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UX ResearchOps: Five ways to boost research efforts

Written by Paul Hagen

Published March 12, 2024

(This article was first published in Quirk's Media on February 6, 2024)

Tips for UX leaders

Editor’s note: Paul Hagen is the principal director at Alida.

“Companies that prioritize UX design get increased loyalty, better stock performance, higher revenues and larger valuations,” according to Forrester. That's because companies that gather and use customer feedback early and often experience a 32% higher revenue growth and a 56% increase in total return to shareholders compared to their competitors, according to McKinsey and Company. Additionally, prioritizing experience through good UX design helps remove constraints and digital bottlenecks in your business and improves the way your employees work, as stated by Fast Company. The impact is not just qualitative; every $1 invested in UX results in a $100 return and well-designed UX can lead to a 400% increase in website conversion rates, found a recent Forrester study.

Given the impressive results associated with prioritizing UX, why aren’t all companies making it top of mind? Factors such as cost, time constraints, lack of access to customers and executives undervaluing or doubting the efficacy of UX design all contribute to this reluctance. Operations and scale can also be overlooked even though it’s essential to keep up with developers and maintain customers as the primary focus for research. When it comes to scale, the Norman Nielsen Group found the average ratios in digital teams consist of 50 developers to every five designers and one researcher. Needless to say, researchers must support a tremendous amount of activity.

This pressure is giving rise and attention to a new discipline, “ResearchOps,” to help customer insights teams operate at the scale, speed and costs of digital, in the same way that its siblings have – DevOps and DesignOps.

ResearchOps is classified as "the people, processes and tools that amplify customer insights and value through the design and development of products and services.” Just as DevOps and DesignOps have helped fuel the agility needed for teams to operate in today's rapidly evolving marketplaces, ResearchOps is the answer to ensuring that teams keep customers at the center of strategy and decision-making in a digital world. 

Five ways to amplify ResearchOps efforts

Give customers access

Community is the magic sauce. A customer community gathers a company's most valuable customers with a shared vested interest in the brand and provides an environment where they feel comfortable providing honest feedback. This feedback then allows for deeper access, stronger engagement, faster time to insights and iteration. This gives design and development teams access to customers when needed and makes them far more invested and reliable than buying external samples. Gain customer access and then utilize their voice.

Use automation to increase the speed to insights

Access to the right customers through a community shortcuts the research process, but research platforms have other capabilities that help teams do more with less. Automated scheduling, real-time reporting and feedback analysis through text analytics help teams translate customer needs into actionable insights faster, saving time and manpower. Capabilities in research platforms like automated actions and automated share backs can inform stakeholders of research results in real-time, enabling quicker decision-making.

Structure cross-functional teams for collaboration

Structure teams to act on data through share backs and automated actions. An industry expert I’ve worked with credits successful business outcomes to having an independent and objective research team alongside a design team to create a critical cross-functional team structure.

“Demonstrate the power of data by starting small, connect yourself to the agile delivery and think about how the design fits in and how the research informs it. Get aligned with your product managers around the roadmap to figure out how to support what they are doing to create actionable, quicker insights with a reduced risk investment. The key is to think independently while remaining cross-functional.” 

Speak to their hearts and their pocketbooks

Sharing customer feedback allows executives and departmental groups to hear straight from the customer to better understand their emotions, problems and needs. Get executive buy-in by conveying your UX findings in ways that speak to their hearts, to the business and to their priorities as individuals. 

Increase customer engagement

Actively respond to customer feedback. People want to support what they help build, so show your gratitude to create positive long-term connections and emotional buy-in. Offer customers exclusives, insider specials, status and free/discounted products and services. A little gamification to show appreciation can go a long way.

Life will not slow down. UX leaders will need to become more agile to not be left behind. ResearchOps is a model every UX leader should be looking at, understanding and building. A research platform with a customer community at its core and the right capabilities to automate, analyze, scale and communicate insights will be a critical cornerstone of these efforts. 

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