There’s A Better, More Human Way to Learn From Your Users


Are you a consumer insights strategist or user experience researcher looking to find highly engaged respondents?

I have some ideas for you.

'Hello, my name is Becky. I work for an independent research company who is looking for men and women in your area to talk about viral videos. If you qualify based on the questions I am about to ask, you could receive $150 for your time and opinions.'

As a research project manager, I have probably written some form of that introduction more than 100 times on a qualitative screener. I also have robotically altered my voice and started a conversation in this way too many times to count. Perhaps you have as well. I often found myself apologizing to the individual for the alienating process of questionnaire reading and then promised (OK, hoped) it would be worth the person’s time in the end.

Stringent respondent criteria, segmentation tools, large base sizes, and brand quotas are a small assortment of techniques those in the market research industry use to recruit consumers. But after checking all the boxes, researchers and clients are still left with some gut-wrenching questions: Is this a professional respondent who took part in 100 different studies? Did respondents lie on their screener? Will they even show up to the research session?

Frankly, I worry that traditional qualitative screening has closed the doors on developing real human connections. When thinking about the word consumer, how did we become so disjointed from customer engagement?

“How do we make a better experience for respondent recruiting?” is a question that has long hovered in my mind. I just kept waiting for a project to come along where a client was willing to take a risk and try a different — and smarter — method.

Fortunately, a multi-million dollar American software company approached me because they had a question to solve: How do we create a better user experience for those that tell visual digital stories?

Bingo! Here was a real chance to deliver a new avenue on human storytelling, and my idea was to use the digital story to scout research respondents. The client team put their respective personal research agendas on hold, and were 100 percent aligned with a new guerilla recruiting strategy. By leveraging viral platforms such as; Vimeo, YouTube, and Facebook , I hand-selected individuals based on their story. My strategy started with listening to their cause, philosophy, and unique selling proposition. I replied with meaningful comments and emails, and then followed up with a phone call. I would always lead off by thanking them for creating a unique story. I then started screening by simply building a rapport and engaging them in a detailed dialogue about their project. A nine-page questionnaire was never needed because I had 20 minutes of an engaging human-to-human conversation.

It amazed me how complete strangers were so open to sharing their story. In a world where our faces are buried in smartphones, tablets, and laptops – we are craving true human connection. Rapport with everyone was built instantaneously. It was not because I had a great incentive to offer (even though there was a handsome monetary incentive). It was the fact I reached out, because I cared about their story, and approached them in an authentic way that made it easy to say “yes.”

This more personal approach clearly worked. To “quantify” the success of this technique:

  • 0 participants had done a research study before

  • Study activities was at 100 percent completion

  • The top three non-negotiable criteria from the client was met (this was our screener)

At the conclusion of the project, each digital storyteller had developed a beautiful new video story explaining the tools, techniques and tension points they had making their virtual story. They crafted a direct deliverable that our client team was able to use for years to inspire new products and designs — and to answer the needs of the untrained digital storyteller.


Want to learn more about The Band Consultancy and our unique approach?

Email Kristin or read our post, Startup Founders: Slow Down to Speed Up.


Johnlewis Zoeckler