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Dig Perspectives: Patrick Lambert on DIY vs. Automated Research

In our last post, we explored why DIY research doesn’t cut it, and what business leaders look for in a restech platform.

patrick lambert

This time, we sat down to chat with Patrick Lambert, a VP at Dig who runs Customer Experience for our automated research platform Upsiide. Patrick told us a bit about his role and shared his thoughts on the debate (though Patrick doesn’t consider it a debate) around DIY vs. automated research. 

Q: Can you tell us a little about your background and your role at Dig?

My background is in the consumer packaged goods industry, mainly in analytics and insights roles. I love data and I had the chance to work in roles that involve many different kinds of data. I’ve also had experience working both on the client-side and the provider-side, which is how I got an understanding of both realms. 

As my roles progressed I got more and more into the consultative side of research, specifically innovation research. That's what really led me to join Dig and Upsiide. When I joined two years ago, my role mainly focused on client service.

Now, as the VP of Customer Experience for Upsiide, I lead three key pillars of our business: customer success, customer support, and customer enablement. Customer success is about proactive management of the relationship with the customer, ensuring that they achieve their desired outcomes with their use of our self-serve insights platform. Customer support is about providing empathetic help to customers if they experience issues and assisting with any questions they may have on the product. Finally, customer enablement is about providing services supporting the implementation, adoption, and usage of Upsiide so that customers are empowered with automated research customized to their needs and that they receive the necessary training and coaching.

Can you tell us a bit more about research platforms and why more and more businesses are going self-serve?

More organizations are adopting self-serve because the gap between a serviced engagement and self-serve is becoming much less than what it used to be, and with Upsiide, we are making it a very small difference for some types of research projects.

When self-serve was only DIY, there was a pretty big gap between going self-serve vs working with an agency. The cost savings of going self-serve weren’t necessarily sufficient to take on the work, losing the expertise the agency provides, and the time savings weren’t really a thing.  

The agency brings tremendous value at many stages of the research projects: making sure the study is properly designed, managing the operations of the project, transforming the data into compelling and easy to interpret results, and finally, the agency makes sure the client gets the most out of the results and provides recommendations. 

Considering that now, the way we bring self-serve to our clients is that their study design and methodologies are validated by research professionals, all operations are fully automated, data is automatically available in a compelling an easy to digest dashboard, and that users can be empowered through training and coaching to get the most out of their studies, the gap is much smaller. So the cost and time savings now really make it very appealing in the right circumstances.

More specifically, when the research need is a standard one, such as idea screening, concept refinement (flavours, name, pack, …), or concept testing, I would recommend adopting an automated self-serve solution and have your teams enabled by a research agency. The classic agency model still has its place in our industry, but will be focusing on more custom and more consultative engagements. 

What’s the criteria for a good restech platform?

As a starting point, the platform you use needs to cover the basics, but you really don’t need all the bells & whistles that some platforms offer. It’s not the number of question types you can use that is important, but rather that the respondent interface is designed for mobile and will ensure respondents are engaged.

It also needs to be easy to both create your projects and to review the results. For when you use it in a more DIY fashion, it’s useful to have a well built Help Center where you can find answers to all your questions. 

We are seeing many organizations adopting self-serve platforms and looking to give access to the research to a larger set of stakeholders. In that context, automation becomes much more important, and you need something very simple and intuitive to use, where all users will be able to navigate and get to what they need easily. 

What do you think about the debate around automated vs. DIY?

It’s not a debate. Automated is better when it makes sense to automate and you need DIY when your research objectives require something that it didn’t make sense to automate. 

In case we don’t have the same definition of the terms, I use “self-serve” as the umbrella term for DIY and automated. So basically, you can contract a research professional and go with a serviced engagement or proceed with a self-serve engagement on your own using a self-serve platform. When going self-serve, you can start from scratch which is DIY or leverage something automated. 

For us at Upsiide, automated is flexible and adapted to your needs. It’s not a rigid methodology that never seems to exactly be what you need. I can see why there may be a debate here for someone that has only experienced a different kind of automated.

Tell us more about when automated vs DIY options are more relevant?

Self-serve solutions are especially useful to organizations when the business needs the research is supporting is recurring and can benefit from a standardized approach. This is where automated solutions shine.  

Suppose you are a quick-service restaurant, you will regularly be needing to decide on new menu items and limited-time offers. You should have a preferred process or KPIs that are important to decide what goes on the menu. In this case, the objectives for the research you need is always the same and you should automate it. 

But sometimes, you need insights and it’s not something supporting a process. Think of a quick-service restaurant at the beginning of the pandemic; what do you tell your customers? Should you develop more delivery and pick-up options? You need answers to those questions quickly. If you master the basics of market research, you can use a platform “DIY” and enable your organizations to make the required key decisions based on consumer feedback.  

You shouldn’t have to choose between a platform that offers DIY and one that provides automated. Just go for one that offers both!

What if the automated platform you’re looking at doesn’t have the capability to ask custom questions?

Don’t use such a platform. 

What we strive to achieve with Upsiide is a blend of both DIY and automated. The survey templates are designed in collaboration with our clients and the end user is able to make the changes they need to make at a study level. So the automated is customizable.

Even when you’re doing something that requires customization, it’s better to start from something. Upsiide users can benefit from both consistency and flexibility. 

You mentioned the process of teaching clients to use self-serve platforms. Can you tell us more about how you do that at Upsiide?

There are a few ways we teach our clients. It starts with onboarding which is conducted by a dedicated Customer Success Manager for our enterprise clients or through the self-onboarding material we have created that is available on our help center.

We also offer training and coaching to our customers. The standard training offering focuses on the main struggles organizations going self-serve encounter. Those are mainly about market research best practices such as keeping your survey engaging, audience design, and stimuli creation. Coaching is a process where we empower users to complete their first few studies with the guidance of a market research professional. Typically, we connect on study design, before client launches the study, and when the results are available 

What do you think needs to change in self-serve research platforms?

The perception of self-serve needs to change. Many have this preconceived idea that self-serve is hard and complicated, like actual programming/coding. In reality, while some platforms are like that, the good platforms have made study set-up much easier and faster. 

With Upsiide, it's very easy to set up a study. Even if you don’t think your organization has the necessary research expertise, we can help you adopt self-serve. Most of our new business is coming from organizations adopting self-serve for the first time. In most cases, those organizations are adopting self-serve to support the new product development process. It makes so much sense to benefit from automated self-serve solutions for research needs such as idea screening and concept testing. The cost savings allow organizations to test more ideas and concepts, to identify better innovations, and to still have more money in their pocket for later on in the process. It’s just better all around.

Check out more about how we do things below.