Customer research (also known as user research) is a powerful business tool to understand people’s behaviors and the cause and effect those behaviors have on purchase decisions and usage patterns. The business world instinctively grasps this value on a fundamental level, yet sometimes skips it anyway. Some common reasons they choose to skip include time, cost and a belief that the factors for customer success are already known. While I wouldn’t dismiss any of these reasons outright, my experience tells me they’re often myths. Research needn’t be a speed bump, budget buster, distraction or inconvenience. Rather, it’s a practice and mindset that comes with the following positive benefits.
Make better decisions
Whatever your skill set and role, researchers collectively bring strategic thinking, tactical skills, best practices and intuition to the table. Research brings another voice to the conversation — your target audience’s — that is objective, free of organizational bias and able to surface ideas that may otherwise not be seen or considered. These outside perspectives can profoundly change how the world is understood and, therefore, how it needs to be approached.
Research allows project teams to better pinpoint where attention, time and money are best spent. A team that has a comprehensive understanding of problem(s) will also be a team of effective problem solvers. And while research does come with financial and timeline implications, it reduces or completely eliminates the greater costs incurred building problematic or failed products and services (not to mention the costs needed to fix them).
Fill knowledge gaps
Intuition, experience and personal observations get teams far. Research, in combination, takes them farther. It brings more voices to bear, more subtlety and nuance to what may otherwise be broad generalizations, and pointers when the path ahead is unclear. It also helps surface biases and cultural norms that may negatively impact the project’s success.
Improve organizational dynamics
Research can provide a framework to align people and departments through collaboration and a shared understanding of customers, their problems, and how well the organization is positioned to serve customers and address their problems. Research can rally a team by injecting it with purpose and inspiration.
Some perceive research as slowing down a team’s progress. If speed to market is the goal, then this perception may be correct. But if the goal is to build the right product or service for the right people and for the right reasons, then research actually speeds the development process. Teams will ultimately reach success quicker with research than without it and will do so with fewer public stumbles.
If space for research is included in the design and development processes, teams gain an ability to effectively manage and apply their time, money and attention. The results are more likely to be exceptional products and services that customers are willing and happy to buy and use.