NEXT 2019 Podcast Series

NEXT 2019 Conference Series – Michaela Mora – Relevant Insights

Welcome to the 2019 NEXT Conference Series. Recorded live in Chicago, this series is bringing interviews straight to you from exhibitors and speakers at this year’s event. In this interview, host Jamin Brazil interviews Michaela Mora, president of Relevant Insights

Find Michaela Online:




My guest today is Michaela Mora, President of Relevant Insights.  Those are my favorite kind of insights, by the way.  


Yes, they are not any insights.  They are relevant.


I love that.  So, what do you think about the conference where Day 1 has ended at the NEXT Conference in Chicago?  Tell me what you think.    


Well, this is my first time coming to this conference.  This year I have been to several conferences, and I see some subjects coming up on a repeat.  It’s a lot about video and capturing data, more unstructured data and focus on tools at the same time figuring out how can we capture the full consumer or the full participant in many different areas.  And usually, the challenge of that is at the back-end. Many tools are very good at capturing the front-end. Then you go home and then you have to analyze.


Do the work.


Yes.  And that’s where still…  I test a lot of tools and there’s still some time to go.   


Does one session stand out as your favorite?


I really liked the one from “Who Murdered Advertising Effectiveness?”  Was a very good presentation, different style. 


“Who Murdered Advertising Effectiveness?”  That was a very sassy title, wasn’t it? 


Yes, it is.


That was Lucy, the speaker.  She’s from Keen as Mustard, I believe.


Yes.  Actually, it is a way to tell the story, to discuss a subject about elements that are affecting our industry.  It’s about changing times, and who is behind the changes and how we’re all involved in that. And so, that was a different way of presenting and discussing market research issues.     


Tell me about Relevant Insights.  What do you guys do?


Well, we try to help clients to make profitable decisions.  It’s about finding the right questions so that we can come back and help the clients to make the decisions.  So we do both qualitative and quantitative, both in the more traditional research but also in the user experience, user research methods.


Are seeing an increase in user experience?


Oh, absolutely, absolutely.  There is these conversions between the customer experience field and the user experience.  They come from two different branches of research. The customer experience, for me, is just a renaming of the traditional customer loyalty, voice of the customer field. 


It totally feels like VoC, market research, yeah.


Yeah, but the user research comes more from human factors.


Yep, products…  


Usability, interaction, ergonomics.  And in some companies, they are used interchangeably.  If you look at it as different focus on different areas of the customer journey, essentially…  Because the user experience right now has been mainly focused on how users are interacting whether on your website, your application but is going more towards the product and in a little more task base how you use that.  But that also has been an area where customer experience has come in like product testing, concept testing. So it’s a lot of mixed terms.     


One of the things that I find really interesting is it feels like a lot of the work that is actually being done between by a market researcher, which is my background, and user experience is stuff like…  I mean in 2001 or 2002, I was on-site at Intuit in Mountain View, California. They had built usability labs, and we were doing eye-tracking and exercises where we would say, “Can you do this?”, “Show me how you do this.”, with users, which all fits underneath this user experience umbrella now.  And it’s interesting, again, how… Like you said it, it’s funny I never connected VoC, but you’re right. So, it’s like market research, and then, all of a sudden, you have this variant that came out of it, a child called VoC, voice of customer, that was very big. And it somehow was perceived as something different than market research.  Like NPS almost holds a different space now than market research, right? It totally does. And now user experience, I think it has a lot to do with where the butt is in the corporation. So, if they’re sitting right beside product, then they’re user experience; and if they’re not, they’re probably market research or data scientists or…, right?  It’s an interesting kind of evolution.   


In some companies, customer experience is a more broad term, and then user experience is just one branch of it.  And others are going the other way around where you have the user experience. In terms of the language, if you’re a customer, you’re a user; if you’re a user, you’re a customer.  So it’s hard…  




It’s hard to make that differentiation.  So, that’s why has to do with where researchers have put their focus on the customer journey.  So, when you go to the interaction area, you do a lot of usability testing. Before I started the company in 2007, I was Director of Research for Blockbuster online, and we also had a lab.  And I was at before that and also we had a lab. It was very much into the web interaction. Now with more apps out there, it’s also extending to apps. But it’s about usability in many ways.  And there are quant and qual methods in that; there is information architecture testing in that. But it’s all about the interaction. But, at the same time, the customer is one. And so, you start extending that: “OK, I interacted with your website or your app, but I’m also interacting with customer service, and I’m also looking at your advertising.  And so, it’s part of this user experience, customer experience, maybe before and after you become a customer. How you call that, right? So that’s why it’s probably better to… Like I look at it more like the journey. When you start mapping the journey of the potential customer or current customer, now you can see how the different types of research going to that journey.  So we do both: we do both the traditional customer experience-type of research and also user research where iTracking, task-based, usability, and all that good stuff.  


Sorry, my voice is going away.  I’ve been doing this all day. It doesn’t like me talking, I guess.  Relevant Insights: Who is your ideal customer?


My ideal customer is the customer who understand research.  Right?  


Exactly.  Mine too.


That’s the one you want, right?  Because we have the challenge now in the last few years, which I have seen evolution in the industries, as new technology has come and facilitate do-yourself-type of research…  The reason influx of people who really don’t have a lot of experience in research because they have the impression that you have the tool, you can do it; anybody can do it. 


I have this saying I’ve been using a lot lately: “Just ‘cause I have a scalpel, doesn’t mean I should do surgery.


Exactly, but I was once working on a proposal with a team of people, different companies; there was someone – I think they were in an PR company – they say…  And so, we were discussing price and they couldn’t understand why it would cost so much. They said literally, “But isn’t that like copy-and-paste in SurveyMonkey?”  That’s the idea of how research is: just a bunch of surveys and you just come up with any questions and you put out there. And there’s no understanding on how much work goes into doing, into designing good surveys and to doing good analytics and all that.  And so, that’s the challenge that, as technology has facilitated make it faster and easier to do, then also it is attention for quality, right? Because you want now better, faster, cheaper. And I always say that doesn’t exist. You can one or two of the three, not all three; that’s not possible.  If you get that promise, somebody is lying because you’re going to be stuck.  

If you want faster and cheaper, you’re not going to get better because you have to reduce the scope.  You have to cut corners somewhere because things cost. And for someone who has really done research, they realize how much work goes into it and why is it worth to pay for it, right?  And so, when you have a client that doesn’t really, has never done it, that’s the hardest sale and the more difficult relationship because they don’t get it. And so, we work directly with end-clients; we work with other research agencies as partners; and also, we work with advertising and marketing agencies when they need.  We are certified as women-owned and minority-owned, and so sometimes that helps to win a project because companies need supply diversity too. And so, that’s part of the three segments that we work on.        


It’s really interesting.  One of things that I’ve observed is there used to be a fair amount of rigor associated with being a researcher.  And one of the other guests I had on earlier today, he said that (actually, it was Simon Chadwick) said that when he started his career in research, he couldn’t do research for two years.  It was like that kind of a mentorship.  


Yes, yes, Simon actually was my mentor.


And nowadays, it’s out of the box.  It’s like expected. “Oh, here’s the template.  Do it.”


Yeah, yes.  And the automation also has a lot to do with that perception too.  Now it’s more and more of that. Actually, Simon was my mentor when I was at the MSMR program at UTA, which is a very good program.  We get out of school very purist: we want to do it the right way. And then reality start adjusting. And still… you mean their projects were…  I have to pass because the request for doing certain things there like… “No, I don’t feel comfortable delivering that. It’s just too much violation of the principles.”  That’s the challenge. So the best clients will be the ones who really understand and value research. That’s my final answer.  


Perfect.  Michaela, did I say your name right?




Michaela, sorry.


That’s OK.


If someone wants to get in contact with you, how would they do that?


Well, they can go to  We are there. Our phone number is there. You can find us there.


That sounds like a good way to do it.  Thank you very much for being on the Happy Market Research Podcast.


Thank you.  Thank you for inviting me.


Are you going to the event tonight?  The comic thingy.


Yes, the Second City Show.


Yeah, that should be a lot of fun.


That’s one of the good reasons I came to the conference too.  


Yeah, no kidding.  Everybody, I really appreciate you taking the time to listen to this episode.  If you liked it, please do me a kindness and take time to screen capture, share it on social media.  As always, your reviews are immensely appreciated. Have a wonderful rest of your day.