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how to break open the ux research recruitment bottleneck on large and growing UXR teams - picture of bottle in spilled water

How to Break Open the Recruiting Bottleneck on Large and Growing UXR Teams

Learn 9 actionable strategies for relieving common recruitment and panel management pains as your UX research practice scales.

Like a shaken-up Coca-Cola bottle, a scaling UX research team sees increasing pressure—both within the team and across the org—and if you can’t find ways to relieve this pressure (steadily, intentionally, and ideally at arms length over a sink), the impact and quality of your research can suffer. 

That pressure can build in many ways, including:

  • Size—with more full-time researchers, or with more people who do research (PwDRs) outside of the core research team
  • Scope—with higher volumes of research projects 
  • Complexity—with a greater diversity of tools and methods
  • Reach—with a larger participant panel
  • Function—with the need for a Research Operations sub-discipline
What contributes to a recruiting bottleneck on growing UX research teams? - SIZE: As more people do research, customer recruitment across teams becomes trickier to track and manage. - SCOPE: Higher volumes of research projects require more time, cross-team coordination, and strategic oversight. - COMPLEXITY: With a greater diversity of tools and methods, it's harder to ensure research quality and process adherence. - REACH: As your panel grows, it becomes difficult to track participant activity and coordinate across multiple teams and projects. - FUNCTION: ReOps responsibilities may fall to full-time researchers, complicating their roles and draining their capacity.
Different sources contributing to a bottleneck on growing UXR teams

Although this growth is usually a welcome and logical next-step on scaling teams, it also comes with its own challenges. Research outputs increase while teams, tools, and processes get shaken up and reorganized. While navigating these changes, many teams experience a tight bottleneck during the recruitment and panel management process, dragging out research timelines and interfering with researchers’ ability to make an impact. 

Is squeezing research through this bottleneck just a necessary evil—or is there a way to relieve the pressure?

In this playbook, we’ll tackle the most common participant recruitment and panel management pains that growing teams face. We’ll cover:

  • Guiding principles for maturing UXR teams
  • Concrete steps for relieving common pain points, from research strategy to admin and automation
  • How panel management tools can help you adopt these best practices
  • How to gain buy-in for a new panel management solution

📊 Need to demonstrate the value of UXR to your stakeholders? This article breaks down the 4 most common objections to doing research using cold, hard, stats. These will help you show your team that research is worth the time, budget, and effort—even in an uncertain economic climate.

⭐️ 5 guiding principles for maturing UXR teams 

Before we get into what you should do to streamline participant management as your team grows, let’s talk about why (we think) you should do it. 

1. Researchers should enable other teams to do good research. 

In this year’s State of User Research Report—unpacking findings about the field of user research from our 4th-annual survey of user researchers from more than 50 countries and in teams of all sizes—44% of respondents said that at their companies, full-time User Researchers are embedded in non-research teams across the org (versus residing on a dedicated Research team). Even in very small organizations, researchers are found across more than 1 department on average.

This distribution of research—often referred to as research democratization—might happen organically or with a forethought plan. In either case, it’s happening because leaders understand the importance of using real, data-backed user insights to drive decisions about their products and businesses, and the demand for research is growing. Companies are starting to evolve their organizational research models to empower other teams like Product and Marketing to conduct research on their own and meet this demand. 

At User Interviews, we believe that this is a shift in the right direction. With more teams conducting their own user research, customer empathy grows across the business. Each team can make better decisions based on real insights, creating a truly customer-centric operational model.

And that customer-centricity—as Ferdinand Goetzen, CEO and Co-Founder of Reveall, says on the Awkward Silences podcast—makes all the difference:

“There's just such a big difference between knowing your customer from something somebody wrote versus having talked to them yourself. That customer empathy… brings everything you do in a company to life. It makes your product better and more satisfying to build. It just makes everything better. I'm a big fan of talking to customers.”

2. A strong Research Operations function is the key to successful democratization. 

As important as (we believe) research democratization is for speeding up research cycles and creating an insights-driven culture, we’d never advise you to jump into it haphazardly.

Research Operations (also called Research Ops or ReOps) is the organization and optimization of people, processes, tools, and strategies to create repeatable systems that support research at scale and amplify its impact across an organization. Similar to operational roles on other teams, ReOps helps folks do their jobs more efficiently and effectively—especially in democratized research models where UXR knowledge and tasks may be widely distributed. 

Whether you choose to create and hire for a Research Operations subdivision or let ReOps responsibilities fall to full-time researchers, that’s up to you—but we recommend you start seriously considering your first ReOps hire early on. 

(For reference, just 90 days after joining User Interviews, our own VP of User Research decided to onboard a Research Operations Manager as her first hire. Learn her thinking behind that decision.)

Currently, most companies are still operating without ReOps—only 1 in 5 researchers said their company has a dedicated Research Ops Manager in the 2022 State of User Research Report, with a higher occurrence of ReOps on larger teams. However, these same folks reported being more satisfied with their jobs overall. 

It would seem that ReOps plays an integral role in alleviating common researcher frustrations, so we predict (and hope) that dedicated ReOps disciplines will become more popular in coming years, as research practices continue to mature and scale. 

3. Stakeholders should be involved early and informed often.

Stakeholder management can create a bottleneck even on small research teams, so it’s no surprise that this pain can increase as the team grows. 

As Jeanette Fuccella describes in her article about managing a user research panel at LexisNexis Design, stakeholders may block or delay recruitment before it even starts due to lack of trust, or account owners wanting to be kept in the loop on communications:

“For various reasons, stakeholders can be protective of their customer base which can lead to small roadblocks in your recruitment plan. This can be relieved by communication and education. We’re not spamming users, we’re asking them to participate in a professional community where they can actually feel like their voice is being heard. So it’s just an educational challenge that we have to face.” 

So how do you help stakeholders to feel more comfortable with the idea of UXRs and PwDRs (people who do research, like designers, product managers, or marketers) contacting customers for research? Involve them in the early stages. This begins even before you start project work—during onboarding and as you’re getting to know your team—but once the project has kicked off, interviewing stakeholders is a great way to get them involved from the outset.

Interviewing stakeholders is a helpful step in the planning stages of a research project—and for some projects, it’s essential. By bringing stakeholders in early on to learn their needs and goals for research and set expectations around the rest of the study—including regarding any tools, processes, or guardrails you might use to ensure consistent, high-quality research practices across the organization—you can help them feel more confident moving forward. 

The downside of this is that interviewing stakeholders can be a bottleneck in and of itself. Stakeholders don’t always have time to participate in in-depth interviews, and they likely don’t need to be formally interviewed for every project. As your research practice scales, stakeholder management will need to evolve too. 

Many of the core components of Research Ops—including governance, enablement, and advocacy—will help you keep stakeholders informed and comfortable with Research, without having to commit to regular, time-consuming interviews. We’ll get into more detail about these components (and how to implement them) later on. 

4. Recruiting sucks but it doesn't have to.

Challenging, annoying, difficult, and dread are just a few of the most common words researchers have used to describe recruitment

As Becky White, former Design Research Lead at Atlassian, describes in her article, recruitment is one of the most difficult hurdles to overcome, even after taking traditional steps like hiring a dedicated Research Coordinator

“A research sign-up page was posted on our website (which went to a spreadsheet). Atlassian hired a Research Coordinator. But the process was still quite manual, slow, and perceived as a bottleneck. Frustrated, many researchers resorted back to finding participants on their own.”

Although recruitment has historically been cited as the most painful aspect of UX research—it doesn’t have to be. 

User Interviews, the all-in-one research recruiting and participant management platform, was created to make recruitment less of a hassle. Through Recruit, we connect researchers to our panel of 3.4 million vetted participants, and also make it easy for researchers to manage their own participant panel with Research Hub

Of course, we’re not the only solution for streamlining the recruitment process. Many researchers still use recruitment agencies, intercept surveys, social media, and other tools to source both internal and external participants—but our point here is, you don’t have to dread recruitment, no matter the size or maturity of your research team. 

You have options. Lean on them. 

🧠 Learn how to write compelling recruitment emails—with best practices & sample templates to help you boost response rates and recruit faster.

5. Research should be ethical, consensual, and transparent. 

Ethics and consent are more than just legal boxes to check. They’re critical for maintaining positive relationships with the prospects and customers who participate in your research (and you know, being a good human). 

As your research practice matures, you need to make sure nobody’s cutting corners—misrepresenting study information, failing to collect signatures for consent notices and other important forms, or using/sharing private participant data in inappropriate ways. These mistakes are rarely malicious—they’re oversights that can seem small and unimportant to anyone unfamiliar with best practices and protocols.

This means that anyone who’s doing research in your organization needs to be both 🧠 aware of the importance of ethical practices and 🛠 equipped with the tools and knowledge necessary to follow those practices.

Throughout this playbook, you’ll find multi-faceted strategies grounded in ethical, transparent research practices—from enablement and oversight to technical guardrails and automation. 

🍾 How to break open the recruiting bottleneck on UX research teams

In scaling or democratized teams, wherein more and more people who do research (PwDRs) are managing recruitment and interfacing with participants on their own, it’s important that lead researchers and research ops are able to offer guidance, oversight, and quality control during the process. 

Here’s a playbook for managing the most common challenges growing teams face:

  1. Start with company-wide research enablement (and enthusiasm!).
  2. Cut through the red tape with firm guardrails and communication. 
  3. Make customer recruitment and cross-communication as painless as possible. 
  4. Throw a lifeline to researchers drowning in administrative work. 
  5. Organize data governance and ensure participant privacy.
  6. Choose tools and processes that will scale with you.
  7. Distribute (the right) incentives, as soon as possible. 
  8. Talk to participants in a professional, on-brand style. 
  9. If you hate it, automate it. 

Let’s discuss each in more detail. 

⚠️ Bad participants = bad research. Learn how to spot poor-fit participants before they ruin your study.

1. Start with company-wide research enablement (and enthusiasm!).

A good plan is a prerequisite for good research. 

But on a growing UX research team, plans and strategies may be forced through the bottleneck before they’re ready, rushed for the sake of time or under-developed without the careful eye of a trained researcher. 

As your team grows, you need guidelines and guardrails in place to ensure that every instance of research begins with an effective plan. Anyone conducting research will need to consider:

  • Is research needed in the first place?
  • Are you asking the right questions or using the right methods for an impactful study?
  • Who do you need to recruit?
  • When should you mix internal and external audiences?

Of course, some of these questions will need to be answered on a case-by-case basis; for example, whether or not research is needed in the first place will depend on previous research you’ve done or other data you have on hand. Likewise, the right methodology depends on a project’s specific goals. 

These important, strategic decisions can’t be automated in any way—but if PwDRs don’t have a formal background in planning effective studies, you’ll need to enable them somehow. 

Two common approaches for research strategy enablement are UXR oversight and PwDR education. For most teams, we recommend a mix of both, leaning more heavily on education and bringing in UXR oversight only when necessary.

💼 Need to recruit professional/B2B participants? Check out these best practices before launching your next project.

👀 Strategic oversight by the core UX research team

In some cases, you might want your research team to have hands-on involvement in the planning stages of a study. 

According to the State of User Research Report, most organizations divide research responsibilities between UXRs and PwDRs based on the type of research; full-time UXRs tend to focus on strategic and discovery research, while PwDRs are more likely to do evaluative research and user testing, usually in the later stages of product development. 

For example, you might funnel all research requests through a team of dedicated User Researchers or Research Ops managers, who then determine how (and if) those requests should be handled by Research or another team. The level of assistance may vary; for some projects, a full-time researcher will facilitate the study from start to finish; for others, they might just act as support. 

This researcher-assisted approach is understandable, especially if you’re only just dipping your toes into a democratized approach, have a very small team, or are working with particularly sensitive topics. But as the volume of research requests from other teams grows, researchers may struggle to process (and facilitate) these requests in a timely and effective manner. 

Whether this assisted model is an organizational rule or a go-to for special cases, the right tooling can help. Recruitment and panel management software, such as User Interviews, can streamline the more tedious aspects of a research project—screening applicants, collecting signatures, distributing incentives, etc—to free up time for support and strategic oversight by trained researchers or Research Ops. 

🧑‍🏫 Educating PwDRs about research strategy and fundamentals

With the right instructions, guardrails, and playbooks in place, you can teach PwDRs how to tackle research planning and strategy for their own projects, minimizing the amount of involvement required by UXRs. 

For example, the User Interviews Research team offers educational materials in the form of: 

  • Monthly fireside chats with professional researchers
  • Foundational workshops led by our VP of User Research Roberta Dombrowski
  • An accessible research playbook with tips and templates
  • Open office hours with Roberta for personalized coaching
  • A#research-hotline channel in Slack for async support

Since implementing these enablement strategies less than a year ago, we’ve seen growth in:

  • The Research team’s ability to focus on strategic projects
  • The wider team’s confidence around research
  • The demand for research
  • The use of research-backed insights for decision-making across departments
  • Customer empathy (which was already strong!)
💡 Quick-start guides, tips, and templates for enablement…

You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Here are some great resources to help you enable and support researchers in your organization.

The UX Research Field Guide, Chpt. 2 - Planning User Research: Tell your team to bookmark this guide on designing studies step-by-step, from running effective stakeholder interviews to writing a stellar UX research plan (templates included!).

UXR Confidentiality Basics: How to Hide Participant Names in Zoom Recordings: Use this quick how-to guide on hiding participants’ names in Zoom (from our internal research playbook!) to set guidelines for keeping participants’ personal information confidential.

Usability Testing Best Practice: Does your team need a refresher on usability testing? Share this guide (also from our internal playbook) to designing, conducting, and analyzing usability tests with your team.

The UX Research Incentive Calculator: Don’t leave incentives up to guesswork. Use our data-backed calculator for a personalized incentive recommendation based on your study criteria.

Scaling Research Through Enablement: Read the first-hand account of our own UXR leader’s approach to democratized research, with examples, outcomes, and self-reflection questions.

Along with setting the stage for a smooth, impactful study, effective plans and strategies can help you boost stakeholder confidence and cut through the red tape more effectively—more on this in the next section. 

2. Cut through the red tape with firm guardrails and communication. 

Stakeholders may feel squeamish about letting multiple team members contact customers for research. How will you track who’s contacted who? Will communication be consistent and professional across teams? 

To ease these concerns, you need to create contact limits and invite rules, maintain consistent branding and communication, and pair customer research with external recruits. Here’s how: 

🛑 Create invite rules and limits. 

Some panel management tools, such as User Interviews’s Research Hub, provide controls and built-in oversight at both the team and organization level. With invite rules and limits, you can set guardrails around who can be contacted for studies and how often. You could, theoretically, lay out these rules and limits manually with an internal ReOps playbook, but tracking and enforcing them across multiple teams and projects will be incredibly difficult. 

💡 If you’re a User Interviews customer…

Research Hub allows you to create guardrails with invite rules for any participant property or activity field. Additionally, invite limits allow admins to set a maximum number of invites a researcher can send per study to prevent over-recruiting. Limits are set as a multiple of the requested number of participants in a project.

If you’re an admin, set up invite rules from your Hub dashboard:

  1. Click "manage Hub invite rules."
  2. Add a rule. For example, you can create rules that exclude participants from previous studies or those who’ve applied within the past 90 days.
  3. Select "Publish Changes." Your Hub Invite Rules will be applied to all future invites to projects.
Here’s an example of what invite rules might look like for your team:

Hub invite rules - User Interviews

💌 Maintain consistent branding and communication.

Any touchpoint your company has with customers contributes to the overall customer experience—so you need to ensure that those touchpoints give customers a good impression of your business. Work with your Marketing, Customer Success, and Sales teams to set clear guidelines around branding and communication across teams, so that customers have the same professional, high-quality experience—no matter which team member they communicate with in the course of a study.

🤔 Customer Success Teams: Are they a roadblock or a valuable resource for UX research?

💡 If you’re a User Interviews customer…

In Research Hub, admins can configure branding and communication defaults to ensure professional interactions with participants.

branding and communication defaults via user interviews

Configure branding and communication defaults from the “My Team” dropdown menu. You’ll be able to set defaults for:

Email themes: Set branding defaults for all participant emails.
Email templates: Preset templates to auto-populate based on study type and format.
Sender profiles: Regulate how sender profiles may be used.
Confirmation page: Edit the default post-apply confirmation page.

This extra step can help more advanced teams to guide researchers toward the best and safest options. For example, if you have multiple email themes, setting a default can prevent confusion about which one to pick for research projects.

🤝 Pair customer research with external recruits.

Many stakeholders are concerned with researchers annoying customers by over-contacting them to participate in multiple studies. To lessen this risk, recruit from an outside panel when appropriate, such as when you need to test for usability among novices or new customer groups. Depending on the goals of your research, you may find it useful to talk to both types of participants—just make sure you have a system for panel management that can easily differentiate between the two.

💡 If you’re a User Interviews customer…

With User Interviews, you only need one tool to reach anyone you wish to talk to. You can easily build and manage a panel of existing customerswith Research Hub, or recruit external audiences in any niche using Recruit.

The 5 methods for building your own customer panel include:

• Uploading a CSV file of existing contacts (this is the most popular method)
• Creating opt-in forms to grow your panel with highly engaged users
• Adding a single participant directly to your panel
• Sending invitations to a live study (sign ups will be stored in Hub)
• Using our Participant API to securely sync user data from any system

Our customers often combine various methods to build large and engaged communities of research participants with Hub.

⭐Help stakeholders feel more confident about your growing research practice with the #1 recruitment and panel management platform on the market. View our pricing plans to learn more.

3. Make customer recruitment and cross-communication as painless as possible.

External recruitment is hard enough, but recruiting customers for continuous research is often even harder. As Matthew Morrison of Braze describes on the Awkward Silences podcast, customer recruitment comes with unique challenges, including:

  • Overhead by customer success and account managers, which can vary in intensity depending on the type of account and the CSM’s communication style.
  • Having a limited pool of customers to recruit from, which dwindles as more studies are conducted.
  • Limited time availability, making it difficult to recruit customers for longer sessions or long-term studies.

So how do you coordinate recruitment and communication between researchers, account managers, and individual customers?

You need to be able to track participant activity across teams. You can manage this in a few different ways:

  • Using a spreadsheet like Excel or Google Docs: Spreadsheets allow you to organize a large amount of research data, and are typically easy to use and access by most organizations. However, manually filling out spreadsheets is simply not scalable, and you may experience frequent errors as your team grows.
  • Using an existing CRM platform like Salesforce: Many CRM systems have features that can be customized for panel management. However, they’re not built for the research use case, so they're missing many of the workflows, features, and data you need—and they include many workflows, features, and data you don’t need. Here’s a great article discussing ReOps leader Noel Lamb’s approach to panel management using Salesforce.
  • Using a purpose-built tool like Research Hub: Finally, you can use a tool built specifically for research panel management to ensure you get all the features you need in one scalable package. Because tools like User Interviews are 100% focused on simplifying recruitment and panel management, we can offer more robust and research-specific features than other generalized CRM systems.
💡 If you’re a User Interviews customer…

You can create powerful segments, labels, and filters in Research Hub to keep Hub organized and recruit the right participants for your studies faster.

Hide, drag, and drop columns in your participant table to create custom views and surface only the most important fields for your study. Then, move seamlessly from finding the right participants in the table to inviting them to your study and automating all your study logistics.

Note that Research Hub tracks participation for you: who’s added to which studies, who participates, how much they’ve earned in incentives, and so on. All this information is available as you filter your panel and set invite rules.

4. Throw a lifeline to researchers drowning in administrative work.

Administrative work, such as collecting signatures for consent forms and NDAs or emailing with participants, can be so laborious that it gets in the way of actual research.

Dropping the ball on this type of legal work can wreak havoc on your research and brand—at best, stopping research in its tracks, and at worst, landing your company in costly and reputation-damaging legal trouble.

You need to ensure the consistency, ethics, and legality of your research practice as it grows. Because writing forms, collecting signatures, and checking other legal boxes isn’t the most glamorous of tasks, the best way to do this is to make it as easy and painless as possible by investing in tools and systems that streamline or automate the process.

💡 If you’re a User Interviews customer…

User Interviews’s Document Signing Add-On automates signature collection for key documents.

Adding documents to projects is simple:

  1. In the project builder, navigate to the "Session details" section.
  2. Under "Additional session options," you'll see "Request document signature." Select "Upload,” and add your document. If you do not have the Document Signing add-on, you will not see the "Upload" button.
  3. Launch your project. The document will be listed in the "Session details" section of your launched project.
document signing in user interviews

That's it! Participants will be required to sign the document in their signup workflow, and a signed copy of the document will be emailed to you.

Visit our pricing page to see how you can customize your plan with Document Signing and other subscription add-ons.

5. Organize data governance to safeguard participant privacy.

On a scaling team, nurturing healthy data habits becomes all the more important. You need to ensure all data consent and privacy standards are met, while keeping your database up-to-date and reliable. Additionally, you might need to integrate relevant data from sales, support, and product teams for better, richer user insights.

As Becky White, Lead Design Researcher at Canva (formerly Atlassian) describes in her article about setting up an internal research participant panel at Atlassian:

“Once we actually began using the panel, we realized we could never wholly rely on the information in our database. Not because people were lying — but because their situations may have changed from the time they initially signed up.”

For an internal recruitment panel to be useful, you need strict guidelines around data governance and privacy. You should have a plan for:

  • Who can access participant data
  • Where participant data is stored
  • How the list is updated, grown, or culled over time

Storing participant data in a Google Sheet and sharing it among researchers, product teams, and account managers is not going to cut it. Any tools you use to collect, store, and update participant data should be secure, private, and reliable by design.

💡 If you’re a User Interviews customer…

You’re in luck! User Interviews is SOC 2 certified and committed to helping companies everywhere align themselves with GDPR and other data privacy regulations.

Our panel management solution, Research Hub, allows you to define panel access, edit settings for the data consent notice, manage and create opt-in forms, and obscure participant PII for other team members.

Additionally, you can build custom integrations with our API and sync user data from any system to add participants securely, keep records fresh, and delete user data for GDPR compliance.

Have questions about security? Book a time to chat with us.

6. Choose tools and processes that will scale with you.

Anyone who has worked in a growing org knows all too well that scaling teams can quickly outgrow their tool stacks. It’s not uncommon to switch testing platforms or shuffle team structures around to meet new or additional requirements.

That means you need tools and processes that bend, not break—and it’s preferable to think about the scalability of your processes and toolstack ahead of time, before they’ve become unmanageable.

As you’re building (or updating) your research tool stack, evaluate the scalability and flexibility of a panel management tool by its pricing plans, integrations, and core capabilities needed at different stages of your growth.

Additionally, it’s a good idea to create internal playbooks that clearly delineate processes for new team members (or current team members in need of a refresh).

Here’s an example of User Interviews’s internal research playbook, from our VP of User Research, Roberta Dombrowski:

user interviews internal research playbook
Example of User Interviews's internal UX research playbook

💡 If you’re a User Interviews customer…

We offer many plug-and-play integrations with your favorite tools, including Zoom, Google Meet, Lookback, Survey Monkey, and Typeform. Plus, we have 8 more tool integrations planned on our 2022 product roadmap. These integrations are included on any plan (including our Free Forever plan!).

You can also build custom integrations with our API. Sync user data from any system to User Interviews to add participants securely, keep data fresh, and delete user records for GDPR compliance. Learn more about our integrations and API.

Along with our growing suite of integrations, we offer unlimited researcher seats on any pricing plan—making us a great option for teams of all sizes.

7. Distribute (the right) incentives, as soon as possible.

Choosing the right type and amount of incentives and distributing them efficiently can be tricky, and especially so on large, distributed research teams.

If you offer incentives that are too high, you risk going over budget or attracting “professional testers” who can skew your data. On the other hand, if you offer incentives that are too low, you might struggle to attract enough participants in the first place.

Jeanette Fuccella describes this delicate balance in her article:

“Even though we provide incentives to participate in our research studies, our desire is to recruit individuals for whom the incentive is a token of gratitude, not their primary reason for participating in the research.”

Worse still, forgetting to distribute promised incentives because of time or tracking issues will lead to disgruntled participants chasing you down, potentially wreaking havoc on your company’s reputation.

To streamline this aspect of recruitment and panel management, you need to consider:

  • Are you offering the right type and amount of incentives?
  • How are you tracking incentives distribution?
  • How are you weeding out “professional testers”?
  • Are your incentives redeemable from all participants’ countries of residence?
  • Are you distributing incentives in a timely manner?

Our User Research Incentives Calculator offers recommendations for incentive amounts based on study type, session location, and types of participants.

Here are our recommendations for optimal incentives from our 2022 Research Incentives Report, a deep-dive into the data from nearly 20,000 successfully completed projects launched with User Interviews in the past year: 

Fig 1a. Summary of incentive recommendations for moderated B2B and B2C studies
Fig 1a. Summary of incentive recommendations for moderated B2B and B2C studies

Fig 1b. Incentive recommendations for unmoderated B2B and B2C studies by study length

Beyond the incentive amount, however, you need to make sure you’re offering incentives that participants can and want to redeem. A US-based participant has little use for Euros, and a participant who never flies isn’t going to be happy with a gift card to Southwest Airlines. Different tools provide different options for distributing incentives, so it’s important to double-check the incentive types, currencies, and distribution options before investing in a solution.

Along with the type and amount of incentive, you also have to make sure you distribute incentives in a timely manner to avoid aggravating participants. We recommend sending incentives as soon as possible, but no more than 10 days after the completed session.

Long-term studies might require multiple split payouts. If this is the case, make sure your participants are well aware of this nuance ahead of time.

Often, folks use emails or digital gift cards to distribute incentives manually, although these may not be the most efficient of solutions. To help you distribute incentives in a more timely manner, you can use tools like User Interviews, Tremendous, or TestingTime.

💡 If you’re a User Interviews customer…

You have two options for handling incentive payouts: You can take care of them yourself, or we’ll do it for you.

If you choose the former, you can message participants individually or bulk-message them from directly within the platform. We recommend being as prompt as possible with payment to avoid frustrating participants; incentives that have not been issued within 10 business days will be distributed by us and added to your final bill.

If you choose the latter, we’ll distribute them automatically to participants after you mark their session as “completed.” The participant will receive an email similar to the one below, where they can redeem their reward in the form of dozens of digital gift cards, available in multiple currencies.

incentives payout email from user interviews

8. Make sure every touchpoint is consistent and on-brand.

It can be hard enough to maintain consistent messaging and style on a single team; this challenge and its potential impact on your brand increase exponentially as communication about research gets distributed across more people and teams. Emails are rushed or lost in inboxes, and different researchers communicate in different ways, giving participants the impression of a messy internal process.

This can be especially damaging to large, enterprise companies with an established brand to maintain. To showcase your credibility and maintain customer trust throughout the study, you’ll want to include brand logos, use an on-brand voice and tone, and be consistent and punctual with your communications.

One way to do this is to create internal communication playbooks and guidelines, offering tips for timely and effective communication and providing any relevant branded assets to include. But as with any internal documentation, if these playbooks aren’t well-circulated throughout the team, some researchers may not follow them. If it’s been a while since you shared these guidelines, it never hurts to remind people of the resources that exist, why they’re important, and where to find them.  

You can also consider investing in a panel management solution like Research Hub, which allows you to configure branding and communication defaults for your team to ensure professional interactions with participants.

💡 If you’re a User Interviews customer…

Research Hub allows admins to provide communication guardrails and default settings for the whole team.

With these branding and communications guardrails, you can:

Set a default email theme. Upload your company logo, and use our HTML and CSS editor to adjust fonts, colors, button stylings, margins and more, to match your brand.

Set up default email templates. Create template sets for all the specific study types and formats that your team commonly runs. Once set, default templates will auto-populate in the project builder whenever a researcher on your team launches a study of that type and format.

Regulate how sender profiles are used. As an admin, you can set a default sender profile (the email’s “from” address) for your research team. You can set the default sender profile to, or to match a researcher on the project.

Customize the default confirmation page that participants see after applying. Customize the page header and body copy, apply text formatting with a simple WYSIWYG editor, and preview changes. Updates that admins make to this page will be applied to all projects launched by their team.

Here’s an example of what a default confirmation page might look like:

default confirmation page for research study application via user interviews

9. If you hate it, automate it.

You probably have at least one manual (yet necessary) task that you dread doing at work, like pre-screening candidates or transcribing notes from video interviews.

You endure these tasks because they have to get done—but because of the repetition, inefficiency, and frustration of knowing you could be filling your time with something more meaningful, these manual tasks might be the least favorite part of your day-to-day.

Although some aspects of research, such as developing a research strategy, are best done by a human, plenty of tasks and processes can be automated to make your life that much easier.

Take a look at your existing toolstack and workflow, and consider what can (or should) and can’t (or shouldn’t) be automated.

Jeanette Fuccella, Director of Research & Insights at, did this exercise during her time at Prototypr, and realized that recruitment was one of the first processes she needed to automate as the team grew:

“Looking at our research lifecycle, we identified user recruitment as one of the most time-consuming and yet most easily automated aspects of our work.”

Here are some common, manual tasks that, while not always difficult, can easily become a time suck for busy researchers (plus, tools that can you can use to automate them):

  • Prescreening, scheduling, activity tracking, incentives, and other study logistics can be easily automated with a tool like User Interviews.
  • Inviting users to join your panel can be automated using pop-ups or chatbots like Drift.
  • Note-taking during interviews can be automated with transcription tools. For example, the Research team at User Interviews uses EnjoyHQ as our research repository—and it also offers transcription with any plan. Condens also offers a great automated transcription tool, along with a centralized repository and tools for qualitative data analysis.
  • Collecting customer feedback or NPS surveys can be automated with tools like Sprig or Appcues for in-app responses, or Survey Monkey for responses collected via link, website, email, or social.
  • Emails and other customer communications can be streamlined with marketing automation tools like HubSpot.
  • First-click tests or other usability testing can be automated with heat mapping tools like Hotjar or tools with touch indicators like Lookback.
  • Data coding and analysis can be automated (to some extent) with a tool like Dovetail, which offers an automatic sentiment analysis feature that tags insights as positive or negative.
💡 If you’re a User Interviews customer…

User Interviews automates some of the most frustrating parts of the recruitment workflow— including prescreening and qualification, scheduling, activity tracking, and distributing incentives.

Our automatic participant prescreening and qualification is a huge timesaver, especially for large studies! Not only will we tell you whether or not participants are qualified based on your screening criteria, but we’ll also give you a percentage match score for every applicant.

Or, if you’re more comfortable reviewing participants manually, you can do that too—either way, we'll show you qualification and match score, which gives you more control over manual approval or saves time during automatic approval by instantly approving qualifying participants.

Simply navigate to the "Scheduling" section of the project builder, and choose between manual and automatic approval.

scheduling details via user interviews

Note that selecting manual review will allow you to add the Double Screening feature for additional review. Double Screening is not available for automatic review.

To learn more about our automation features, visit the Research Hub page or book a time to chat.

🛠 Unblock the recruiting bottleneck with effective participant panel management  

Along with developing playbooks to enable research throughout your org, you can invest in purpose-built tools to make following these playbooks as simple as possible. Panel management tools can provide the structure, automation, and ease that you need to overcome common participant management challenges as your team grows.

As you’re evaluating different solutions, keep in mind the many systems and processes that you’ll need for effective panel management—including recruitment itself, labeling and filtering participants, and scheduling and tracking participant activity—as well as the tools you currently use.

It’s helpful to consolidate your toolstack as much as possible without sacrificing best-of-breed capabilities. If you can’t or don’t want to replace your existing tools, you’ll need to make sure the panel management solution you choose can communicate with them.

User Interviews’s Research Hub is flexible enough to support both solo researchers and even large research teams working across massive user populations. Any team member can self-serve their recruit, while Research Ops have unparalleled control to set guardrails and governance standards for the entire organization.

You’ll only need to use one tool to reach anyone you wish to talk to—existing customers or external audiences in any niche. Built for ReOps, loved by researchers, and trusted by participants, Research Hub allows you to democratize research safely, steadily, and with control.

Learn how our internal UX research team uses Research Hub for panel management!

👍 How do you get stakeholder buy-in for a panel management tool?

A single tool that can help you clean up every aspect of your recruitment and panel management process? It may sound like a no-brainer to researchers on the ground, but it’s not always easy to get stakeholder buy-in for a new software.

Here are some tips and things to consider when soliciting buy-in:

  • How are you faring without the solution? Before pitching a new tool to stakeholders, get a baseline of the efficiency costs you’re experiencing without it: How long does it take to find, qualify, and schedule recruits? How much frustration are your researchers experiencing? What mistakes have you made? How much risk are your product teams taking on due to poor research practices?
  • Pitch a trial, not a long-term commitment. If you’re not sure stakeholders will commit to a long-term subscription to a new tool, ask for the budget for a time-limited trial instead. This way, stakeholders can see the tool in action and you’ll be able to collect real, contextualized data about its ROI and benefits, rather than trying to identify the ROI ahead of time.
  • Don’t give stakeholders too many (or any!) options. When pitching a new solution, people often make the mistake of going to stakeholders with multiple options right off the bat. This strategy can not only overwhelm stakeholders, but slow down the actual procurement process by sparking debate over which solution is the right one. Do your research ahead of time and decide which vendor makes the most sense for your on-the-ground team. (Check out this 1-1 comparison of Ethnio and User Interviews to learn what to look for in a panel management solution.)
  • Why aren’t your current tools enough? One of the most common stakeholder questions you’ll need to answer about a new tool is, “what can this tool do that we can’t do with our existing toolstack?” List out the features and capabilities of the current tools and explain why they don’t fulfill your current or future needs.

📈 Relieve the pressure on your scaling team with Research Hub

Don’t wait for your recruitment challenges to fizzle over before addressing them. Prevent the mess ahead of time with Research Hub, the #1 panel management software for teams that do research at scale.

Customizable enough to support the enterprise, yet simple enough for small teams to use out of the box, Research Hub powers recruitment for many of the world’s most customer-centric organizations. Whether you’re a solo researcher, small team, or mature research organization, Research Hub serves as your single source of truth for participant management.

🌟 Book a 15-minute intro call with our research sales consultants. We’ll learn about your needs, demo the platform, and launch a trial for your team.

Lizzy Burnam
Product Education Manager

Marketer, writer, poet. Lizzy likes hiking, people-watching, thrift shopping, learning and sharing ideas. Her happiest memory is sitting on the shore of Lake Champlain in the summer of 2020, eating a clementine.

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