Handling user feedback data and the rise of 'ResearchOps' [Q&A]

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Customer experience has become a massive, sprawling industry that includes the many systems and touchpoints that lie between companies and their users. It's projected to be a $32B market by 2025.

One of the most interesting new sub-categories emerging within customer experience is ResearchOps. It's a new discipline -- with a growing community of practitioners -- focused on better infrastructure around customer research, and operationalizing the user research process so it can be done faster and have a bigger impact.

Product teams have many tools for managing code repositories, product roadmaps and engineering tickets. But user feedback and research tends to be ad hoc and lacks discipline and workflows on the tools side. We spoke to Sofia Quintero founder of EnjoyHQ, a Santa Monica, CA- based startup which has seen rise of ResearchOps and recognized that it needed a platform.

BN: What's so difficult about researching users?

SQ: The challenge of scaling millions of units of customer feedback starts with the many disparate systems that the typical company leverages: help desk, chat, customer satisfaction, testing, surveys, customer interviews and many more. Product and UX teams at companies with millions of customers typically struggle to aggregate, normalize and segment that feedback data to make it queryable and then make it easy to share those insights. Typically they find themselves in a spreadsheet hell, trying to assemble datapoints, and then present reports that become long and unwieldy. It's both a data wrangling problem, and a storytelling problem.

BN: What do you mean by a storytelling problem?

SQ: ResearchOps is still such a nascent discipline. Every company wants to learn from customers faster and find those insights that propel the business forward. But most companies that reach the level of thousands to millions of users are not prepared for the amount of data that generates. Much of that data is unstructured text feedback, and requires knowledge workers with specialized skills in research to investigate that data -- and provide insights to not only the product team, but also sales and marketing. But where engineering teams have awesome workflow in tools like Atlassian's JIRA -- which breaks engineering cycles into 'Epics' and other milestones for developer sprints -- designers and researchers struggle to display their findings and the supporting evidence.

Obviously customer satisfaction surveys, NPS scores and other touchpoints generate statistical data that can be presented with charts. But there is a huge class of far more subjective data that comes from users, and how to look at that data in aggregate and break down key patterns and insights into useful feedback to accelerate the product roadmap -- that's the type of storytelling for which there’s a scarcity of tooling, and that’s why we started EnjoyHQ.

BN: Tell us a bit about EnjoyHQ, who you're working with, and what the platform does.

SQ: We saw that the average product team was struggling to interpret all the user feedback data being generated by popular SaaS tools like Intercom, NPM tools like Delighted, ZenDesk, and the many popular customer-facing tools in the typical 'stack'. We built EnjoyHQ to help customers not only aggregate all their customer feedback and user research in one place but also leverage a workflow that we call 'Stories' that allows them to communicate their insights much more easily. You can gather all the insights in the world but if the people that can act on them do not have access to the research insights you have lost the battle. You need both, an engine to capture the data and a good process to share the outcome of the analysis -- the insights.

We've been building this functionality for the last few years while the company has been in stealth and working with lighthouse customers like Adobe, GrubHub and Wave. You can think of Stories as mini blog posts that help the product and UX teams capture customer feedback learning and share insights with the entire organization.

BN: What's the cost of being bad at dealing with user feedback?

SQ: The ROI of customer research is sort of an abstract thing to try to quantify with dollar amounts. But what we see typically is that the companies that are bad at implementing an effective customer research process are generally slow to market with compelling features, and have a general disconnect with customers that leads to higher churn. The customers we're working with today are hungry for better ways to integrate all this data and use it to keep driving innovation. No one wants to be the next Blockbuster or taxi industry that missed a huge opportunity and became obsolete.

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