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Community Soundbites: How can insights technology be enhanced by human expertise?

Technology plays a huge role in the field of CX research and insights. Some work is being automated, some just made easier. As we navigate these changes, the intersect of "humans and technology" is topical for those in our community. So, this month's Insights Community roundtable focused exactly on that.

Each month, Thematic hosts a virtual roundtable (a casual Zoom call) for insights professionals within our community. Together, we discuss how we’re seeing this space evolving and swap notes on best practices! If you’re keen to join a community call in the future - you can register your interest here.

How is today's CX research and insights technology enhanced by human expertise?


With the largest group we’ve had in attendance yet, it was a really diverse conversation with a load of insights shared.

Here are the high-level soundbites:

  • Diving into the philosophical question: Is technology replacing CX research and insights professionals? The short answer is: no.
  • Humans’ ability to find reasoning and an emotional connection behind data is a key way we enhance technology.
  • Communication of CX insights is half the battle (an area where technology has a long way to go still).
  • Technology is making both qualitative and quantitative data more accessible. Equally important though, it's freeing us up to focus on the more mentally stimulating work!

Ultimately, if I were to sum up this conversation in a sentence, it would be: Technology gets you the data - and humans will tell you the story.

So on that note, let’s dive into the depths of the conversation:

We opened up with a discussion about the areas of Customer Experience research where we value the human input over the technology used. The good news for those in this field… there’s no shortage of the value humans deliver!

Our work is grounded in data - gathering it, processing it, making sense of it. So there’s no question that today's tools are encroaching on traditional market research territory.

However, what our “enhancement” to the technology comes down to is our understanding of:

  • Why we are conducting the research
  • How the research is being conducted
  • How the findings and insights are being communicated
  • How the insights can be used
“Like any technology, the goal is to free you up for more high-value thinking - and that's where our expertise is complementary to the technology” - Attendee of our call

We all agree technology surpasses human expertise when it comes to data collection and processing. So many data points today are being captured in digital channels. This amount of information collected (particularly for quantitative studies) quickly surpasses human comprehension. But that doesn’t mean the tech is replacing our jobs - and nor does it look likely that it will in the future. Instead, it's supercharging the CX profession.

The false reality we may imagine about the growth of AI software

Communicating CX research findings requires human story telling


A key point raised in our discussion was how presenting and communicating the findings can often be the hardest part. Technology is far away from being able to handle the complexities here.

Humans enhance technology AND the story - by being able to ask (and answer) “why” and “how”:

  • Why are we conducting the research?
  • Why are some insights more relevant to specific stakeholders?
  • Why is this data trustworthy?
  • Why are some insights more important than others?
  • How can the insights be used?

These kinds of questions bring the data to life. From there, communicating the most relevant usable results is key.

As noted by Nichola Quail, founder of Insights Exchange - When presenting to Executives, they often just want the 2-3 key findings. Take it to different stakeholders however and their needs will differ too.

Amy Zintl, Managing Partner from ServiceSense, made an interesting point regarding her work with smaller businesses. Often they don’t have the bandwidth to handle a deluge of information, and if they are overwhelmed, it can undermine the whole project.  It’s the researcher's job to distil down the parts which are most relevant and actionable.

You need to capture enough of “the right” data.


Jamin Brazil, host of the Happy Market Research Podcast & CEO of HubUX, brought up today’s generational shift - and how this is driving more “micro-surveys”. Attention spans of the younger generation is plummeting - especially when it comes to giving companies their feedback.

“What's called survey fatigue is essentially action fatigue. People know that they can give all their thoughts [to a business] but nothing will ever happen”

Technology is a major enabler in overcoming this. With the ability to capture short and sharp insights in digital channels, companies can reach this audience. With these interactions being so fleeting though, there’s added pressure to get the right human input - to drive more insightful output! It's important to be asking the right questions and giving positive reinforcements. Encouraging continued participation is key.

We discussed how (in particular with COVID) technology as simple as Zoom has made gaining qualitative data much much easier. Both in terms of making it accessible for people to participate, but equally, there are all sorts of tools out there that can dive into the mass of data points created in these conversations.

With qualitative data being a central focus for CX professionals, it’s widely acknowledged that, while the technology adds value from an efficient perspective, ultimately this area still relies on the ability of humans to shape and distil this information.

A more accurate depiction of how human experience and insights tech compliment each other!

What we don't miss from before the rise of insight technology


We finished the conversation with a discussion about what we don’t miss about the days before we had access to the technology we have now. There was general agreement that any tools that stop you from spending days doing data entry and reading spreadsheets are a good thing!

On a similar note - we discussed what people’s reservations are about how technology is evolving. I felt this quote by CX consultant Mauricio summed up our collective thoughts well:

“My fear is that researchers don't adopt technology because they feel like it will make them useless or ineffective. What I believe, at least for my lifetime/the rest of my career, is that technology is going to continue forward regardless. So, we as researchers need to ensure that we are adding value to the process. That means understanding (really) the needs of the customer, the right methodologies and ways to ask questions”

What differs humans from all other species is our ability to tell stories. The truth of this was abundantly clear throughout our conversation. The tech may be moving into our turf, but really it’s just making us a lot better at our jobs and the stuff we do best!

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