4 Ways to Use Research as an Organizational Bridge
As companies recognize the need for more user-centric and evidence-based strategies, user experience (UX) research is becoming an increasingly integrated part of most modern product organizations’ development processes. UX research can help teams ensure they’re solving for real needs, reduce risk by catching problems early, and spark creativity through increased empathy for customers. However, there are many challenges facing those who conduct UX research.
In this series, Braze UX Researcher Sofia Linse tackles common issues and explores how companies can approach this essential work more effectively. In this article, we’ll be discussing how research can bring people together—across product verticals, teams, and departments—through a shared understanding of the end-user and their holistic experience.
It’s no surprise that best practices for spreading research insights across organizations has become one of the hottest topics in UX research—from building research repositories, making UX research more visible internally, or preventing silos and duplicative work. While it's great that research can have such broad applicability within an organization, the need to make insights available to the right people at the right time to ensure maximum impact also brings challenges. What stands in the way? Often, it’s issues around process, governance, and tight timelines, as well as the very real problem of information fatigue (think of all the documents you’ve wanted to read, bookmarked, and still never got to).
In short, ensuring that research insights reach everyone in a company who would actually benefit from them is easier said than done. For Braze, as with many companies, this is an ongoing challenge, but one that we’ve learned a lot from. With this in mind, let’s take a look at some of the measures we’ve taken to help our research reach a broader internal audience:
1. Reflect on Where Research Can Have an Impact, Beyond the Immediate Project Team
While UX researchers tend to focus on design and functionality, we occasionally uncover insights that might be better addressed by other teams. Imagine you’re running a study to identify ways to improve a product feature that is not performing as expected, and you discover the actual problem is that you’re targeting the wrong customer with the offering. That may not generate actionable design insights, but it’s a critical revelation to a Product Marketing team. In an ideal world, researchers would always pay attention to these types of synergies and consistently follow up with relevant teams. The reality, however, is that these insights often end up deprioritized—unless, that is, it’s part of a systemic process.
Given this consideration, Braze has incorporated handoffs and briefings with other teams that touch elements of UX as steps within the research process, with the goal of ensuring that our work informs the full, holistic user experience. For instance, researchers are tasked with presenting insights to the Customer Education team—which oversees trainings and documentation—to ensure that usability challenges that can’t be solved with intuitive design are addressed in the resources they develop. Similarly, we make a practice of looping Product Marketing into the research process, when appropriate, to ensure that user insights inform positioning and conceptualization going forward.
2. Strive to Find Engaging and Easily Digestible Formats to Reach Busy Internal Audiences
While it is important to ensure that research documentation is published in places where it can be accessed by interested parties, many internal stakeholders who would benefit from monitoring customer sentiments aren’t likely to seek out reports themselves. To keep the user experience front of mind, even when time and focus may be limited, we’ve automated a customer-feedback flow and routed it to the teams that impact the user experience.
Several of our product verticals have embraced this approach by running in-app satisfaction surveys to help them measure the success of their teams’ efforts. These surveys are triggered by in-product actions taken by users; the responses are automatically populated to a Slack channel that includes their team members and other interested parties—e.g., engineers, product managers, designers, customer success managers (CSMs), marketers, etc.—within Braze.
These Slack entries serve as constant reminders of who we’re building our product for—and also create a shared understanding within the organization about our products’ specific strengths and weaknesses. Plus, we’ve found that discussion often arises internally around the scores and open-text answers given by users, helping to drive alignment around the need for further analysis and qualitative follow-ups with customers, when appropriate.
3. Identify Synergies With Other Customer-Facing Departments
Interviews and other primary research activities are only one of many sources that can produce valuable UX insights. The conversations held daily by CSMs, sales, support, and other customer-facing teams provide another source, capturing issues that matter enough to customers that they’re willing to spend time with us discussing them.
At Braze, our sales and customer success teams use the call-recording platform Gong to record, share, and transcribe customer calls (with customer permission, of course), and we’ve recently seen our Product organization begin using this technology in connection with research conversations. This has resulted in significant synergies across teams:
First, the Gong platform allows you to tag specific colleagues/teams if topics come up in interviews that may be of interest to them, supporting shareability and transparency across teams and departments
Second, researchers can search keywords to find real, authentic conversations between sales or success team members and customers that are relevant to the topics they are researching
Finally, it places recorded calls in context with other conversations our organization has had with a given customer, providing a more complete picture of that account
This helps us maximize the value of each conversation, since different individuals and teams within Braze all benefit from them in different ways. For instance, UX researchers might primarily look for generalizable insights, while customer success managers more often use customer interviews to learn about the needs of a specific customer they work with. With this approach, both needs can be addressed. The next initiative we are working on aims to automatically notify customer success managers when one of their clients signs up for research, to always give them the option to join or watch a recording. (This is still a work in progress, though.)
4. Organize Customer Feedback in a Centralized Place
A consistent challenge for many organizations is determining how to best organize customer feedback collected across departments. There are many tools out there intended to address this issue, from UX research-focused ones like Dovetail to product marketing-driven ones like Productboard. At Braze, we use Productboard and allow product managers, CSMs, and sales and support team members to contribute by filing tickets with insights from customer interactions. It’s not a place for researchers to publish in-depth reports; rather, it’s a platform for showcasing and referencing research that’s been conducted in a highly relevant context.
A benefit of using a centralized system like Productboard is that feedback is arranged by topic (rather than source), creating a more complete picture of common themes by considering multiple touchpoints from across our organization. It’s also a great way to catalogue customer feedback and insights on topics that haven’t yet been recognized as topics internally. New ideas can be checked against older feedback collected by multiple teams for hypothesis testing or validation. Snippets of customer ideas from the past may yield valuable but overlooked insights. Plus, customers who are listed as being interested in an idea can be recruited for more in-depth research and interviews. (For more on how Braze leverages Productboard for research participant recruiting, check out this article.)
UX Research often has value far beyond the teams conducting it. However, organizational silos can prevent research insights from reaching the people who would benefit from it, as well as hinder researchers from accessing customer insights collected by other teams. While each company has its own challenges and opportunities, we hope that sharing some of our approaches to sharing research can inspire other companies to reflect on how they can unify teams by amplifying the voice of their users.
Interested in how Braze works to reduce silos? Check out our piece on how we adjusted our Product organization to support more effective alignment and teamwork.
Sofia Linse is a Senior UX Researcher based out of our NYC headquarters. When she’s not digging into customer needs and problems, you can find her hunting out the next Asian restaurant to add to her favorites list or debating which park has the prettiest view of the New York skyline.