Blog Posts
May 8, 2024

The dos and don'ts of leveraging customer relationships for User Research

Using your own customers for User Research makes sense — they are the audience that intimately knows your organization or product the best. But the relationship you have with your customers is a delicate one, and using your own customers for User Research needs careful consideration and cross-team effort to maintain a symbiotic relationship. 

The undeniable value of your users 

Creating roadmaps for your product can be ever-shifting and evolving. One thing that should not change is your commitment to your customers and their needs. 

Strong customer relationships enhance the quality of User Research. By allowing your customers the space to be candid about what is working for them (and not!), you’re allowing the interaction to be a two-way relationship, giving the customer a sense of ownership in how the product evolves. 

There's a likelihood that your customers are already giving feedback to your organization, through marketing surveys, comments on social media, or forums. You’ll have superfans and haters. By identifying those customers (both good and bad) and inviting them to partake in User Research with your team, you can deepen those relationships and prevent churn. 

Do’s of leveraging customer relationships

There comes a time where you’ll have to do some outreach or recruiting from customers who haven’t started the conversation with your org. These are people who already have interacted with your product and have opinions, you just have to go out and get them. 

Before you begin recruitment, there are a few things to keep in mind before and during the outreach process to make sure you nurture your customer relationship. 

Build trust and transparency

  • Use a tool (like Rally!) that allows you to track who you reach out to, and how often. You don’t want to spam your customers with requests to participate in research,  when oftentimes they also are additionally getting marketing materials, product pop-ups, and more. 
  • Use consent forms detailing what you’ll be doing with the information. This gives your customers the ability to know exactly where their PII, recordings, and information is going, and who can access it. 
  • Instead of reaching out as “the User Research team,” if you’re comfortable, try using personal names and emails. This reduces the likelihood your emails will go to spam and humanizes you before you’ve even met. 

Personalize the approach 

  • Make sure you’re aligned on tone + voice with Marketing/Content teams. User Research needs to feel like a unified experience within the organization, so emails sent to potential participants need to sound familiar. 
  • Meet your users where they are. If you’re looking to do research on Profile Settings, for example, leverage an in-product pop-up. That way customers who don’t use those features aren’t overwhelmed with requests for feedback on areas they don’t use. 

Don'ts of leveraging customer relationships

Think of your customers like yourself. Would you want to be bombarded by many emails asking to participate in research about features you don’t use? Would you want to be harassed daily into taking an NPS? Likely not! 

Try to think of the times that you have organically submitted a survey response or given feedback. Emulate those experiences and avoid experiences you yourself have disliked. 

Don’t wear out your welcome

  • Try to be aware of the larger user experience. Align with Customer Success and Marketing to ensure customers are not getting multiple email campaigns at the same time. 
  • Don’t push too hard for information or participation. In fact, this can show your Product team that the “X” feature is not used enough, if you’re having a hard time fully recruiting. When customers want to talk about a feature, they will show up. Use the recruit as a first temperature check on interest and go from there. 

Most importantly, you need to understand GDPR and ethical guidelines for “marketing”-like emails. Talk to legal and review terms and conditions that allow you to reach out to your customers.

Role of cross-functional partnerships

Research is a team sport. Creating relationships within your company as well as your customers, allows you to create insights faster. Oftentimes those insights already exist, recorded by your colleagues on other teams. 

Increase the value of your customers by asking less of them. Use the insights they are already providing for free to build upon.

Cross-functional teams you should partner with: 

  • Customer Success & Support - Zendesk and similar tools often allow for tagging/categorizing issues. You should be utilizing this to flag existing product feature requests or fixes.
  • Sales & Account Managers - They will be the most knowledgeable about what potential (and current) customers are comparing your product to. Where do you fall short? Where do you excel? They already know. 
  • Marketing -  Market research is a different beast than UX Research, but that doesn’t mean you should be ignoring these potential valuable insights. 

While some of these teams you can simply throw meetings on the calendar, others are harder to reach. 

Just like your customers, meet them where they are at. 

  • If your organization employs newsletters, start one on UXR and solicit feedback and open discussion around the insights 
  • Join lunch & learns and roundtables cross-functional  teams already put on to passively learn what they are working on 
  • Host readouts for research insights, inviting those teams to participate

Consider your customer relationship post-research

After a study is completed, there’s an additional chance to make a good impression on your customers and build the relationship so more research can happen in the future. 

Make sure you’re sending incentives in a timely manner (24-48 hours after completing the research session), sending them a thank you, and restrict reach out in the near future. We like to typically wait 30-60 days before reaching out to a past research participant to reduce redundancies in findings and reduce participant burnout. 

If your organization allows it, consider an email campaign or newsletter for research findings from your users.. This way they can see the real, measurable changes in their feedback and thoughts and make their hard work seem valued. 

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Spend more time researching with Rally

Rally’s User Research CRM enables you to do better research in less time. Find out how you can use Rally to allow non-researchers and important cross-functional partners to responsibly take part in User Research. Explore Rally now by setting up a demo.