How can we better understand our customers and their needs? That’s a question a research team from the Thomson Reuters legal businesses has been working to answer through ethnography, a research method that focuses on observation rather than inquiry. Ethnographic research is a branch of anthropology that uses observational methods to gather empirical data to better understand human behavior. Conducting the research in the context of a unique culture, ethnographic research allows a more holistic understanding of how customers do their work.

In their study, they’ve been seeking opportunities to seamlessly embed Thomson Reuters information and capabilities into the workflow of transactional attorneys. Over the course of several weeks, the team observed transactional attorneys from different customer segments, gaining key insights that will help inform the scope and design of new solutions.

Study subjects were asked to work in their offices while the researchers observed. When it was not immediately apparent, the researchers asked the attorneys to narrate what they were doing, and why.

“By observing our customers’ workflow, we gained additional insights that supplemented what we learned from informal customer feedback and surveys,” says Robert Biancamano, market research manager, Legal Strategy, Thomson Reuters, and a member of the research team. “We observed both conscious and unconscious challenges transactional attorneys face and found areas of opportunity to integrate our information and software so they can be more efficient.”

The team used what they learned to identify ideas for new products, and for the testing and refining of the new product concepts through subsequent focus group discussions.

“We are really keeping the customer at the heart of this project,” says Nicholas Bieter, manager, New Product Development, Thomson Reuters. “In our ongoing efforts to provide the right solutions for our customers, we have a tremendous opportunity to improve the way transactional attorneys do their work.”

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