What to expect when comparing human insight solutions

Posted on June 29, 2023
8 min read

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The phrase, “We don’t know what we don’t know,” accurately captures a common challenge leaders face when searching for human insight solutions. Identifying the gaps you need to fill can be challenging if you’re not close to your organization’s research or customer experience program. 

There are plenty of questions to ask yourself: “How do I understand my team’s needs?” “What solutions are out there?” “How do we make the right choice?” “How do I get buy-in from my stakeholders across the business?” 

I remember having to ask myself those questions when, in two previous roles, I was responsible for implementing our human insight solution and accountable for making the right decision. Now, I support other organizations along that same journey by helping teams establish their research and customer experience practices to empower their organization with human insights. 

Having experienced both sides, I want to help you navigate the buying process as you seek a solution for your organization. By understanding what to expect as you compare products and speak with vendors, you can shortcut the learning curve and choose the right solution. 

What to expect in the buying process

There are plenty of reasons an organization should begin its exploration of a human insight solution. Most of those reasons fall under the umbrella of constraint. Sometimes that constraint comes from a lack of data. Other times, the data is there, but accessing and disseminating it could be faster and more efficient. Many teams don’t have enough people to handle all the work, so capacity is limited by manual processes, resources, and time. Human insight platforms can solve many of these issues. 

For enterprises, there may be research processes and design testing activities in place that could be more organized and accessible. These organizations are often looking for a scalable solution that can systematize their process and put valuable information in the hands of more people. Whatever the reason for starting the search, the next step in the process is typically a discovery call with different vendors to ask questions and compare capabilities.

Consider multiple perspectives

The chances that you’re the sole decision-maker at your organization are slim. If you’re like most professionals, you have a combination of people reporting to you and people you report to, or you’re part of a team. That means the human insight solution you choose will impact others within your organization.

Why is this important? From the beginning, consider other perspectives as you research and compare your options. If adopting a new tool ultimately depends on your boss’s approval, a vital part of your exploratory process will be putting together a compelling case for one over another. Consider how different departments at your organization will use the insights and data collected from the teams using the solution. You’ll need to engage them in the process with you. You’ll want to understand their pain points and goals for achievement so that you can find a good fit and adequately communicate the solution’s value. 

Know your goals first

Many organizations start searching for a human insight platform before they have absolute clarity on what they want to accomplish with it. Before speaking with vendors, try to articulate your goals in as much detail as possible. Explaining your pain points clearly is an excellent place to start.

Getting your department's purchase approval for a human insight platform may require several internal steps. Ensure you can explicitly connect your department’s needs to the higher objectives of the overall organization. Explain why achieving your goals will lead to more success in other realms of the organization.

Looking for a tool vs. a partner

While capabilities and features are great, a vital characteristic of human insight solutions is their potential for a true partnership with your organization. When you choose a solution, you’re also choosing the team and subject experts behind that platform. This is something that can’t be overlooked.

It’s not unrealistic to view the selection process as similar to hiring. Mainly for teams building out Voice of Customer, research, design, product, or data practices, the relationship with your vendor can have a massive impact on the processes and capabilities of your organization moving forward. The best vendors don’t just provide access to technology, they also supply a team of experts to help implement that technology to work with your teams and become a valued piece of your ecosystem. 

Meeting with vendor representatives

The initial meeting with a vendor representative is like an interview. Your main goal is to learn more about one another and determine if there’s potential for a good fit. But you don’t have to do this alone. For a change leader in any organization, a best practice is to include team members and other department leaders to be part of key moments in the journey and get to know your vendor’s capabilities, people, processes, and product offerings. 

Including other leaders’ needs and making sure their voices are heard shows them they have a key role in the selection process and allows them to satisfy any questions and curiosities. When the right people aren’t present for meetings, important things get lost in translation, or people feel like their opinion hasn’t been solicited. 

The more prepared you are to speak to your needs, the better the outcomes of these meetings will be. Check out the buyer’s guide for specific questions you can ask yourself before you meet with vendors. 

In general, expect vendors to ask questions like: 

  • What pain points are you trying to solve with a human insight platform?
  • How will the data collected impact your organization?
  • What’s your role in this decision-making process?
  • Who on your team is responsible for budget decisions?
  • How are you hoping to use the platform?
  • What data do you want to share across your organization?
  • Who will be using the platform? 
  • Are there any features you would like to see or understand better?

Knowing and articulating your needs is key

It’s common for some people to be intimidated by the prospect of meeting with a vendor. After all, their job in these meetings is to ask many questions about you and your organization. It can feel somewhat revealing or disheartening if you don’t have an answer to some of the questions. My best advice is to embrace these moments as part of the process. 

There’s zero shame in being uncertain or not having all the answers. You’re coming to the vendor because they’re the subject expert—not you. 

Revealing all your organization's pain points, challenges, and needs will help speed up the process and make it easier for the vendor to understand better and define the right solution for your needs. Open communication is the best way to focus on the right things so you don’t buy a solution beyond what you need. Share any questions, concerns, and details you can during the meeting. Good reps will be able to understand quickly and point you toward features or services that will mean the most to you. 

Ensure playbacks and demos are valuable

After the initial meeting, the typical next step is a larger playback meeting to articulate the key priorities, objectives, and value—including immediate to long-term goals and needs your organization’s investment seeks to satisfy. From here, you and your vendor should agree on key involvement roles in the discovery and evaluation process. If you have stakeholders in the room for the initial discovery call, you’re already ahead of the game. 

As part of this conversation, be prepared to circle back on confirming some of the answers your vendor may have had questions about, including any internal need for security reviews and legal or compliance timelines. If procurement is part of your contract review, you’ll want to understand their needs and timelines. In addition, understand who signs off on the bottom line. If it’s not you, who is it? How does information need to be received, and is there more than one person or step in the approval and sign off-process? 

Once you and your vendor have a confirmed understanding of the who, when, and how, the vendor can design the appropriate solution and highlight key features and functions in designing the demo for the parties involved.

Your key stakeholders and relevant teams need to attend the demonstration meeting to see how the tool operates in real life. It’s one thing to email a deck to stakeholders and team members. But it’s completely different when they can be there and ask questions. 

It’s important to note that the effectiveness of a demo depends on how well your pain points were understood in the previous meeting. Moving forward without this shared understanding means you risk being shown irrelevant features and inapplicable case studies.

Getting to the finish line

If you’ve met with a few different vendors, one likely stood out above the rest. As you’re in conversations with that vendor, one of the best things you can do is keep a running list of any procurement needs, budget questions, sign-off processes, or general purchasing info that will be required to make the deal a reality. 

One of the most frustrating moments for teams is when they’ve seen the demo, know the value, are excited to implement the platform, and hit an unforeseen bureaucratic roadblock right at the finish line. Preparation can help you avoid this, and your vendor should also be able to help you with the information to support your organization’s process during this step.

Roadmap to success

The decision to implement a human insight solution can be a transformative moment in your organization’s journey to creating a better experience and becoming more customer-centric. 

Understand that the purchasing phase is not something you should be taking on by yourself. The right vendor will tell you what needs to get sorted out and come alongside you to manage the process. They can tell you what questions you should ask internally. As you work together, they should be able to put together a timeline for implementation that will help you communicate with your team. 

Your vendor partner should also be in your corner to help you navigate organizational hiccups. Sometimes, other stakeholders or team leaders can emerge at the last moment to pump the brakes on the deal. But at this point, the vendor you’ve selected should know your organization well enough to communicate the implementation plan and even show stakeholders projections for ROI. If done right, those numbers will be hard to argue with. 

Maintaining a mindset of preparation, openness, transparency, and inclusivity throughout the purchasing process can help you ensure that the platform you select positively impacts your team’s culture and goals and even create additional benefits you didn’t foresee. After all, you don’t know what you don’t know.

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