Customer Research Best practices

Customer research panel recruitment and management tips

May 12, 2022
5 min
Customer research panel recruitment and management tips

Why build a panel of customers just for research?

Building a panel of customers that will provide feedback can provide you with a competitive advantage. But, it’s not easy to get the right folks to join your panel. You don’t want just your advocates, you don’t want just the people who complain all the time. You want a mix of customers who use the various features in your product. 

Having a diverse panel of users (meaning that the way they use and engage with the product is diverse) will help product teams and designers get the feedback they need to deliver a best-in-class solution. The more you lean into customer feedback as a roadmap driver the happier your customers will be and the more you will be able to deliver value to similar prospects.  As Teresa Torres says in her book, Continuous Discovery Habits, “we are doing research so that we can serve our customer in a way that creates value for our business.” What is valuable to your customers is valuable to your business.

Connecting with customers on a regular basis will give you the ability to find the signal through the noise. If you are conducting research on a regular basis, with a diverse set of customers, you’ll prevent your roadmap from being hijacked by the biggest or the angriest customers. You’ll be able to hear the signal through all the noise with continuous research. 

Being able to build a panel of customers that are regularly providing feedback helps your research, design, and product teams build a rapport with customers, which in turn leads to more feedback. Like any relationship-building, this takes time and is best when not distracted by other asks. Having a panel of customers that you can engage with just for research, helps your customers see the impact of their investment in the research relationship.

How do you recruit for your panel?

There are some foundational pieces you need in order 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. 

Once you have the building blocks built, you can begin outreach. Depending on your organization there are a few different channels we recommend:

  • Social media followers
  • Customer newsletters
  • NPS follow up
  • 1:1 outreach via support or customer success
  • Marketing advocacy groups
  • Support ticket follow up

Each of these channels are great to be able to share links to your landing pages where customers can sign up to join the panel. We’ve used simple posts at the bottom of a customer newsletter or after a support ticket is closed, inviting them to help us better define our roadmap and provide critical product feedback. 

It’s easy to drop in a couple of lines of text and a link to a form. From there it’s easy to schedule emails, thanking customers for signing up and setting up expectations about their engagement, letting them know that you want to build a relationship and you realize that there will be times when asks will be bigger and others when you want quick design feedback. Using a screener survey you can ask your customers what types of feedback they want to engage with. 

Building out your panel at the beginning can seem daunting, but eventually, the recruitment should just become a flywheel. The links are always in the customer NL or always in the support ticket follow-up, or you get the marketing team to share on social once a month, whatever you can do to make sure that your panel is always growing.

Managing your panel over time

As you’ve started to build your panel (this is a never-ending cycle) it’s important to make sure that you are engaging appropriately. Like any relationship, there are courtesies that need to be granted, including not overburdening, being respectful if people disengage, and all of that comes from tracking. 

You can use filters to make sure that you aren’t bothering folks that haven’t responded the last X times you’ve asked for feedback. You can invite folks that maybe were just created in the past X months, you can make sure that people can opt out at any time without too much effort. 

Lastly, it’s important to keep track of the engagement you are having as researchers, so that other team members (sales, marketing, customer success, and support) know that these interactions have happened. Being able to track and send those engagements back to a CRM or similar tool is critical in keeping all teams aware of the conversations happening across the entire company.

All of these are respectful ways to manage your panel over time. 

Using these techniques to recruit and manage your panel should help you get more customer feedback on a consistent basis. 

If you’d like to learn more about how Great Question can help you build and manage a panel of customers while automating even more administrative tasks like scheduling, incentives, and a repository, watch this

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