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How to involve stakeholders in the research

Mónica Bohigas
March 14, 2023

We often encounter teams or clients who, due to lack of time or knowledge, delegate the entire UX Research process to us and only expect a report after three or four weeks with which to work on their product or service.

While this is better than not doing any research at all, from our point of view, it is not the ideal situation. After many projects, we have found that when our clients are involved, there is a greater likelihood of success at every stage of the study:

  • Research questions are correctly defined
  • Participants with the appropriate/necessary profile are recruited.
  • The script includes the most important topics and they are given the appropriate weight
  • Sessions have high value and impact on the client (they see and hear the end user, not just clips or quotes from the final report)
  • The final report matches expectations and intended use
  • It opens the possibility to jointly analyze the results (client+researchers) and draw better targeted and contextualized conclusions.

For us, it is FUNDAMENTAL that there is collaborative work between stakeholders and researchers. Therefore, we always recommend that our clients are involved in every step of the process:

1. Designing the Research Plan

Laying a clear and concise foundation for the research with stakeholders helps the rest of the project to flow more smoothly and meet their needs and expectations. How do we do it? For our team, it is essential to have a kick-off meeting where we work together to answer the following questions (among others):

  • What do you want to achieve? → It is useful for us to write together or validate the research questions and define the methodology or technique we are going to use.
  • What are you going to use the results for? → It helps us to define how we are going to approach the report and adapt it to the audience that will receive/use it.
  • What research have you done in the past? → It helps us to guide the script, to be more efficient in the analysis, and to be able to analyze the hypotheses that the client may have.
  • Who are your users? → This is necessary for proper targeting.

In this way, we align the objectives, expectations, and processes between the researchers and the client from the beginning of the project. This is a meeting that can last as little as an hour, but significantly increases the probability of success of the project. I guarantee it!

2. Preparation and Deliverables

Throughout the project, we should try to have the client follow the project closely so that they can intervene, guide or alert the researchers from their perspective and knowledge.

For example, it is key that stakeholders help define and approve:

  • Recruitment questionnaire → this is a fundamental document for all research projects because if we do not profile the participant well, the research may be worthless. Our client’s knowledge of their users is very valuable and we must jointly define the profile and ask them to review the questionnaire to correct any details.
  • Grid of participants → is a table in which we collect the profiles of the participants and their answers to the recruitment questionnaire. Here we can control, together with the client, if we are covering all the quotas and confirm that the participants meet the criteria. It is key that the client begins to “get to know” the participants we are going to work with and can profile them before seeing the sessions.
  • Session scripting/testing → although the researchers are primarily responsible for designing the flow and content of the sessions, we usually do a joint review with our clients to confirm that we have covered all the key points, and that the appropriate time/weight is devoted to each topic, that we can answer the research questions, that we use the appropriate terminology, etc. In addition, we involve the client so that they are more familiar with what the sessions will be like and know what to expect.

3. Field

We understand that many clients do not have the time and/or availability (sometimes the time difference does not help) to observe sessions, but we see a huge difference between projects where clients observe sessions and those where they do not.

By observing a session, clients can:

  • Hear first-hand from the user and therefore trust the report to a greater extent (this is not a researcher’s opinion but the relaying of the voice of the customer).
  • Have a more complete view of the context of use of the product, of the test itself and of the results.
  • Intervene in the session, if they consider it necessary, to help the moderator redirect the conversation and dig into the issues that seem most relevant to the business. As researchers, it is sometimes a bit difficult to moderate and receive live questions from the client (even when they are all asked together at the end of the session), but it is appreciated that the client is attentive and helps us to make the sessions really useful.
  • Take notes and set up their hypotheses (which will later be confirmed or not with the final analysis and report).
  • Make some modifications to the script if necessary.

It is not necessary to observe all the sessions (although it would be ideal), but at least the first two or three interviews or tests. If the sessions can also be observed by all the stakeholders who will receive the report and/or the people who will later apply the insights, it would be a great success.

Nowadays, we do a lot of research remotely, which makes it even easier for the client to observe the sessions from their place of work. Likewise, we must provide all possible facilities for our stakeholders to observe and “participate” in the sessions (private streaming channel, observation room, simultaneous translation, direct chat with the moderator, etc.). The difference is obvious.

4. Debriefs or Workshops

At TeaCup, we try to meet with clients after a day of sessions or at the end of the field phase to make a small status, share impressions and hypotheses and draw some pre-analysis conclusions. It is very enriching to listen to the client talk about what has happened in the sessions, to see how he remembers what some participants have said, to work together in drawing conclusions, and to open the window of opportunities to improve the product or service.

One hour is enough and it is an invaluable help to align ideas, to direct the analysis and also the report.

In case the client is not available for a workshop or meeting, we always find it very useful to deliver a debrief of the day, with the main highlights of the sessions and some of the most striking/illustrative quotes we have heard. This way, the client has a brief summary of what is going on in the sessions and already starts to get an idea of what he/she is going to receive in the debrief. You can also point out questions or points that deserve more attention or probing.

5. Report

The report is the icing on the cake. It is the document in which we summarize the main findings and what our clients will use to improve their products or service. Therefore, it is essential that:

  • The client has previously seen a sample report and has told us what he or she finds most important.

Again, know who is going to read the report and their level of knowledge of the digital environment and UX.

  • As much as possible, support our findings with quotes or cut-aways from the sessions so that the client not only reads our conclusion as a UX researcher but also “hears” it directly from the user
  • Have a round of questions and changes/feedback with our main point of contact at the client to ensure that the deliverable fits with what they are asking for

Present the deliverables to go over the main findings and ensure they are understood correctly. This is one of the points we emphasize the most at TeaCup Lab and we try to have as many stakeholders as possible at the meeting.

  • Ideally, a small workshop to draw the main conclusions and define together the next steps.

Conclusion

After many research projects, we always come to the same conclusion. When stakeholders are involved in the process:

  1. The results are more targeted and better aligned with their expectations and needs.
  2. The client better understands and internalizes the findings and the voice of the user.
  3. The client has more tools or information to take action.
  4. Their satisfaction with the research is higher.
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