Go to app
GuidesCustomer researchThe ultimate guide to developing a customer research plan

The ultimate guide to developing a customer research plan

Last updated

25 May 2023


Dovetail Editorial Team

Reviewed by

Jean Kaluza

Working in a large organization with over 100+ employees? Discover how Dovetail can scale your ability to keep the customer at the center of every decision.Contact sales.

Whether your business is large or small, understanding your customers is key to driving growth and creating a more personalized consumer experience. This is where a customer research plan can be beneficial. 

A customer research plan helps you to better understand not only what your customers want but how they use your product or service and how they feel about the level of service you provide.

The data gathered from a customer research plan can help your business by highlighting actionable steps that you can take to serve those customers better. It can also lead to more opportunities for revenue and create a stronger connection between your business and your customers.

Step 1: Define your research objectives

Before creating your customer research plan, you should set out a series of research objectives. Define your goals for conducting customer research, and determine what you hope to take away from the research plan. 

The data you glean from the project is only helpful to you if you have a clear understanding of what decisions it will affect in the end. Additionally, you should set a measure of success for the project. 

Step 2: Choose your research method

Choosing your research method can also help streamline your project. Qualitative research methods include gathering and interpreting non-numerical data, such as information acquired from interviews, personal accounts, observation, or focus groups. Quantitative research requires data collection from sources such as surveys, database reports, and experiments. 

The research method you choose will define the way you conduct the project and interpret your findings.

Step 3: Identify your target audience

Early on in planning, you should identify the customer segments that you believe will be the most beneficial to your customer research plan. Determine not only who you want to reach but why you want to reach them as well. Highlight what you know about these customers, including age, buying habits, location, or preferences, and what you still need to learn about them. 

In the course of outlining this information, you could identify other questions and points of interest for your project.

Step 4: Create your research questions

Effective research questions allow for plenty of input from respondents. For that reason, many project leaders prefer open-ended questions, as these allow for elaboration from those being surveyed. 

However, depending on the outline and research method of your customer research plan, it might make more sense to feature multiple-choice questions, slider questions, or Likert scale questions, which ask respondents to choose from a range of possible responses.

Step 5: Develop your research plan

Organize your project by developing a strong research plan. Part of this is creating an overall timeline. The timeline should include the activities that will make up the research as well as what needs to happen and when. This is also a good point to set a budget for your project. Customer research plans can be expensive undertakings, depending on the type of tools and software that you’ll need.

If you’re asking customers to participate in your study in person, you might consider offering refreshments or even scheduling an event space. This should all be taken into account for both the budgeting and the overall timeline of your project.

Step 6: Collect your data

For many business leaders, capturing the data is the most exciting part of developing a customer research plan. Focus groups and in-person interviews are some of the most powerful ways to collect qualitative data. If you’re using a focus group for your research plan, work with a trained moderator who can lead the group, and choose an appropriate venue that will make participants feel comfortable.

Provide consent forms to focus group participants, and do your best to create a welcoming atmosphere. Don't let the group run too long, and allow for breaks if the focus group session is scheduled for more than an hour. Finally, provide a chance for participants to give their feedback about the experience. This data can be valuable for future customer research projects, letting you know what to remove, keep, or adjust.

Step 7: Analyze your data

After you’ve collected the data, the analysis begins. If you used quantitative research for your customer research plan, you'll likely need to use some sort of data analysis software to process and examine the results. Allow plenty of time to complete this step since you'll want to ensure the information is correct. 

Always check for duplicates or skewed information. Even one error in your research can cast doubt over the entire report. Additionally, ensure that you’re protecting your customers' information and following any relevant compliance rules. 

Step 8: Share your findings

Displaying your findings is one of the most important steps in a customer research plan. Distill your findings into a summary that is concise yet powerful. Data modeling is a popular way to present insights from research projects. This could look like clustering or association, though many customer-focused research projects opt for time series presentations to show trends over time. 

The method you choose should depend on the content of your research plan as well as the context and purpose of the study.

Step 9: Implement changes based on your research

You can use the insights you glean from your customer research plan to elevate your business and make intelligent decisions. With the information provided by your customers, you can improve your products and services and give customers more of what they want. 

For example, if your focus group said that they want more product education, you could implement informational pages on your website or on a blog that you update on an ongoing basis. If the data reveals that customers want to be able to connect directly with representatives, consider adding extra options for customer support channels, such as SMS or live chat. 

Step 10: Monitor and evaluate your research plan

It takes time for any major changes to take effect. Still, take care to measure the impact of your research over time. Reaching out to members of your focus group after implementing changes or running a large-scale survey can give you insight into how customers are receiving the updates that you've made. 

There's room for continuous improvement in any customer research plan, so don't set it and forget it. Regular check-ins with your customer base will ensure that you keep customers happy and that your business keeps growing.

Use customer research plans to illuminate opportunities

Customer research plans allow businesses to get in touch with those who purchase their products and services and better understand what they want. They can also help you make more informed business decisions, which translates to more market share and revenue growth. Conducting an effective customer research plan can be a big project, but the payoff will be well worth it, both in the short and long term.

Learn more about customer analysis software


What is customer research?

Customer research is a type of research that businesses carry out to learn more about the people who purchase their products and services. 

Why is customer research important?

Customer research helps companies understand their customers better. It can give them insights into what their customers want to see more of and what they don't like. Ultimately, customer research can make a business more successful by increasing awareness of their products and services.

What are some common research methods for customer research?

The two most popular ways to collect customer data are through qualitative and quantitative research. Qualitative research is usually subjective and opinion-based, while quantitative research is data-based. 

Customer research can also be done through primary research (e.g., asking questions directly to a customer) or secondary research (done by organizations outside of your business).

How do I choose the best research method for my business?

The righ research method for your business will depend greatly on what you want to take away from the customer research you conduct. 

For example, if you want to receive general feedback about a product or service you offer, qualitative research might be the best option. If you’re seeking fact-based information, such as the ages or lifestyles of your customer base, quantitative research will likely yield the data you want. 

Think about what you’re hoping to take away from the project when selecting the research method for your customer research plan.

What are some best practices for conducting customer research?

There are some best practices that should always be followed when conducting customer research, regardless of industry or business type. 

Before starting the project, you should always define your target audience and identify the key goals you hope to take away from the customer research plan. Respect your customers' time by offering clear guidelines if you’re asking them to take part in a focus group or group survey. It's also never a bad idea to incentivize participants by offering a prize, refreshments, or some other compensation for their time.

How do I analyze and interpret my data?

Without a way to view the results of your customer research plan, all of your hard work collecting data could go to waste. Data visualization is a powerful way to present your findings and interpret what you've collected. With data visualization, you can use charts, graphs, and infographics to break down customer trends and highlight action items that you’re planning to address. 

Make sure to use data validation before presenting your findings to stakeholders. This will remove any errors or anomalies that could affect the quality of your data, ensuring that you don't have any duplicate responses, incomplete data, or skewed information.

How can I use customer research to make better business decisions?

With the data you collect through customer research, you can better understand the needs of those who purchase your products and services. Based on the responses you receive, you can test new ideas, launch new business strategies, and even better understand your competition. 

Customer research also offers a unique window into customer frustrations. When you know what your business needs to improve, you can focus time and resources on those areas, making your customers happy and leading to more sales.

What are some common pitfalls to avoid when conducting customer research?

Conducting customer research is a big undertaking, and it's easy to fall into some traps. A few common pitfalls of customer research include talking to the wrong people, not developing a clear strategy ahead of time, and asking leading questions (if you’re conducting qualitative research). 

By focusing on what your customers want and your overall objective, you'll be more likely to emerge from your project with data that you can actually use to grow your business.

How can I measure the impact of my customer research plan?

The best way to measure the impact of your customer research plan is to ask your customers directly. If you’re conducting qualitative research like focus groups, it's easy to do this by including certain questions in the topic outline. Ask participants how they felt about the research program and if there are things that they would change for future projects.

Keep track of these responses and use them in developing future customer research plans. For any future surveys or focus groups that you conduct, be sure to ask those same questions so that you can develop a measurable idea of what sort of impact your customer research plan had. 

Businesses must listen closely to the needs of their customers if they want to stay ahead of the curve and continue to grow and innovate, and customer research plans allow them to do just that.

Should you be using a customer insights hub?

Do you want to discover previous customer research faster?

Do you share your customer research findings with others?

Do you analyze customer research data?

Start for free today, add your research, and get to key insights faster

Get Dovetail free

Editor’s picks

What do consumer services jobs pay in 2024?

Last updated: 22 April 2023

What is customer experience marketing?

Last updated: 30 April 2024

19 must-have CX tools for every business

Last updated: 21 March 2024

How to improve customer satisfaction

Last updated: 21 March 2024

Customer feedback analysis templates

Last updated: 13 May 2024

Sales analysis templates

Last updated: 13 May 2024

CSAT analysis template

Last updated: 13 May 2024

Voice of the customer templates

Last updated: 13 May 2024

Related topics

Employee experienceUser experience (UX)Patient experienceSurveysMarket researchCustomer researchResearch methodsProduct development

Decide what to build next

Decide what to build next

Get Dovetail free


OverviewChannelsMagicIntegrationsEnterpriseInsightsAnalysisPricingLog in


About us
© Dovetail Research Pty. Ltd.
TermsPrivacy Policy

Log in or sign up

Get started for free


By clicking “Continue with Google / Email” you agree to our User Terms of Service and Privacy Policy