The voice of the user: creating opportunities for service teams to hear directly from research participants

Emma Davis
Slide from a presentations showing a quote from a user about not seeing a box they needed to tick on an online form. In the imgage, there is an audio button next to the quote.

User research is all about understanding the user experience and ensuring the voice of the user is heard, so it can be placed at the centre of any decisions made by a service team. But, on recent projects, I’ve noticed that there is something extra impactful about members of the service team hearing that voice directly from users themselves and it’s got me thinking about the best way to make that happen. 

Sitting in on obser-views

We often offer the opportunity for members of a service team to sit in as observers on our user interviews or obser-views. This means they get to hear, and sometimes see, first-hand the frustrations and pain-points of those using their service. 

On one recent project, a service team member sat in on a handful of interviews and reflected on how insightful this was – they said they couldn’t believe they hadn’t done something similar before and hearing from the users at the same time as the researcher meant they were able to act immediately on some of the feedback. 

It was also really useful to have them on-hand to answer some service-based questions that the user had, meaning that the call was valuable for the user too. 

However, it isn’t always practical for members of a service team to schedule time to sit in multiple interviews, especially when it is the user’s availability that has to be the priority. 

And there is also a question about whether the service team being present affects what the user is willing to share – in this particular case the users didn’t hold back but there are other examples where I wonder if the users would have been quite so candid if a responsible service team member was on the call. 

Taking part in user workshops

Workshops provide another opportunity for service team members to get involved and hear directly from users. For example, co-design workshops, by nature, are a chance for the service team to interact with users, hear their ideas and work with them directly to develop the service. 

We also sometimes brief members of the service team to take on a facilitator role for small groups in other workshops, such as experience mapping.

From the conversations we have with service team members afterwards, it’s clear that what they hear from the users in this context often stays with them well after the workshop has ended. They often refer back to comments they have heard when it comes to conversations about recommendations and next steps.

But again, there is a limit to how many members of the service team it is practical to have involved in this, as well as a limit to the number of users involved, and the range of insights we can gather in a workshop format. 

Hearing the user voice in show and tells

Our show and tells are the conventional opportunity to share what we have heard from users with the wider service team and stakeholders. If you’ve ever attended one of our findings show and tells, you’ll know that direct quotes from users feature heavily in our slides, but we’ve recently been trying to incorporate more sound clips and videos from our research into the presentations. 

There’s a noticeable difference in how this lands when it is me, the researcher, telling the service team what I’ve heard compared to them hearing it directly from a user. There’s something about actually hearing the voice of the user that really brings to life, well, the voice of the user. 

Again, it is a balance; we still need to focus our show and tell presentations on the wider, practical insights from our research analysis, and finding succinct sound or video clips that work well in this format can sometimes be a challenge.  However, I know when it comes to the next show and tell, I’ll be looking out for every opportunity to incorporate the direct voice of the user to illustrate the insights our research reveals. 

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