Are you ignoring your customers?
If you’ve done any user research, even with just a few customers, you’ve likely uncovered very obvious customer pain points that can be fixed. While these customer insights are valuable and actionable, it can be difficult to get the internal buy-in to solve them.
But why? Office politics, skepticism about the value of UX, misalignment of goals — the list of reasons user research findings goes unimplemented is lengthy. Meanwhile, explicit customer pain points are ignored and, again, never targeted for product enhancement.
The good news? There are ways to overcome resistance. Doing so will please your customers and prove the ROI of UX once and for all.
What User Research Is — And Isn’t
Let’s dispel some common misconceptions about user research. These points will likely resonate with frustrated UX Researchers screaming (on the inside) to be heard. Share them internally to support the argument for implementing user research findings now.
User research is NOT:
- A passive item on a developer’s checklist, there merely so you can say you did it. Too often, companies hire user research teams or assign user research to an existing employee because they think they should. They think it’s what their competition is doing and what their customers want to see. What a colossal waste of resources. Instead, leverage the user research findings that these employees work hard to attain to affect real product improvements.
- Stagnant, and complete once a product is to market. Successful companies know you’re never done collecting feedback from customers and prospects. In a perfect world, UX Designers and Researchers are client-testing products when they’re in development and after they ship. User research, in its ideal form, is an iterative, ongoing process with no deadline in sight.
- A trend that can be ignored until it’s gone. Internally, employees sometimes see the UX team as a burden. They’re the rookies on the squad, and their value isn’t necessarily clear yet. But the reality is that UX isn’t going anywhere; more and more companies are investing in big UX departments. And since user research must inform UX strategy, it’s time to embrace the new kids on the block. The sooner everyone gets on board, the less time wasted.
- The UX teams’ problem. UX and user research teams can’t operate on an island and be successful. They need participation and collaboration from every team or they’ll never get projects off the ground. Implementing user research is everyone’s job.
For the record, user research is the strategic study of your customers. You might observe a customer using your product to look for pages that took too long to load, or a form he couldn’t figure out. You might ask prospects directly about your product. Or you might establish an ongoing customer advisory council.
No matter the method, user research can unearth solutions that no one would have considered internally, and these solutions often have a large business impact.
It’s time to take user research and UX teams — and their findings — seriously. It’s time to take advantage of the information our users give us to push product change.
Strategies To (Finally) Get Stakeholder Buy-In
Now we’ve outlined the problem and the reasons to prioritize user research-backed product improvements. But how do you do it, practically speaking?
There are two strategies you can leverage to incorporate user research findings into existing processes and projects without the pushback.
Strategy 1: Match Customer Insights with Business Goals
There’s always one person at every party you don’t want to get stuck talking to. That one person will talk your ear off about his stamp collection or whatever other hobby that’s of absolutely no interest to you.
Executives’ eyes glaze over in a similar way when the UX team leads with dynamic visual contrast, wireframing, and other designer-specific jibber jabber. It’s easier for leadership to get consensus on Jane in marketing’s idea than it is to see the correlation between user insights and business goals. Besides, enacting Jane’s idea will make Jane happy, allowing executives to gain favor internally.
To get leadership to go against the grain and truly understand the urgency of customer insights informing product development, you have to speak their language — the language of business.
Come into the conversation ready to align your product improvement idea with the leadership’s agenda. Emphasize that updating form design increases conversions, or selecting a new font increases a prospect’s time on page. Then, leadership will understand the value of your initiative and feel good about explaining to others in your company that what you’re working on is contributing to company-wide goals.
Once you have executive buy-in, it’ll trickle down, and the other strategy (below) will come easier.
Strategy 2: Engage All Teams in User Research to Build Trust
As mentioned, it’s all too easy for the UX team to work in a silo and for user research to be ignored. And because UX is the newbie, they’re not immediately well-liked or understood. But you’ll never convince the rest of the company that UX has value unless you involve everyone in these user research projects from the start.
If you encourage input from other teams, you might find that their ideas actually do align with a customer’s pain point. Imagine a project that pleases both a customer and an employee! Further, if each team contributes to the discussion and aligns on the solution and next steps, everyone has a vested interest in the success of that project.
Be Patient, But Persistent
Don’t get off your soapbox — user research findings are just as meaningful as you claim. Do know that getting buy-in, even with the strategies outlined here, will take time.
Eventually, with repetition, other team members, from executives to managers, will understand the value of customer insights and be committed to solutions that incorporate this outside feedback.
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