Democratising insights: how to scale user research throughout your organisation

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This article was contributed by Steven Carr, Content Marketing Manager at UserTesting

Over the past few years there's been a lot of talk about democratising or scaling customer insights, but what does this actually mean? In a world where customer experience differentiates elite brands from the laggards, could scaling customer insights be the secret ingredient to success? One thing is for sure, great CX starts with a deep understanding of your customer—their wants, needs, impulses, motivations, desires—but having this information is only half the battle. The key is to spread the knowledge throughout your organisation. 

There's a clear need for democratising insights

Our most recent CX Industry Report, found that the majority of marketing, design, and product teams were all in agreement that it's important to gather customer feedback before launching any content, designs or products.

This is evidence enough that companies don't need much convincing that centering their business around the customer is the right move. However, when asked if gathering customer feedback was integrated into company processes, only 50% agreed. And when it comes to scaling those insights across the organisation, again, only 50% agreed that they were empowered to use customer insights to inform their decisions.

If everyone agrees that customer insight is valuable for making customer-centric decisions, how does an organisation make these insights accessible to everyone?

How to democratise insights within an organisation

Research teams are limited at the best of times, and if only a few people in the organisation are experts at collecting customer insights, you're missing out on a huge opportunity. You could add more experts, but that would only incrementally increase the ability to collect customer research. A better approach is to educate a wide swath of the organisation about the value of customer insights. And increase the user research knowledge and skills of the people already involved in your organisation's projects.

Here are some ways to do just that:

 

1. Share insights through internal communications channels like Slack

Instilling new habits or ways of thinking is a massive undertaking. So start small. You can begin by creating a Slack channel or weekly email that highlights some of the latest customer insights your research team have captured. The more often you're able to put customer insights in front of as many people as possible, the more likely they are to recognise their value. Not to mention, setting up other easy ways to share these insights will help too. Which brings us to our next point. 

2. Hold sessions dedicated to building empathy for your customers

There's never a shortage of information to share about customers and users. Where possible, organisations should run sessions directly with their customers, which will generate a number of valuable insights. A useful approach is to record these sessions, so you can always refer back to exactly what the customer is saying and how they've communicated it. Of course, not everyone in the organisation will have time to watch through hours of footage, therefore viewing parties can be used to spark discussions. The more you know about your customer, and become surprised by things you could never have guessed about them, the more opportunity you have to build products and experiences that truly meet their needs.

 

3. Store research and insights somewhere accessible

Store research somewhere accessible. Seems easy? Well, it is. It can be as simple as a spreadsheet. Some nifty ways of organising the information could be by relevance—say, insights for marketers vs. designers vs. leadership. Or by topic—usability insights vs. preference insights. The options are endless, so you'll need to come up with a method that works best for your organisation. 

The value here is that everyone can contribute. By creating a place where people can store and access customer insights, the knowledge gained by one person or team is never lost in a vacuum.

4. Build sharing insights into your process

The faster you can build a reflex for sharing your discoveries, the better. Think about it like this—after on a campaign you share metrics or after a feature launch you share user data, and those things are expected now. Customer insights should be no different. As you gather the information share it out. Your team members will thank you.

5. Empower all teams to gather their own insights

Now here's where you may run into objections. Researchers spend much of their lives mastering the art of research and testing. They know how to avoid bias, segment audiences, analyse results, and much more. Which is why many organisations have research teams in the first place. However, enabling other teams to run their own tests isn't as scary—or risky—as it might sound to experienced research teams.

Creating a program in which researchers build templates for common questions and types of tests is one way to relinquish the reigns without having to worry about all the pitfalls of running tests and studies without training. We've created workspaces within the UserTesting platform specifically for marketers and product teams—called Marketing Insight and Product Insight—with templates designed for testing things like:

Through providing testing templates, individual teams are empowered to collect insights when they need them without ever having to burden research teams.

 

Democratising insights is a team effort

Ultimately, the success of scaling insights within your organisation depends on the programs you put in place and the people who contribute to their success. The more you foster a culture where decisions are made from customer insights, the faster you'll reap the benefits. 

For anyone still unsure if democratising research is right for your organisation, think about it as doing more with less. By leveraging the activities above, the insights gathered from one group is now beneficial to everyone.