Don’t Flatline, Keep Your Finger on Your Customers’ Pulse

Light touch research methodologies and tools for staying in tune with your customers’ voice

Published in
6 min readFeb 11, 2018


In the world of product design, getting real-life user feedback is paramount to success. We all know this and it’s easy in theory. But once we get out in the real world, we’re often competing against lean timelines and juggling multiple initiatives at once. There isn’t always time for as much formal research as we’d like. Organising and preparing for face-to-face research with customers is time consuming and requires dedicated attention. Not to mention the time it takes to run the sessions and analyse the insights. We’re talking up to 2 weeks of devoted time, which isn’t always possible.

At SEEK we’re constantly looking for ways to improve our research practice and make it easier and faster to get research happening. In fact, we’re in the process of auditing our face-to-face research process now to make it better than ever (stay tuned for learnings and insights!). We’re looking for ways to expand on our remote and un-moderated research methodologies.

Over the past year, I’ve been using a variety of tools for light touch research (research that’s remote, lightweight, and generally un-moderated). Many of these approaches are quick and easy to implement, and can serve as a pulse check on how your product is going with customers. But they shouldn’t replace more formal methodologies such as face-to-face interviews, as they won’t provide the same level of in-depth insights. Think of them as complimentary to formal research, bridging the gaps between research rounds and keeping the connection to your customers’ voices ongoing.

I’ve found the following techniques and tools really useful for this purpose. And in addition to being quick to implement, they have the added benefit of intercepting your customers while using your product in life scenarios, in their own real life environment. Something that can be difficult to simulate in a research lab.

Micro Surveys

These are simply short surveys (one or two questions only). At SEEK, we like to launch micro surveys off the back of questions presented in an email. For example, we send summary emails to our customers who have recently posted job ads with us. At the bottom of that email we ask: “Are you satisfied with your ad’s performance?” where the customer can indicate yes or no with a click. Based on their selection, a second question opens in a new tab (the micro survey), asking them to elaborate. It’s a great way for us to get feedback from our customers within the context of using our product.

Email survey question
Micro survey (using SurveyMonkey)

Ensure you link to your micro survey from somewhere that will provide context for your customers, and ideally at a time when they’re already thinking about the question(s) you’re wanting to ask. Keep your focus short and sharp and ask only one or two targeted questions. You can decide where and how you distribute your micro survey and therefore how targeted or broad you go with your user base.

On-site messages

These are a great option for when you want to intercept your customers on specific pages, or after certain events have occurred on your site. There are a few tools available for this purpose, but they generally consist of a widget that pops open on the edge of the screen overtop of your site (think Hotjar, Intercom, or Zendesk). You can use these in a variety of ways to get quick insight from customers on feature preferences, behavioural tendencies, or overall satisfaction.

At SEEK we recently ran a short on-site poll to capture satisfaction ratings. To do this we used a tool called Hotjar, which allows you to specify how and when the widget is triggered. We configured the poll to display for customers who had just completed the process of posting a job ad, so we could ask them to rate this experience specifically.

Hotjar Poll on SEEK

Hotjar is easy to implement, and you can customise the look and feel, position, and behaviour of your widget. One limitation of Hotjar is that it only supports anonymous responses, so you can’t track which customers said what. Likewise, you can’t target specific users. If you need to do either of these, consider using Intercom. Intercom doesn’t have a built-in poll function like Hotjar, but you can get clever with the voting function or include a link to another polling tool in the message body.

Intercom message with Emoji based voting
Intercom message with external survey link

We’ve also used Intercom to announce new feature releases. By leaving the chat portion of the widget enabled, our customers can leave comments and ask questions. This gives us rich insights into their sentiments about the new feature. Ensure that if you leave chat enabled, you’re checking your messages regularly, as some customers will respond with questions or other feedback that requires a response from you.

Word to the wise: Use on-site messages sparingly, as they can be really annoying for visitors. Don’t interrupt customers with your message in the middle of a flow or while completing a task. If you find you’re getting angry comments from customers, either reduce or stop them.

Interruptions can be annoying

Double-jacking with Customer Service

(For anyone not familiar with the term “double-jacking”, this is when you plug an extra headset into a phone so you can listen in on calls).

If you’re lucky enough to have your Customer Service (CS) team in your building, you should consider double-jacking with them regularly. It’s a great way to hear firsthand the problems your customers are facing, right when they’re facing them. There’s zero preparation required on your part. Just turn up, sit quietly and listen. You’ll also get the added benefit of chatting with your CS Rep between calls, which can give you insight into what problems are frequent and recurring. CS is one degree of separation from your customers, and know better than anyone what is and isn’t working for them, so make sure you tap that resource!

Read more on double-jacking here:
This call may be monitored (for product improvement purposes)

Phone calls

A good old fashioned phone call can still be a great way to connect with your customers. You’ll need to do some light prep for these; deciding who you’re going to call and drafting a rough script of what you’ll discuss. You’ll need to set aside a few sessions to make the calls, as well as any call-backs. Use a spreadsheet to keep track of who you spoke with and who you need to call back and when. You may want to consider incentivising your participants with this type of activity, depending on the length of your calls. Use your best judgement. In the past we’ve offered free job ads to customers who spent time with us on the phone.

With any research methods, remember to treat your participants well. Keep in mind that you depend on their cooperation and contribution, so be courteous and don’t ask too much from them.



Product Designer with a passion for human behaviour.