In this Leadership Insights video interview Amanda Razani speaks with Dana Bishop, VP of experience research strategy at UserTesting, about its annual experience research industry report and what the findings mean for business leaders.
Amanda Razani: Hello, I’m Amanda Razani, with Digital CxO. And I’m excited to be here today with Dana Bishop. She is the vice president of experience research strategy at UserTesting. How are you?
Dana Bishop: I’m great, Amanda. Thanks for having me on.
Amanda Razani: Great. Can you talk a little bit about UserTesting? And what services do you provide?
Dana Bishop: Yes. So I am part of the new merger of UserTesting and UserZoom, which is super exciting. I was at UserZoom for the past six years; the two companies have have recently merged. As you can imagine, it’s super exciting time to be here – the two leading companies in our space have come together. So it’s pretty exciting. And at UserTesting our mission is really to inspire companies to see the human side of business, if you will, and really make an impact and transform the way products and experiences are built with those insights from real people who are using them, in mind. So you know, we’re fundamentally changing the way digital products and experiences are really built and delivering and helping organizations get those insights directly from their customers; not having to guess. So from the very early concept stages, all the way through execution and live products.
Amanda Razani: Wonderful, and congratulations. So let’s get right to it. You recently conducted a survey, what are the key findings from UserTesting’s 10th Annual Experience Research Industry Report?
Dana Bishop: Yeah, no great question. And first, I’d love to start by just kind of setting up like a little bit about the background, right? So we surveyed almost 1900 industry professionals across a wide variety of roles, including research and design and engineering and marketing and product management, research ops, and a lot more. It was inclusive of a lot of different types of companies and size orgs. Everything from SMB, to large enterprise, everything in between; we had global participation. And it was a combination of both the UserTesting and UserZoom survey questions. So both organizations have been running historically, industry surveys. So that’s just a little background about sort of the methodology this year. So as you mentioned, UserTesting has been running it for 10 years – we’d love to get into a little bit of a look back 10 years ago, in a minute, but want to talk about this year’s findings. So some of the biggest key findings we had were the demand for experienced research continues to increase. So we’ve seen an increase over the last few years. 61% of participants in our survey said that experience research across the organization has increased year over year. So that’s pretty exciting, right? Obviously, as a research company, and those helping to deliver those insights, are happy to see that.
Amanda Razani: I was gonna ask, in what ways does experience research help companies better understand their customers and create products?
Dana Bishop: That’s a great question. So one of the interesting things that we’ve seen definitely developing over the last few years, and this year, really a strong indication – we had 80% of respondents report that the executives within their organization are prioritizing and investing in customer experience research. So some of the things, the reasons why, what were the underlying factors of why they’re investing so heavily, is they’re agreeing that research drives critical business decisions and metrics. So improving things like customer satisfaction, and brand perception. So 75% believe that it’s being used to improve the customer satisfaction, 68% brand perception. So those are obviously really key business metrics. driving revenue; doesn’t get more important than that, right? 69% cited that as a key benefit that they’re seeing and all the way up into the C-suite is seeing in running experience research. So you know, that has been a big shift in the industry that’s been around for a few decades now. That is one of the big shifts that we’ve seen is really that tying up to business critical decisions, and really improving the business metrics in addition to the user experience. And you know, we had more than 80% this year saying that they’re incorporating that user feedback that customer and user feedback into the daily process and decision making within their organization. And again, really a big influential change and shift in mindset that’s been growing over the last few years. So that was a big, a big part of sort of that seeing the value of the experience research, because it is now tied to not only improved user experience, but the business KPI.
Amanda Razani: So that’s interesting. And so let’s backtrack a little bit and and compare to the previous surveys. So going into that a little bit more, how does this compare to previous years?
Dana Bishop: Yes. So, you know, again, trending up for sure, in terms of that. We’ve also seen the rise of research operations, suggesting that organizations are also needing, feeling they need, as the insights, the amount of insights they’re collecting is growing, to get more systematic with managing and sharing out the human insights. So that is, again, a really big thing that we’ve seen sort of amongst our customer bases, but also seeing reflected in this survey. And another thing is terms of budgets and demand. So you know, again, we’re seeing an uptick in demand. We had 40% of respondents claim that budgets have increased for experienced research this year, 50% are holding steady, and then only 10% is decreasing. So again, 40% and 50%, are either holding steady or increasing. So again, in sort of this, this environment, right – in 2022, we saw the industry was hit by significant layoffs, due to macro economic environment, other factors, but many teams are now finding themselves, the need for the demand, or in a place where that need and demand of increasing desire for insights, with either flat or slightly increasing budgets – a lot of people are saying, “Hey, I need to do more with the same or less resources, or same or maybe a small increase in my budget.” And they’re needing to sort of scale up those efforts and operationalize those in order to sort of be smart about that.
Amanda Razani: So let’s go back – you said research operations. Can you kind of explain that term: Research operations? And then how does that contribute to and impact organizations?
Dana Bishop: Yeah, so. So again, you know, I’ve been around in the research field, back when it was called, usability, customer experience, user experience, you know, usability, all kinds of different names over the last three decades. And we’ve seen a sort of shift from centralized teams to, you know, other – and what has really happened in the last couple of years, like I said, is having to sort of centralize to get organized, be systematic; and so research ops and design ops, meaning operations. So those teams that are designated with having to sort of manage, right? So that we become sort of research and design managers and operationalize. And so creating standards for creating templates, creating how to insert sort of research and gathering insights into the workflow throughout the product development lifecycle, right? So at every point from early concepts all the way through and continuing when it’s live. And so again, as that need is expanding, it’s not just up to individual researchers, or a team lead – it really has been operationalized, to the point where that has become a role where we didn’t talk about that 10 years ago – research ops, design ops, was not really a thing that people needed, or talked about or implemented. And so again, as the need is increased, team sizes have increased. I mean, during early days of the pandemic, we saw a lot of the tech companies in particular row dramatically with a number of folks who were hired both in UX design and research positions, because so much focus was sort of moved to that critical digital channel, especially when people were moving so much of the revenue and interaction with our customers to online or remote.
Amanda Razani: Yes. Okay. So can you elaborate on some involving trends, variance research that emphasize customer interaction and value creation?
Dana Bishop: Yep. So this is a good point, probably to take a look back to 2013; ten years ago, we ran the first industry report, and we asked, “Hey, what trends do you think people, you know, what trends do you expect to impact our industry the most over the next five years?” So of course, now, it’s 10 years on, so we can say, “Hey, was it right or not?” So those trends were multi-device interaction, so smart smartwatches, to phone, phone to TV, things like that. And 50% 55% thought that was going to be a big trend. I think we can agree that that has come to fruition. Touch interfaces like kiosks in screen checkouts, things like that – again, this is 2013. 50% thought that would be big. Obviously we’ve seen a lot more biometrics and touch interfaces come into play in the last 10 years. And then the last is global UX design, inclusive design, designing for emerging markets. Again, an area we’ve seen grow tremendously. Now this year, we asked that same question 10 years on. So looking forward, top trends that people are expecting in the next five years – probably not a big surprise – but AI, machine learning, and VR and AR.
Amanda Razani: Well, I agree 100% with you, being AI is the biggest.
Dana Bishop: We all can’t stop talking about it. Right?
Amanda Razani: Yes. And, of course, the AR and the VR too – I know Apple just released their big thing yesterday with the AR headset – little high price tag right now. But it will be interesting to see how it’s utilized in business, or if it’s the consumer or the business that will pick it up first.
Dana Bishop: Yeah, very interesting, right? So you know, it’s interesting to see the trends. It’s, of course, fascinating for us to be able to look back 10 years ago and see what people thought was coming. And obviously a lot more has happened over the last 10 years. So you know, we’re, as a company, we’ve obviously been very involved in the machine learning and the AI, and we’re right there, right there. Along with that we’re having daily conversations with customers as well. So it feels like that trend is here now. And it’s only going to be getting more and more – more and more so, over the next few years.
Amanda Razani: And the technology is advancing so rapidly. How do the companies keep up with, you know, the companies that want to implement – by the time they implement, are they even going to have the latest technology there?
Dana Bishop: Well, and this is where experience research and collecting those insights from the end users, from customers, to really be developing and making it be what the market, what the consumers are wanting and needing right? And how does that fit into everyday life and not be this thing that is sort of over here? It’s already very much incorporated. Since November, right? ChatGPT. I mean, it’s like been such a short amount of time, and so much has already happened, right? So again, a lot of insights need to be gathered; a lot of companies are sort of leaning into that and putting a lot of thought and money into it. And again, going back to those business metrics, how do they invest in it in a way that is going to net a positive outcome in terms of that investment? And so again, experience research really enters into in a big way. And we’re, we’re running to stay in pace with that.
Amanda Razani: So, from your experience, when it comes to the user experience online, where do you see companies struggling to meet expectations?
Dana Bishop: Interesting. So in terms of where they’re struggling to meet expectations, that’s a great question. I think that, you know, no matter what, everybody always wants everything to be easier, and intuitive and quick, right? We have – our attention span has shrunk – as a bigger universe, right? And we did some recent study about generational banking, and found that there were so many similarities across all generations, as well, which was fascinating. So we used to think, you know, it’s different for different generations. The other thing that’s happening is every single day, more digital natives, right? So that number of folks who are in generations that are digital natives are increasing dramatically. And so that’s not obviously a trend that’s going away, that’s just becoming a bigger part of the population literally every day. So, you know, the expectations and the stakes are much higher. And we’re really seeing that the revenue, the business success and failures of businesses are really, really, really focused on the digital experience as so critical now. And really, it’s just being driven by the culture.
Amanda Razani: Absolutely. I 100% agree. We’re just going more and more remote, virtual and online. So that being said, two years from now, what are your predictions for how does technology fit into business and the customer experience?
Dana Bishop: Yeah, well, it’s a good question. I’m gonna agree that advancements certainly in AI and machine learning and AR and VR – AR and the machine learning advancements from a company standpoint are certainly going to aid in getting those insights that speed the insights, right? And so not necessarily the consumer part, but the consumption and collection of insights, right? To help companies pivot and act quickly on what they’re getting, what feedback they’re getting from their customers. That is a real area of focus through UserTesting, because, again, the speed, the insights – I’m hearing it, not only from us, but from our customers, and how do we do that? And of course, scaling up insights has become a big trend; I don’t see that going away. And by that, I mean, enabling more people to gather insights within your organization. So people in the marketing department and design and it’s not just for researchers anymore, right? So you know, everyone needs to be able to touch and talk to customers and really grasp what’s going on – we don’t need a small pool of people collecting the insights and having to disseminate it. It also becomes the point – it’s become to the point where they, a small team of people can’t be doing all of that. And philosophically more companies are saying everyone on the team should be in touch with those customers and listening to customers and hearing and seeing the pain points to really internalize it and understand we can’t design products for customers if we don’t see and understand; if we don’t have empathy. So we talk about the empathy gap, right? And so there’s a lot of research out there that say that companies in the past have felt like, oh, we understand our customers. And then when you talk to customers, a much smaller percentage of them feel that companies understand their wants and needs and their behaviors and how they do things. So again, it creates – it’s a great opportunity. And by scaling, the ability to gather insights and enabling more people to be sort of on that front line of talking to customers, and seeing and hearing has really been a game changer. That really has, and I see that becoming even more so. And again, I have a lot of excitement around the numbers that I see people reporting back; how important it is, throughout the entire company. UX used to be this little team that was sort of isolated and kind of doing their thing, and then other people started to hear about it. And now it’s coming top down, right from the very top of the organization saying, “Hey, we need to really be in touch with our customers, we need to be on the pulse, we need to understand the world, and our business is changing so quickly.” No matter what business it is, right? Banking, retail – doesn’t matter. It’s changing at lightning speed. And companies who don’t keep up are going to fall behind in ways that are going to be devastating for the business.
Amanda Razani: Absolutely, yes. And I’m seeing, due to that, you know, there’s a bit of a skills gap. I’m seeing so many opportunities to get trained in the UX experience.
Dana Bishop: So yeah, and you know, we’re very focused on that; we have entire teams that are focused on that. Because again, like when I see our industry report, and I see the demand for insights is increased at so many companies, I’m not surprised. Because we’re feeling that we’re feeling that and we’re trying to be that partner to help scale those insights and scale the ability for more people to get involved in talking to customers, and there’s nothing quite so impactful as seeing and hearing somebody interacting with your product, with your digital experience, and seeing what’s great about it, and validating, but also seeing what’s not working. And you know, you can sit around in a conference table, and it’s not the same experience as talking about it, and as seeing and hearing somebody actually give feedback. So, you know, again, it’s a really powerful thing. And it’s become so much more widely accepted and embraced within business, that I think it’s just moving everything forward in a way that is making – I think I referred to it as easier earlier; what does everyone want? They want it to be easier, they want it to be quick. They want it to be intuitive, right? And so that is also the goal. Obviously, as someone who has spent a career – 30 years in research and experience, digital experiences – I’m thrilled when the experience gets better and easier. But within the lines, to the business goals, and it’s being funded and asked for from that business, sort of moving those business KPIs. And we can measure the impact that an improved digital experience is having – it’s a win, win, win all around for everybody. So, and like I said, I see this. We’re just at the beginning of that.
Amanda Razani: Absolutely. Well, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing your insights with us today.
Dana Bishop: Thanks for having me. It’s been great.