3 unique customer experience research approaches you might not know: CX Mini Masterclass – E79

By April 10, 2020 No Comments
This CX Mini Masterclass explores 3 low-cost unique customer experience research methodologies. Show host and customer experience expert, Julia Ahlfeldt, explains the benefits of expanding VOC efforts beyond the survey and focus group, several ways you can do this, and how to deal with potential push back around sample size. If you’re interested in learning about 3 simple VOC approaches that will help you gain new insight into the lives and experiences of your customers, then this episode is for you.

Unique customer experience research

Surveys and focus groups have long reigned supreme as the most popular Voice of Customer (VOC) approaches. And with good reason. If done correctly, they can yield valuable insights about customer experience. But, they have some limitations. They can be expensive and time consuming to facilitate. Both rely on customers reporting on what the think they do (which may differ from what they actually do). Surveys allow researchers to engage a large number of customers, but are always subject to bias and may yield limited insights. Focus groups provide a deeper look, but a group setting can impact what participants say.

No VOC methodology is perfect, and each one yields unique customer experience insights. That’s why it’s important to have a multifaceted approach that utilizes several different tactics. Some of the lesser-known methodologies are easy, low-cost, and great complements to the traditional VOC favorites. 

  1. Fly on the wall observations – Understand your objectives, grab a clipboard, find a discrete spot and just absorb. This is particularly helpful for filling in blindspots along the customer journey that don’t leave a data trail (e.g. retail before the point of purchase, a customer waiting area). It’s a great starting point for VOC research, as it normally generates additional questions that can be included in supplementary research.
  2. Job shadowing or “day in the life of” – A researcher spends time with a research subject while they do a particular task or just go about their day. The researcher should have clear direction on the objectives, but also the latitude to ask questions and engage with the research subject. This approach often yields surprising insights about things the research team never expected. It can be particularly useful in a B2B setting, where customers sometimes view their suppliers as partners and might be open to job shadowing as a way of helping suppliers gain insights that can improve products and services.
  3. Journaling – this last approach is all about unleashing the customer with a mandate to record their actions, thoughts, feelings, emotions or observations on a specific topic. It’s a great window into customers’ lives and what they actually do. The age of smartphones opens up many options to make journaling easier for researchers and participants. Instead of logging actions in a physical journal, participants can take photos, screen grabs or video testimonials about a certain activity related to the area of research interest. Commitment to participation is key, so this might be a place where it’s appropriate to use incentives or engage with a professional panel of research subjects.

Dealing with push back on sample size

When exploring these unique customer experience research approaches, it’s not uncommon to get questions about sample size. Anyone who’s taken a stats course knows that is important when you are looking at things like probability and predictive modeling.

On the spectrum of Voice of Customer methodologies, there is narrow-but-deep at the one end and wide- but-shallow at the other. A massive survey, for example, would be wide-but-shallow. There is the opportunity to reach a larger sample size, but limitations in the depth of perspective about a customer’s life. On the other hand, something like a Day in the Life Of study is narrow but deep. It’s obviously not feasible to shadow thousands of customers, but researchers can be smart about picking a few participants who are representative of a customer segment, and then back the findings up with a statistically significant survey campaign.

Think about observations, shadowing and journaling as complements to, not replacements for, traditional VOC research like surveys and customer activity data analysis.

Want to keep learning about CX?

If you’d like to checkout more of these CX Mini Masterclasses or listen to my longer format CX expert interviews, check out the full listing of episodes for this CX podcast.

Decoding the Customer is a series of customer experience podcasts created and produced by Julia Ahlfeldt, CCXP. Julia is a customer experience strategist, speaker and business advisor. She is a Certified Customer Experience Professional and one of the top experts in customer experience management. To find out more about how Julia can help your business achieve its CX goals, check out her customer experience advisory consulting services (including CX strategy, voice of customer and culture change) or get in touch via email

Julia Ahlfeldt

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