7 tips to manage your customer research panel

Megan Johnson
September 20, 2022
7 tips to manage your customer research panel

So you’ve built a customer research panel thanks to the tips you picked up in our post about building a customer research panel and you have a steady pool of research participants.

Your research activities are increasing gradually and you’ve finalized your recruiting process. You’ve almost got your Research Ops streamlined. However, this doesn’t mean that your panel management activities should be put on the back burner.

To get the most out of your UX research or customer research activities, you must know how to manage your user research panel properly. We’ve put together 7 tips to help you manage your panel for your next round of research studies, whether you're running user interviews, focus groups, or another method.

Familiarize yourself with your panel management tool

It might sound obvious but the first thing you need to do is familiarize yourself and your research team (if you have one) with your panel management tool. You need to know how to use every feature, like setting up panels and scheduling interviews. After you’ve chosen your tool, get your team to play around with the tool, enter some dummy data, schedule some interviews etc, this will help your team get more comfortable using the tool.

Set time aside (like office hours) to formally get your team up to speed on your panel tool, go through the core features and explain which apps can be integrated with the tool. Answer any questions your team may have, and make sure you read your panel’s FAQs or help center to give you the right information. Set some housekeeping rules. For example, do not contact participants more than 3 times in 6 months for research.

Create a workflow for every research methodology. For instance, if you’re recruiting participants for usability testing of your new product, your workflow might look like this:

  • Create the screener survey
  • Post research recruitment ad on social media
  • Add eligible participants to the panel
  • Reach out to participants
  • Schedule research
  • Conduct usability tests

Ideally, you should be able to do all of these steps with a single research tool.

Continuously recruit participants

You need a continuous recruitment strategy. You don’t just want your advocates, you don’t just want the people who complain all the time. You want a mix of customers who use the various features of your product. For example, you want to speak to users who have had issues with the user experience and functionality of your product but you also want to speak to users who haven’t raised any complaints.

Sometimes, some silent customers don’t raise issues or give feedback unless they’re asked, that’s why it’s important to continuously recruit participants. You’ll get to hear from the silent customers. Seeking out silent customers will make the customers feel valued and appreciated.

Having diverse panelists (meaning that the way they use and engage with the product is diverse) will help product managers and designers get the feedback they need to deliver amendments to the product. A diverse participant panel pool also provides you with a competitive advantage. You’re getting feedback from a wide range of participants which will lead to more ideas and innovation.

Define your researcher's voice and brand

In Marketing, one of the first things you’re told to do is define your brand voice. Your brand voice is the way you present your brand to the world. Well, the same applies to research. You need to define your researcher’s voice, which is the way to present your research to your customers.

How do you want your research to be presented to your customers? Do you want your customers to feel like they’re being part of something groundbreaking? Or do you want your customers to feel like they’re just having casual conversations with you? Whatever researcher’s voice you choose to go with, you need to make sure this is communicated clearly and consistently to your respondents.

You have to make sure that your copy remains consistent across your recruitment materials, like your panel invitation emails and thank you emails. Sit down with your team to craft your researcher’s voice and brand. 

There are some foundational pieces you need to execute the recruitment, things like landing pages for people to register, emails that you can send to invite folks, and response emails that thank people for signing up. All of these foundational pieces should be branded appropriately, but still, appear personal.

Here's an example of a landing page we use at Great Question, when we want to talk to our awesome customers about their research.

An image of a branded landing page by Great Question inviting participants to join a research panel

Scale your research slowly

One of the fastest ways to mismanage your panel is to scale too quickly. If you take on multiple research projects simultaneously (not waiting for one research project to finish before starting another one) you can end up overworking your researchers and rushing projects. If you rush projects and hastily recruit participants, your potential participants might not be the right participants you need and you won’t get actionable insights. Consider quality over quantity.

If you recruit too quickly you’ll end up over-recruiting and end up with users that are there for the incentives like gift cards and not because they want to participate in your research. On the other hand, if you scale your research quicker than you recruit your participants, you’ll end up with the same panel pool taking part in consecutive research projects. This will lead to biased data.

The best approach to take is to space out your research projects and recruit at a capacity that is in line with your research goals. 

Update participant records frequently

It’s important to make sure you’ve updated your participant records. This includes making sure that email addresses are up to date, and also includes their contact preferences. Research is like any relationship, some courtesies need to be granted. Including not over-contacting, and being respectful if people decide to disengage.

You can use filters to ensure that you aren’t bothering folks who haven’t responded the last 2-3 times you’ve asked for feedback. It’s essential that you remove participants who have opted out of your research.

Make sure you attach recordings and notes to your participant’s record. This will help you keep track of the engagement between the user and the user research study. Also, other team members (sales, marketing, customer success, and support) will be able to see the interactions that have happened.

Seek feedback from your participants

It’s important to get feedback from your participants about their experience being researched. This will help you manage your panel properly. For example, your participant might give you feedback that they felt they would have been more comfortable with fewer people in the interview room. You can then use this feedback to reduce the number of participants in your next study.

Alternatively, your participants can give you feedback that exposes any bugs with your panel management tool. For instance, you may have a situation where a few participants didn’t receive the correct Zoom link or they didn’t get an automatic email invite after the interview had been scheduled. You can report this feedback to the Customer Success team, who will work to fix these issues.

When you seek feedback from your participants, you don’t want to overwhelm your participants with more interviews. This can lead to research fatigue. Instead, send a questionnaire or a link to an online survey with 2-3 questions asking about the experience of being part of your panel. Share the results with your team and iterate your research process.

Manage your customer data

Your participant’s data privacy and security are crucial components of any research project. Whether it’s user experience research, scientific or social research, you need to manage your customer’s data securely. This includes making sure that employees have the appropriate level of user access as well as creating data management policies.

Firstly, only certain teams (research and customer success) should have access to the customer’s personal information like name, email address and company. The design or engineering teams don’t need access to this data. Assign different permissions such as admin, creator or observer to each member of the team.

Secondly, you need to create a data management policy that enables you to manage your customer data properly. No one needs to review a customer interview video, survey, diary test, or tree test result from 2 years ago. It’s probably not even worthwhile to keep the data past 6 months. Set a policy with your team and make sure you stick to it. If you set a policy to delete customer data every 6 months, set a calendar reminder to remind you to go through your customer data and delete the data.

Build and manage your panels with Great Question

Ready to manage your own panel? Great Question automates your administrative tasks like scheduling, incentives and transcription. You can also control your panelist’s contact frequency which ensures you maintain data privacy and security.

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