Here’s how (and why) we’re using customer research techniques to understand the impact of Covid-19

Here’s how (and why) we’re using customer research techniques to understand the impact of Covid-19

How we work, learn, shop, socialise and live changed almost overnight this year.

As researchers, we wanted to understand what these changes meant – both in terms of how behaviour and emotions would alter in the near term, and in the future. We wanted to gather a pool of data to understand what the lasting impact of the changes could look like.

To do so, we launched a self-funded study, calling upon our own team, select staff of our parent Serco, and the wider social and professional networks of each to share their thoughts on a daily basis about what the crisis meant to their day to day lives.

How the study worked

Our research was conducted as a longitudinal diary study, a method selected for its ability to gather rich qualitative data on participants’ personal experiences (see Why we used this methodology below for more details).

Diary studies require participants to self-report information over an extended period of time. We chose to conduct the diary study for a total of 15 days.

Thanks to our partners at Liveminds, we had the use of their specialised app-based tool to enable the collection and collation of participants’ thoughts.

For participants, here’s how contributing worked:

  1. Participants downloaded the LiveMinds app and logged in with a unique password
  2. Each day, they received a notification with a question, crafted by our researchers
  3. They answered the question within the app, either by writing text or recording a video of themselves speaking

Questions pertained to a broad range of topics – their work, their mindset, their family life, and how they had reacted to news regarding the pandemic, among others.

Sample questions:

1. What’s the most impactful news/media item you’ve consumed recently regarding the crisis?

  • Why did you find this item impactful?
  • What thoughts or questions did this trigger in your mind?
  • How did this make you feel?

2. What was your relationship with your local council like before Covid-19? Has this changed? If so, how?

3. What impact has the current situation had on your relationship(s) with your local community? Has this changed? If so, how?

Responses were then collated by our team, and the analysis process has been ongoing.

Why we used this methodology

Our objective was to understand both the immediate impacts of the crisis, and to gather insights that would allow us to begin forming future hypotheses about the impact the pandemic may have on people’s behaviour.

To get this understanding, we chose a diary study for its capacity to track experience and the change in that experience over time. The same questions could be asked periodically, to help us identify any changes in attitude and patterns in those changes.

The selection of a diary study methodology was also a practical decision. Diary studies are a flexible option for participants in that they can respond in their own time, and via the medium that suits them (both written responses and audio or video recordings were options in the LiveMinds tool we used). This was a significant advantage given the disruptive and rapidly changing circumstances that we all experienced during the first lockdown.

Based on our deep experience in customer research, we knew that this would yield the most suitable data for our objectives and, crucially, position us best to develop a strong pool of knowledge on behaviour in the crisis and post-crisis periods, with the potential to be fed into future client insights.

What’s next

Recent vaccine news offers hope for a return to normality in the medium term. But the repercussions of the crisis on behaviour at work, at play and in life will be felt for much longer. 

Over the coming weeks, we’ll begin releasing a selection of our findings here and on our social media channels. Our aim will be to shed light on what we think the rest of the crisis, and the post-crisis, will hold. We hope you’ll join us. Please follow to ensure you don’t miss out.

Speak to us about how we can support you on understanding your staff and customers’ responses to the impact of Covid-19.