When the RWWs were in-person, they worked great, but once we went virtual, they got better. We gained greater diversity among our participants. It was easier for participants to take part. It became simpler operationally.
When reaching out for participants to take part in RWWs, we limited our search to those who were within a reasonable commuting distance of our NYC, SF, or Seattle offices. This limited who we talked to in a couple of ways.
Urban locations are natural filters for company types and sizes. Design and Healthcare industry professionals were always an option for our San Francisco office, which is located in the Design district and next to University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) hospitals. Along those lines, if an industry did not have a downtown office, it would have been tougher to get representation consistently.
Also, for our Seattle RWWs, we had more selective criteria for participants. Seattle is a less-populated metropolitan area that is more spread out, so we needed to be extra diligent to avoid repeat participants. There were only so many people who both met this criteria and considered it geographically convenient enough to attend.
Additionally, when we talked to people from specific geographies, we ended up talking to specific demographics, too. We were only talking to people who lived or worked in expensive urban areas. Of those people, only the ones who could block off 2.5-4 hours in a workday were able to travel to and from our offices to talk with us. This limited pool of participants was a larger hurdle to clear while searching for meaningful diversity in our research.
Now that we have gone virtual, teams in Seattle can talk to participants in New York, Arkansas, Illinois, and Arizona. Also, these participants can represent industries, job titles, and overall different backgrounds that don’t exist the same way in urban areas.
Lower commitment for participants
The in-person RWWs always felt like a big commitment for participants to take on. They happened during business hours. Each was a 90-minute session of activity, which is already long, plus arriving early, checking in at security, and getting escorted to and from the room—it added up.
Committing to a 90-minute Zoom call is less cumbersome than commuting to a location that may or may not be convenient for the participants.
Also, the role of backup is much more appealing. Instead of commuting for a chance to take part, participants are asked to standby near their computers at home for about 15 minutes.
Cancellations cause less chaos
Cancellations by participants or research teams, while still frustrating, are easier to smooth over. Finding a new video participant the day before a session may not be ideal, but it is much more feasible than arranging an in-person visit.
Internally, drumming up enough groups to participate is easier as well. Now, if our smaller Seattle office can’t fill their five slots, they can tuck in with the New York team, or vice versa. Previously, it meant waiting a week or more for projects and schedules to align.
Constraints = challenge. Challenges foster improvement.
We shifted our in-person RWW sessions from a conference room to multiple Zoom rooms. We created a detailed schedule, tracking documents and dedicated Zoom rooms to replace in-person communications and adjustments. We expanded our recruit from three cities to the entire nation, and made the research sessions more appealing to our customers.
In 12 RWW virtual sessions, we’ve talked to 105 different customers representing demographics, locations, and industries previously inaccessible in this format. We are also converting these participants with an improved recruitment rate. Any of our research teams across the country can take part when they are ready, and it is simpler to make last-minute operational adjustments.
This virtual format made it is easier for our researchers and non-researchers to talk to unique customers, and made it easier for those customers to talk to us.