We have worked in the design and insights field for over a decade and during this time, we have come to the conclusion that much of the valuable user insight collected from our specific projects could be consolidated and utilised to create more accurate conclusions and better customer experiences in the future. This could, in fact, optimise companies’ performances on many different levels as it allows more recycling of data and cooperation between insight teams.
Reusable insights or user research repositories are digital platforms that store and organise all research data so it can be easily searched and reused again later. The main goal for any user research repository is the ability to quickly search through past research studies to apply those insights at a later time. Other primary goals for using repositories include finding patterns across multiple studies that relate to each other and sharing the data as well as key insights across the organisation. As companies look to get faster and more efficient in gathering customer insights, having a system like this in place allows us to reuse past research insights appropriately and focus new research efforts in the right places rather than getting the same answers twice.
This change in landscape is also clear in the recent rise in popularity and definition of ‘ResearchOps’. The practice of user research is maturing in many organisations, causing a realisation that our work and processes can, and should, benefit from refined “operationalization” to increase efficiency and value to the entire organisation. A user research repository fulfils the need to easily search and share past research and reduce wasted effort on conducting research that’s already been done. (UX Mastery, 2022)
Thus, having a meetup with like-minded company representatives, where open discussion and collective problem solving would be in a key role, seemed like the perfect idea, and we hosted our first ever Insight Ops + repository meetup on 12.5. During the morning invited representatives of our various partner companies joined the conversation in talking about potential solutions for this issue. Many of the companies had their own needs on their agenda, which made the discussion multidimensional and transparent, allowing ideas flow freely. The mixture of public and private sector needs were fascinating to build upon.
Collecting and sharing customer insights within organizations can be a challenge
In recent years, companies and organizations have realized that it is no longer enough to conduct an annual quantitative survey for measuring customer satisfaction, but that the collection of customer understanding must be systematic, continuous and comprehensive. This is because customer needs are constantly changing and only a deep understanding of customer needs can provide the customer with truly relevant and value-adding solutions to remain competitive.
In large organizations, different units may understand customer insights in a wide variety of ways. For some, it is more an in-depth understanding of customer needs, motives, and behavior based on qualitative research. For others, statistical and measurable facts about the actual activities of customers are obtained through quantitative research.
Indeed, customer understanding arises in organizations from many different sources. It can arise from repeated customer satisfaction surveys, which also provide statistical information on the development of the customer experience or customer satisfaction. Customer insights are born from spontaneous feedback from customers through various channels. Furthermore, it arises from different data points, such as visitor counters, queuing times, and web analytics. Moreover, it includes sales data and utilization rates for services and products as well. Customer insights can be utilized, for example in the form of customer profiles, segments and customer paths. Developer communities, customer boards and councils are also one source of customer understanding to keep in mind.
In gathering customer insights, organizations often face many challenges. Often the problem that rises is that the customer insight that has already been collected cannot be effectively shared within the organization, which means that the same things may be researched and clarified many times, even if the information is already within the organization. As such, a good intent to gather customer understanding may turn against itself if the same customers are asked the same questions multiple times in a short period of time. When customer understanding is not effectively collected and shared within an organization, it also does not accumulate into a broader and deeper overall view of customers. Many organizations are in pain because organizations lack a business model for customer recruitment, rewarding, and privacy practices.
There is a need for making the customer data usable, available and discoverable throughout the organization
Much research is being done continously, but a holistic view is difficult to obtain despite how much data is collected. There is no single place or platform where all the research data or insights can be found – often the data is available by business, or by individuals. Moreover, especially project-specific studies with their findings remain to be used only by a small number of researchers.
Data is also often interpreted from one’s own perspectives, which can lead to biased results. Similarily, it can be difficult to figure out how to relate all the information collected to a particular customer experience. The need for strategic research data management is great and seems to be growing bigger day by day.
Lack of documentation, siloed organizations and various tools can pose a challenge for archiving customer insights
Archiving key insights and research data is a very important aspect in service design teams. The problem that big organisations face currently are with cross collaboration, as there are lots of silos occurring due to teams residing in a number of different countries and time zones. Some of the other challenges are with the sheer size of the company and time constrait, as deadlines are always a priority. Moreover, understanding the importance of customer insights within the entire organisation is a challenge in itself, because the importance of studying behavioral patterns of customers are often overlooked.
The more acute issues that organisations face are that hundreds of designers use programs of their own preference, which means that there are lots of different softwares used by an equal amount of different individuals, which results in lots of data stored all over the place. Some employees document their findings to applications like Confluence or Sharepoint, but others might not always even record all of their data, if not deemed relevant. All products might have their own page for notes and findings in Confluence, for instance but when there are hundreds individual pages for each product, it becomes overwhelming at times. This results in employees relying on knowledge sharing in Teams rather than looking for previous findings through Confluence. Furthermore, because the concept of repositories is still at an early stage, it really depends on who has done the research when looking through the data. The challenge now is to find a more unified structure in which data should be recorded. This resulted in our partner coming up with a research task force, or hub, where a select amount of people do internal interviews to find out the best way to fix this issue and to find conclusive results on what a repository should look like in the company to make the data and researchers more accessible as well.
Indeed, the need for user research has grown significantly as customers have become more important for the data they leave behind. We do not see the customer as much anymore which makes it crucial to have conclusive insights collected from them via consumer channels. Moreover, when user research is involved in an ongoing project, it reduces risks of large losses in the beginning if a concept doesn’t work after all. However, excessive data collection poses an issue for companies, researchers, and customers alike. The challenge that we face currently, is that we don’t always know what the data is telling us.
“Customer experience is the new battleground for brands as the need for customer research has grown.”
Interested to hear more about the topic or the meetup?
Joona Mäntyvaara, Business Director or
Esa Nettamo, Chief Design Officer
UX Mastery, 2022: https://uxmastery.com/how-to-organize-and-reuse-research-insights