demonstrate critical issues and support decisions. Get executive and stakeholder buy-in more quickly by aligning on customer data.

5. Bridge the gap between data science and UX research

While it’s more traditional to keep quantitative and qualitative research teams at opposite ends of the company, combine the two disciplines for powerful results. By doing so, product teams uncover daily insights that might have taken weeks or months of back and forth. Get to the big picture faster, and ultimately create better products for your customers. Product teams often juggle conflicting product priorities, differing opinions, and limited time and resources in bringing products to market. With customer experience research, and by using Voice of the Customer as a guideline, these teams can launch experiences that better meet customer expectations.

Want to learn more?

If you’d like to learn more about how UserTesting can help you understand your customers through on-demand human insights, contact us here.  

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