How to get executive buy-in for UX: our resident expert answers your questions
It’s never a bad time to convince your executives that UX is something that they should care about, but it’s especially important right now as companies focus on making budgets go further and cutting costs.
Of course, as the practitioners, it often falls to us to educate key stakeholders in the organization about the value UX delivers.
This is why we recently held a webinar on how to get executive buy-in for UX and focused on how practitioners should learn about the key business objectives executives care about in order to demonstrate the value UX is bringing to the table.
It was so bursting with helpful information, that we ran out of time for a full Q&A. So we gathered together the most interesting unanswered questions and Rima Campbell, our Sr. Director of UX Research, was kind enough to answer them.
If you would like to see the webinar on-demand and hear the presentation, as well as the rest of the questions, click on the link below…
Meanwhile, here are the questions. Enjoy!
My company understands the value of UX, however research is only brought in after to figure out what went wrong. How do I get research a seat at the table earlier so we have a better chance of success?
Rima: As you know, getting a seat at the table requires time to build trust and credibility. The good news for this particular instance is that you have an opportunity to build both right there waiting for you.
In this instance – your company launching something quickly without up-front research – is an opportunity to build a case around the importance of conducting research from the very beginning. You should outline the missed opportunity of doing early research and measure the business impact.
For example, remind them of the cost of the necessary rework to fix the problems and how it has affected customers’ loyalty, happiness, and perception of the brand. Then demonstrate how you could mitigate those issues from the very beginning through user research and usability testing.
Remember, when in doubt, speak to them in “money” terms. Remind them that UX research mitigates the risk of product failure and is a much more cost-effective way to handle the inevitable issues.
How would you suggest leading with metrics when testing a new product/feature with no benchmarks to measure against?
Rima: Testing a new product/feature and gathering the right metrics requires a solid understanding of the product strategy and what drove the initiative. In many cases, the new product/feature is created in response to a gap in the digital experience or in response to voice of the customer survey. Keep these in mind as you develop your research roadmap.
If the feature is going to be added to an existing digital product, I would recommend you launch an unmoderated study to quantitatively measure the UX score for the digital product. This study would be a baseline to understand the gaps and can be used for benchmarking purposes to test if the feature contributed to improving the UX Score and solved a customer problem.
If the product/feature is totally new and won’t be incorporated into an existing product, I would start with discovery research to understand the problem this product would solve for customers. This research can be a remote moderated study with 5-10 participants. To quantify the data I would suggest also launching an unmoderated desirability study to assess the value of the feature.
If the data these studies confirm that the feature would solve a customer problem, the next steps would be to focus on testing the usability of the wireframe/prototype, measure the UX score, identify areas of improvements, make the changes, test and iterate, then benchmark to measure the impact on the UX Score.
How many note-takers do you have in a session capturing your findings?
Rima: One note-taker during the moderated study would be ideal considering that most software offers a transcript of the session.
Any advice on how to get buy-in for qualitative research, especially when stakeholders would rather quantitative data?
Rima: The short answer is to explain to them that they are complementary types of user research. Quantitative gives you the WHAT but qualitative research answers the WHY question.
Make them understand that knowing 40% of the participants are able to complete a task doesn’t explain WHY users had trouble with that task, or offer insights into how to make it easier.
Researchers are fortunate to have access to platforms that allow us to collect qualitative data from five participants in a day or two at a low cost. The videos generated have the participants verbal feedback and screens as they interact with the experience.
In my experience, having these on hand makes it much easier for stakeholders to develop empathy for the users, and to buy-in to more qualitative research in addition to the quantitative data.
How do you proceed when executives want to know information on new projects that aren’t built around anything preexisting before giving research the go-ahead?
Rima: Be inclusive and collaborate. Bring everyone together to facilitate a strategic and objective conversation. Once you understand the stakeholders’ objectives and ultimate goals for the product, as well as their reasons for opposing research, you can better explain how UX can facilitate their goals and why it should be included in the beginning.
Start by hosting a design thinking exercise with stakeholders to identify the problems they’re trying to solve and the impact they’re having on the business. Use discovery research to develop a deeper understanding of the problems customers are experiencing and build empathy with the stakeholders on how this is affecting business objectives and metrics.
Once they are bought into the concept that research should be done from the very beginning you can explain your roadmap and how you are going to answer their questions.
In regards to finding out users’ intent to buy or use, I would recommend starting off with a remote moderated study with 5-10 qualified participants. Afterward, to quantify the data from the moderated sessions, I would launch an unmoderated desirability study to assess the value of the feature.
Keep the stakeholders in the loop and show them the results of your preliminary research.
How do you handle the situation where the stakeholder tells you that they don’t need research and are 100% confident that they got it right?
Rima: Unfortunately, this is still a common scenario so let’s break this one down. Stakeholders usually care about specific business objectives and metrics they are measured on. At its most simplified, executives want to cut costs and increase profits. They see research as a nice to have (cost) and not something that is a necessity (profit).
There are many reasons why they may see research as a nice to have and not something that’s integral to their success. They may feel that they already know their users. They may have consulted with industry experts. Sometimes this is simply a side effect of the HiPPO syndrome – being the highest-paid person means their opinion is usually given more value or weight.
This is your chance to educate them on the importance of validating assumptions through research in cost-effective ways. Prove how quickly you can get data that helps shape the UX strategy of the product before development starts while sharing the potential costs of doing retroactive fixes.
Keep the focus on validating designs against business objectives and benchmark studies to measure impacts on the UX Score. Better yet, run a competitive benchmark to see where you stack against the competitors to prove the value of UX research to executives.
Fortunately, industry-leading research and strategy firms have already proven that organizations who invest in user research and user-centered design outperform those who don’t. McKinsey & Company released The Business Value of Design in 2018, Gartner has How a Test-and-Learn Culture Improves Customer Experience from 2018, and Forester wrote High-Impact Research: The Ingredients For An Effective UX And Design Research Practice in 2019.
If none of the above works, don’t be discouraged because after the experience is released to customers and you start hearing about the impact (increase in call volume and customer complaints, etc.) you will have the perfect opportunity to step in and provide your expertise.
Of course, you need to avoid saying “I told you so!” Instead show empathy and build a workforce to strategically understand the root cause of the problem and give valuable recommendations.
How is the qxScore calculated?
Rima: The qxScore is a single UX metric that aggregates a composite of behavioral (task success) data combined with attitudinal data. It leverages industry-standard metrics. Here is how it’s calculated:
- Equally weighted (50% Behavioral, 50% Attitudinal)
- Behavioral: Task success % for all tasks is aggregated and represents 50% of the overall score.
- Attitudinal: 8 industry-standard questions are used to calculate the Attitudinal side of the equation: Ease of Use, Trust, Appearance and Loyalty. We calculate the top two boxes and use the resulting %.
We were hearing our customers say “we have no internal measures for UX, so we won’t be able to prove the value of benchmarking.” As a result, we developed the qxScore at UserZoom to help customers implement a reliable, meaningful, and consistent way to measure UX performance.
In the statement that ‘70% of businesses see UX as valuable’ – does that include research, as this is often not included in the UX budget?
Rima: Please see the state of UX in the enterprise 2019 for more information. A little over half (52%) of the respondents in our 2018 survey said that their CEO mentions User Experience as a key differentiator during analyst calls, company all-hands and other forums. In 2019 this number has risen to 70%, which is promising.
Also promising is that 29% of enterprises in 2019 had a VP of Design or Chief Experience Officer, up from 21% in 2018. So not only are CEOs and the C-Suite aware of the benefits that investing in UX can bring to the organization but are also taking actions to put their money where their mouths are.
That said there is still a massive opportunity for the 71% of enterprises out there without a VP of Design or Chief Experience Officer to take the next step.
For UX Leaders, and other digital professionals who care about UX and already “get” its value, the overall trends we saw are positive. For example, securing budget (2018’s top challenge) was trending downwards from 60% in 2019.
Of particular note is the rise in UX Benchmarking, a strong indication (coupled with the rise in CEOs mentioning UX as a competitive differentiator) that UX is maturing in some organizations. Benchmarks are commonly used to raise the profile of UX and report on its impact using metrics that the C-Suite can understand. Often to help secure budget.
We expect this upward trend to continue as UX Leaders seek to use empirical measures to evidence the impact of UX, and therefore, is another fantastic opportunity for companies seeking to grow their UX maturity.
In the case study featured in the webinar, how were satisfaction and ease measured? Did you go back and compare the redesign scores to the competitors to see if you improved?
Rima: Regarding the case study, and how satisfaction and ease were measured, we calculated the top two boxes for ease of use and satisfaction and used the resulting % based on a 5-point Likert scale.
Yes, we went back and relaunched the competitive benchmark study after we released the new design and we were able to show drastic improvements in the ease of use and satisfaction rating in comparison to the competitors.
In the case study, did you mix methods to design the survey and inquire from users?
Rima: We used the mix methods unmoderated study during the redesign phase. We used click test tasks, a navigation task, and time out tests in one study to validate the redesign experience flow and content.
Thank you to everyone who wrote in their questions and attended the webinar. If you would like to watch the presentation on-demand and see the full discussion, click on the link below:
Main image by Zach Lucero
Currently managing the Research Partner Team in NAM, Rima is an experienced CX/UX Strategist, who focuses on helping businesses achieve the maximum return on every customer interaction. Rima has 18 years of stellar achievement in UX leadership and execution. She spent nearly two decades at Citigroup, where she strategically navigated a complex global structure and proved the value of UX insights, which resulted in growing the UX Research budget from $30K – $3 MI. Rima is a previous customer of UserZoom, she believes in the company’s strategy and vision, and joined the company in 2017 to counsel and empower UX professionals to thrive and achieve tangible results.