Insight Customer Research Hero


Why now is a great time to do customer research.

When user research sessions are normally conducted face to face, how do you still get great insights when everyone is remote?

We’ve been getting questions from clients on how to keep customer research efforts in play during the lockdown. 

For our clients, it’s still absolutely feasible, valuable (and safe!) to do so, even when everyone’s at home. And for your customers, it may also be an enjoyable and helpful way to spend some time while they’re stuck at home. Right now, with so many people at home, you’re likely to reach customers who are ordinarily extremely difficult to speak to.

Something else to consider. Right now, it’s more important than ever to have a strong, fact-based, understanding of how your customers are responding to this radically changed way of life. Especially as it relates to how your services fit (or don’t fit) into their new normal.

Here are some things to consider if you’re unsure about running design research remotely.

First off, what is Design Research?

Of the many services we offer, design research is one of the most fundamental. In almost all our client projects, we make a point of putting our work-in-progress designs in front of our clients’ customers, to get their feedback on what’s working, and what could be better.

This research can incorporate ‘discovery’ work and interviews, which are essentially semi-structured, directed conversations to learn something new about the customer’s world, or evaluative work, such as testing prototype designs to see whether they add customer value, help them complete tasks more easily or more quickly, and take friction out of their day.

In normal times, we run these research interviews face-to-face, one-to-one, with the research participants recruited from the broader Kiwi public. But, at the moment, we’re doing these sessions remotely over Zoom or other video conferencing services.

You can absolutely get quality findings, even if your participant is joining via Skype.

It’s easier and more feasible than you might think to run great one-to-one research sessions remotely. When you have a capable researcher, the quality of insight and findings is similar to what you’ll have in an in-person session. Remote research interviews can actually ‘win out’ over in-person in many ways.

When people are more comfortable, they’ll share more with you.

For a start, when people are at home, they’re in their own space, and more comfortable. Research participants will often open up a lot more when they’re not in the room with you, and in their own environment. You can learn nuggets of gold about your customers on these remote calls that would rarely come up in person.

Deeper insight and connections made remotely are easier to follow up on remotely.

Have you ever had someone say ‘Oh, I’ll send you a link to that when I’m back at my desk’ – and then not follow up? We often have this when speaking to participants 1-1 in in-person sessions at our studio. However, what we often see happen with remote research, is that participants can share links to follow up material right there on the call, meaning our findings get even richer.

Our design researchers are old hands at this and ready to go.

We have plenty of experience of running design research with people joining us over Skype and Zoom. Our team workflows and software make this low-hassle for research participants (obviously crucial at this time).

Members of the team have run remote user research sessions across New Zealand and a host of other countries, including Australia, the UK, China, Pakistan, Portugal, Colombia, the USA, Nigeria and more. We’ve done it for B2B, B2C, digital and service design projects for a range of industries.

Ethical considerations and kindness are more important than ever right now.

It’s important to emphasise that all our team are trained design researchers. They have clocked hundreds of hours running research interviews, including for sensitive topics. Our team operates to industry-standards, and all our research participants give informed consent to partake in our studies.

Our team is well-versed in making people feel comfortable and safe, and we’re calling on these skills now more than ever, given how people are being affected emotionally during the lockdown.

Privacy for participants.

Our team adds a little extra time to remote sessions, and as standard during lockdown so that we can spend some time setting things up properly at the beginning. Setting things up includes building a rapport with the participants and making them feel comfortable, and helping check their tech set up is as it should be. Part of that is helping people use their mute button on calls, so background noises or conversations in their homes aren’t shared accidentally.

We can access tricky-to-find participants from up and down New Zealand.

We have a network of fantastic, trusted recruitment partners with established panels of research participants. We can help you speak to customers from the tip of Northland down to Bluff. We can get you insight from people who’ve been in the panel for years, or those who have just joined recently.

And, with more people at home at the moment, looking for something to do, not only does it improve the odds of us finding those usually hard-to-reach customers, but people are finding the research sessions a welcome break and highlight in their day.

Further, people will be hosting the call or test on their own personal machines, rather than on a shared computer (as they may at our offices). The use of individual devices means that prototype testing is often much easier for participants and takes another tech-related worry off the list.

Confidentiality is still in place.

Whether remote or in-person, all of our research participants sign a non-disclosure agreement as standard. We keep this on file for all projects. When working remotely, if we do need to send a prototype link or URL to a participant, it is only valid and ‘live’ for that test, and not accessible afterwards.

When the research interviews are completed, getting to actionable insights is as easy as ever.

After we run our research, our team has workflows and specialist tools in place to provide you with robust, peer-reviewed insights from each research study.

Whether we’re conducting the research remotely or in-person, we place a heavy emphasis on making sure the insights and findings we generate are usable and actionable for you and your team. We enable you and your team to have a productive, constructive debate and make decisions more confidently as a result of our research findings.

Whereas we normally run this through with clients in-person, we’ll now simply be coming to you over Zoom.

In a nutshell, here’s what remote user research can do for you:

  • Our team is experienced at this remote research lark and can get you moving quickly, and still deliver high quality, valuable customer insights to your team

  • We can help you find participants nationwide who match your customer profiles, right now including those usually more difficult to find

  • Our team ensures participants are happy and comfortable throughout the sessions

  • Remote technology means people can share more deep insight than they may do in person

  • When testing new designs, participants are now using their own personal devices, making the sessions even more comfortable for them to contribute to

  • Your work and intellectual property is still as safe as ever – we continue to use NDA’s during these sessions, and no active URLs are left with research participants when we run remote tests

Ciaran McLoughlin is Product & Experience Design Director who works with a team of diverse experience designers and design researchers to help better understand customers and how to deliver improved experiences.