Sometimes it’s hard to start your research project. Whether it’s qualitative or quantitative research, you need to establish an overall structure of how you’re going to conduct your (customer) research. Here are some quick tips to get your research going. This is in no way exhausting but are just some trigger questions to check if you’re on the right track!

1. Use generic journey phases to define questions

Although each customer journey is different, there is a ‘general template’ for a customer journey that you can use. These phases of such a generic journey, are:

1) Trigger/activation
2) Exploration & research
3) Selection
4) Purchase
5) Use and service

So when you define your research questions, simply run by the phases and ask yourself: ‘what is important to know in each of these phases your customers go through?’ For example, in the Exploration & research phase you could ask yourself:

  • How do people research our product/service? Which channels do they use?
  • Which people or influencers are important for them, to make a decision?
  • What are key considerations when researching?
  • Do they need help or are they mostly self directed and do they rely on their own expertise?

These are just some questions you take up in your interview/research guide, for this particular phase. The same goes for all the other phases.

2. Consider the context and avoid tunnel vision

The most often seen trap in doing research is the ‘tunnel vision trap’. This means so much as focusing on the topic at hand, too much. For example: let’s say you’re designing a new train app. Then the obvious things to ask are situated around purchasing, taking and enjoy a train ride. Of course! What else?

But when you’re really interested in improving mobility or transportation, then it’s much more interesting to talk about all the factors, surrounding the physical train ride:

  • How are people deciding to travel?
  • How are they traveling to the train station? (walking, bicycle, taxi?)
  • Are they traveling alone or sharing a ride?
  • How are they continuing their travel after arriving at the station?

When you open your mind and see the context of how people use a service, you have a much better chance of designing a qualitative experience because you understand why and how people make decisions before they hop onto a train.

This might sound trivial, but is often overlooked. By doing so, you not only gain a better view on the position of your service in the overall daily life of people, but moreover you open the possibility to design an experience that might offer broader experience than ‘just the train ride’ (considering the fact that people don’t travel from A to B, but often from A, to B, to C, to D. Getting to the C and D is opening up new ways of adding value to your customer base.)

So, for your research, ask yourself:

  • What are surrounding, contextual items we should take a look at?
  • What is the broader definition of the journey our customers go through?
  • What is the role of our product or service in the overall life of people?

3. Be open, be frank

The last thing that’s super important is that you are open, willing and objective about what people say. This also might sound trivial, but often there is a strong bias about what researchers or designers want to discover. That is a trap and should be avoided at all times. You have to maintain an open vision on your topic and the biggest virtue one can have, is to distantiate yourself from the topic at hand, and truly be curious about the subject/product/experience and how people are using it.

  1. Don’t judge
  2. Don’t anticipate (too much)
  3. Don’t answer self-directed of closed questions
  4. Act like you’re 5 years old again (a young, curious boy or girl who wants to discover the world)

In short

So, in short:

  1. Use a (generic) customer journey to define and categorize your research questions
  2. Consider the broader context of the journey, and don’t ‘zoom in’ too much solely on the service or product that you’re offering
  3. Be open and curious: in order to gain new insights and get to an ‘eureka’ moment in research, maintaining a curious and objective view is of key importance

Good luck researching, go get ’em!!