Hi there. A little introduction about me, I am a Psychology graduate who have an interest in Customer Experience Research. Having background in research that are taken more from scientific perspectives, I am curious to know and learn from customer perspectives. I am glad that I could join Somia and learn more about Customer Experience. These past few weeks, I got the opportunity to be involved in a project that involve physical products.

Let’s start with the question:

“How much can research for customer experience differ from scientific psychological experiment that is answering ‘why people do what they do?’ ’’

There is an interconnection as both analyze about human’s thinking, behavior and human interaction. It also does have the same procedures in terms of confidentiality, do research based on the previous research, think carefully about the methods, conduct the research and last but not least do the report and suggest on future findings.

Then what makes it different? What have I learned these past few weeks as I joined in a customer experience project?

As we are researching about customer experience regarding a product, this means customers knows exactly what the researchers are looking for — which is customers’ thoughts about the products. The customers are able to think out loud about the product or concept shown. I could say that the research is more transparent compared to the psychological experiment I have learned in the past. There is no specific target answer that researchers trying to achieve — we simply want to understand the customers better.

Whereas psychological experiment is more rigid — everything has to be well-controlled. We think a lot about how to reduce bias — we carefully control the variables. We justify what are the Independent Variables (the stimuli) and how many are there, what are the Dependent Variables (what are we looking for). We hypothesized and basically the point of our research it to see whether or not the research supports our hypothesis. Participants are also less likely to know exactly what the research is all about. The reason is because in this type of research, researchers want to know how our mind works or why we behave in a certain way. Thus we should avoid response bias (as they know what the researchers are looking for — they may act as according to the researchers’ expectations or instead backfire it).

But customer experience research is more about looking for customers’ perspectives about the products. We are looking for reasoning as well as solutions. This is a tip for someone who is new in this industry — to always think beyond what is served. Yes, there are data available based on our research. We do need to understand why people do what they do. But then we need to question ourselves, so what? We want to give the best solution for a new innovation or further improvement on the product — that can answer the customers’ needs as well as business’ needs.

From the interview sessions, I learned the importance of going in-depth. As we uncover interesting nuances, we then started to dig dipper by asking follow-up questions to get more insights to inform opportunities and actions, instead of sticking strictly to original plan. This is very beneficial for the researchers in order to move forward.

Then, as I mentioned that this project focused on physical products, we were facing problems with the test materials. Sometimes things do not go as planned. When the prototypes are not ready during the day of research sessions, then you have to come up with different plans. The idea is to get people tested in the environment that is well-controlled and similar enough to the real situation. We ended up conducting the research with what we had— some real life model prototypes and some just based on real-size pictures. I wonder if it was done in the psychological experiment setting — this would be considered as a threat to research validity. At that time, I thought many people may be biased and favored the concepts with real life model prototypes more compared to concepts with real-size pictures prototypes because it looked more appealing. But it turns out that it works equally well as it still functions well to helps the customers to imagine the real size dimensions of those products. This suggests that we can find ways to minimize the effect of not having the perfect prototype. One thing I realized is for business purposes, it is more important to be timely than perfect. However next time of course it is better to have all the stimulus to be in the equal forms, either they are all in the physical models or real-size pictures — so all the stimulus will be weighed the same. This also makes me wonder what would happen if there is no real life model at all during the research session— would the result be different?

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After we are done with the all the research process, we wrapped up by writing the report. In this case, we need to realize the importance of target audience. Writing a report for a customer’s experience on the product is different compared to writing a scientific research paper. In academic field, scholars would like to know the details of the research. However, for customer experience research, we need to be aware that our clients are also busy, they just want to know the answer — what is good, what is bad, what needs to be improved. We need to focus on those lines and keep it brief, so then it can be well understood and the insights can be implemented to actions.

On the final note, we do research to analyze so that people can live better. So be curious, think critically, empathize and find the best solutions!

Thought by Andrea Steffany, an intern at Somia Customer Experience.