• An 'Outside-in' Research Approach for More Productive CX Insights

    Customer experience research can feel like a logic question on the SATs: “Pick which fish does not belong in this series (that we designed).” The question completely misses the opportunity for a customer to write in a new type of fish—or perhaps a bird, if they feel that it might better solve the problem.

    This type of ‘outside-in’ research is designed only to confirm internal ideas. If this is your approach to CX, you may be missing important opportunities to connect with and engage your customers.

    In this post, we’ll explore a more customer-first approach and how to apply it to your next research project. You will learn to start with a flexible research plan that gradually builds on inputs from customers and stakeholders and you’ll discover new co-creation opportunities that expand the utility of your insights. In activating your customer feedback, you’ll realize its full potential in producing business results (even if it means killing an idea the team loves).

    1. A research plan is not a finalized output.

    A research plan is not a deliverable; it’s a messy process. Each step (and associated methodology) within a research plan incorporates inputs from the last step of discovery with customers, SMEs and stakeholders.

    If you want to ensure a research project will have the opportunity to impact rather than being exiled to a desktop drawer, start by unpacking where the company is and what the company is trying to accomplish. This conversation should include key stakeholders and will help define your initial ‘learning goals’ for your project.

    Ask yourself these questions to begin unpacking the foundation a research project should be built upon:

    • What are our business goals?
    • What are our research goals?
    • What existing research and knowledge can we use or build upon?

    Try not to get so excited that you shift straight into an ideation session filled with thousands of multi-colored sticky notes. Take some time to understand your customer.

    Before you schedule interviews, try the entire process end-to-end yourself. Depending on your research focus, this may include processes like signing up for a new account, applying for a loan, or buying a product. Draw the steps of the process on a whiteboard. Set a timer for five minutes for each ‘step’ and come up with as many questions as possible. Prioritize questions that prompt conversation.

    2. Look for co-creation opportunities, not just confirmation.

    When you conduct your interviews, learn to embrace rabbit trails. A flexible interview approach can lead to customer-designed products instead of company-centric ones. This way you also get more insightful feedback from your target market long before you have invested in a prototype and minimum viable product.

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    Michael Stevens, Sr. Business Development Director