Product Discovery

Product Discovery

Nov 18, 2019

Customer research: How to get stakeholder buy-in



Ferdinand Goetzen

When you work in a big organization, it’s only a matter of time before you need a UX research team. Sooner or later, people will realize that a proper dedicated team is necessary if you want to understand the needs and motivations of your users in the long run. As with building any team, the starting point is always stakeholder buy-in and budget. But how do you get that approval? Depending on how customer-centric the culture of your business is, this can be quite the challenge. People always tend to agree on the importance of customer research, but that doesn't automatically mean that you will get approval to spend more resources on it.

Stressing the need for user research

To get approval and resources to build out your research capabilities -be they for UX or market research purposes- you have to showcase the value of research to key stakeholders. Who you speak to will largely depend on the structure of your organization. Is your organization organized around products, functions or markets? Usually you will have stakeholders representing one if not more of these verticals, so try to approach someone in each department. If you can show them the value of the insights you have gathered through research and maybe even involve them directly in some of the research, you have a good chance of making the importance of it top-of-mind.

Help managers get what they need

Whether a stakeholder works in marketing, sales, product or customer success, chances are they are responsible for projects thayt could benefit from better customer insights. Offer to help with these projects by providing insights that could be relevant to their planning. Ultimately, the best way to show the value of customer insights is putting them into practice, which you can do by either tapping into relevant in insights you have already gathered in the past, or by offering to do some research for a particular project. The more projects you support with your research and the more you communicate the benefits gained through research, the more stakeholders will become aware of the value that customer research provides. Your goal ultimately should be to foster a customer-centric culture and become the go-to person within the organization for customer insights. Eventually, you will have too many requests to handle on your own and will be able to make a good case for building a research team.

Another thing you can do is to share content, readings and examples from industry-leading companies that are very customer-centric. Many of the best performing businesses use customer insights to drive their decision making, so it makes for a good argument to pursue customer research more thoroughly.

Educate others by providing processes and templates

Getting approval to build a research team can take quite a while, so what do you do in the meantime? Sometimes you've just got to make the most with what you've got. In almost any company, you will find like-minded colleagues who are passionate about getting to know customers better. Work with these people and loop them in on your research. You can coach them, share resources and even create processes and research templates that they can use. One good temporary-solution is to create a cross-departmental 'research guild', which is basically an unofficial team consisting of people from different departments who will dedicate some time to customer research. You would still need to get buy-in for this, but that will surely be easier as it doesn't require new resources.

Before you loop others in on your research efforts, make sure you create a clear process. Ideally you should create a process that suits your business and your needs, which will differ from organization to organization. There's a lot of great inspiration in the world of UX research and user-centered design. For some good inspiration, check out this model by Dan Nessler:

Revamped Double Diamond by Dan Nessler

A process like this will help your research team in the making to determine which kind of research they need to do in which stage of the project. Although the above model is most directly applicable to UX, you can use it as a basis for any research process.

A process alone will probably not be enough to guide people who are new to customer research. That is where templates come into play. You can create templates for everything, from research briefs, to interview questions to persona canvases and customer journey maps. Start by creating templates for the most used research methods in your organization and build on those as needed. Templates allow others to participate effectively in research while safeguarding the process and quality of insights gathered. Tools like NEXT have customizable templates built into the platform, which allows you to work effectively with others.

Get the right tools to speed up the process

You can spend a lot of time re-inventing the wheel — which usually means duct-taping several tools together for a makeshift in house solution — or you can look into tools that are dedicated to managing collaborative research. NEXT is an AI powered customer insights platform that makes it easy to turn any customer interaction into product insights.

Tools like NEXT offer the following functionality to support your research:

Sharing user insights across the organization

  • A central place where everyone can add all their user insights and upcoming research projects

  • Tagging insights and making them and their associated research studies easily searchable through those tags

  • User Insights that are easy to access by everyone in the organization (without the need for an additional account)

  • A regular email digest or slack update that keeps people informed about all the latest insights

Adding user insights and research studies with ease

  • Possibility to add templates for research methods and user insights

  • A user-friendly text editor that helps you visualize and document your insights and share them with others

Creating valuable overviews

  • A tag system to tag all studies and insights for creating automatic overviews per subject

  • Templates, such as customer journey maps to contextualize insights and make them actionable