From product managers and marketers to UX designers and researchers to CX professionals and executives, everyone has a business need to connect with their customers and end-users. The ability to do this face-to-face, whether it is virtually — through a webcam or smartphone — or in person, there is an added benefit to seeing the user and being able to read non-verbals and observe facial expressions for sentiment. The lack of gating features in face-to-face interviews provides critical insights that enable one to better decipher reaction, emotion and empathy from the customer.

Enter UserTesting’s Live Conversation, today’s solution for companies looking to connect in real-time with their customers to gather qualitative feedback and insights on projects, designs, campaigns and more. With Live Conversation, users simply choose the demographics of the participants they are seeking insights from, enter their calendar availability, and UserTesting does the rest to connect them with their target audience.

What’s new?

UserTesting recently released enhancements to Live Conversation to give its users greater flexibility in coordinating and conducting moderated, live interviews with 24/7 scheduling and same-day interviews to offer faster time to insights in the moment they need it, and support for multiple time zones to make it more accessible for international companies.

As schedules frequently change, new enhancements to Live Conversation also make it easy to add, adjust and edit availability, even after a study is created. Expanded capabilities also include deleting times previously marked as available and adding more availability if sessions do not fill.

Companies such as Alaska Airlines, Autotrader, Constant Contact, and CoverMyMeds all use Live Conversation to make smarter business decisions based on deeper customer empathy and real-time human insights — resulting in time, cost and resources savings over traditional moderated mechanisms.

Bradley Miller, Senior User Experience Researcher at Autotrader, said he “turned to Live Conversation to connect with recent car buyers to better understand the customer journey, and to ultimately drive empathy and customer-centric design.” With Live Conversation, Autotrader saw cost savings and an 80 percent decrease in time investment. What would normally take weeks now just takes him a few days to schedule and conduct live customer interviews.

Frank Rosile, User Experience Designer at CoverMyMeds, said that “talking to patients [via Live Conversation] builds empathy for them, and helps CoverMyMeds understand the ‘why’ behind what to build.” Using Live Conversation, CoverMyMeds has seen significant time and cost savings as they gained important information about patients to inform future product development.

When to use it? Live (or moderated) vs. unmoderated customer research

One question that we often hear from customers is which is better: live (moderated) or unmoderated customer research? The answer, as you might’ve guessed, is that it depends. Like any research strategy, there are differing benefits for each approach making them more or less suitable depending on what you’re studying and your ultimate business goals.

With live moderated studies, a real person will be there to help facilitate the test. The moderator will work directly with the participants, guiding them through the study and will be there to help facilitate and answer questions if the participant encounters any challenges while completing their tasks.

Strikingly

Unmoderated studies are just as they sound. It’s not monitored or guided, so there’s no one else present during the study except the participant. The participant completes any tasks and answers questions at their own pace, on their own time, at a time and location of their choosing.

Now that we’ve established the basic differences between the two, let’s dive in to how and when to best apply each strategy based on your research needs.

Live customer research: pros and cons

It helps to think of moderated testing as an interview or a real-time conversation that you’re having with a customer. Everything that you’d do to prepare for that type of interaction is what you’ll need to consider for a moderated study.

Pros

Live moderated testing works best when you need a high level of interaction between you and your customer. For example, if you want to study a prototype with limited functionality, or a complicated process or concept, moderated testing provides you with the interaction you’d need to guide a customer through the study. They’re also an excellent way to conduct interviews, understand the customer journey, and discover pain points.

Live moderated testing is also a great way to observe body language and pick up on subtle behaviors and responses and probe participants for more information if they seem stuck or confused.

They allow you to develop a rapport and have a natural conversation with your customers which helps establish trust, and can lead to candid feedback that might not be possible with other qualitative research methods.

Cons

Because of the additional time and resources, live moderated testing does cost more than unmoderated testing; however, you can reduce some of that cost by conducting remote moderated studies, rather than in-person with Live Conversation. This will give you the opportunity to connect with participants all around the world and reduce the need to block out a dedicated time and space for onsite interviews. Who doesn’t love getting some hours back in their day?

Unmoderated customer research: Pros and cons

This type of testing is best for validating concepts and designs quickly with a diverse group of customers. Unmoderated testing works great if you have specific questions that you need answered, you need a large sample size, you need feedback quickly, or if you want to observe a customer interacting in their natural environment.

Pros

The beauty of remote unmoderated testing is that it can be done anytime, anywhere, and you typically have actionable feedback within a day if not sooner. Because a moderator isn’t needed, the cost is typically much lower than moderated tests, which can enable you to run more tests with a wider variety of customers.

Cons

Since unmoderated tests are completely unsupervised, it requires a fixed set of questions and tasks for customers to complete, and doesn’t allow for follow-up questions or clarification. If customers run into issues, have technical difficulties, or don’t understand the tasks or questions, you won’t have the ability to step in and guide them.

At the end of the day, the choice is up to you, but now you can choose the best qualitative test for your customer research needs.

Paige Musto is VP, Corporate Marketing at UserTesting, a human insights platform company that helps businesses create better customer experiences.

HubSpot
Mike Johnston
Mike is the founder and editor of CMS Critic. He consults with vendors and the public to help them find the right products for their websites and businesses. When he's not working here, he's off mixing cocktails for his wife's website, The Kitchen Magpie. You can check out some of his great cocktail shots over on Instagram.

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