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From Research Consultant to CXR

Maggie Schurr (Lead Research Advisor at dscout) highlights unique challenges consultants face and advice for more human-centered research.

Words by Ben Wiedmaier, Visuals by Jarred Kolar

Dogfooding is the practice of using one's own experience as a way to empathize with a user's journey and feel the struggles as they do.

For Maggie Schurr, her path to dscout started in the fast-paced, parallel pathing world of consulting, where she had a chance to strategize and run projects on behalf of her clients. She liked it so much that she wanted to help innovate and partner with brands using dscout full time.

Her experience on both sides of the vendor/client relationship gives her a unique perspective to support researchers. We chatted with her to unpack how her own research had evolved, what working with consultancies is like from the vendor/partner side, trends she's spotting, and her go-to Joy and Pain Experience template.

What was your path "into" research? What interested you about this field?

I majored in English (with a focus on creative writing) in college and for my final thesis project, I opted to not only write a novella but also a companion research paper on its sources and influences.

My first job out of college was in futures consulting. I worked in the custom consulting arm of the company, but there was also a subscription research product we designed and maintained.

It involved a lot of quant and the biggest output was this gigantic annual survey we did with thousands of people. With that amount of data, we were able to write pieces throughout the entire year. Our clients also had access to a tool that could twist and pull stats from it whenever they wanted.

I was first attracted to the job because the team seemed so thoughtful and curious which was not really what I expected going into a consulting interview. Futures consulting was a brand new field to me and not something I knew much about before getting into it.

My favorite parts of the job were the creative, workshop-y aspects. We would put in so much legwork doing custom research, gathering resources, and thought starters beforehand, and then eventually (either as an internal team or with the client) throwing all this information on the table and asking ourselves: what does this all mean for the future?

We were always working with these tricky, big picture questions. Instead of asking, “Should we change the color of this packaging?” We would ask something like, “What will happen to Coca-Cola if the world runs out of water? What place does the company have in that world?”

It felt both disciplined and creative. There were methodologies, but at the end of the day, it depended on critical thinking and interpreting what was in front of you, and making connections between things.

When I first read about dscout on Built In Chicago, I thought that either they should hire me, or Kantar should get a dscout subscription. It seemed like dscout was enabling the kind of work I was doing at Kantar, but at a much faster pace (in a consultant role, I could work on a single project for 3-6 months) with a much snazzier tool.

You've witnessed the dscout platform evolve and grow—what's still underutilized that presents a unique opportunity for clients?

One is definitely using Live for co-creation. I’ve seen a few clients really push the limit on what they can do with scouts in Live (e.g. sharing a personalized Google Sheet with a scout in advance and letting them create timelines, artifacts live on call, etc) but I’d love to see more.

Sharing data "snacks" is something else that could be more widely utilized. I often hear clients putting so much pressure on big deliverables and workshop days to put customers in front of their organization and give their colleagues insights & customer stories, but I think they’re missing out on integrating this type of data into their org’s day to day. Features like our playlist builder, share links, and guest links make it easy to share bite-sized insights on a regular basis.

A third thing is taking the time to do proper, exploratory research. I know it’s because of internal prioritizations and deadlines, but oftentimes the research we’re running is on such a tight timeline that we have to be a bit prescriptive (e.g. instead of letting scouts show us three takeout ordering moments over the course of two weeks, we assign them to order takeout over the course of a weekend).

Lastly, using dscout to pitch more projects! I love doing big longitudinal studies for clients after they’ve won the work, or gotten the internal buy-in, but people forget that the subscription model gives them the ability to run a pilot test, or run a quick and dirty version, to win that pitch or to get their stakeholders invested.

Describe challenges unique to the agency/consulting industry that dscout helps address?

Timelines are definitely number one. Consultants and agencies are dealing with extremely tight timelines 100% of the time, and variables are constantly being changed on them. There’s really no ability on their end to reach out in advance or give us a head’s up when a change needs to be implemented.

Another challenge is the number of cooks in the kitchen. Consultants and agencies are often dealing with a lot of voices and levels of approval to acknowledge before they can launch research.

It’s a lot more difficult to run clean, human-centered research when a lot of voices are chiming in asking to add in a tiny usability test here and there—it gets muddled.

A third challenge is integrating numerous data streams. Most of the time, dscout employees are not their only research partners and agencies are running a number of other projects. They may also have a quant survey going, an internal audit, focus groups, etc. They need to account for not only analysis time, but synthesis time.

For consultants or agencies, their clients hired them to solve a tactical problem and they don’t often have the license to run an exploratory deep dive and are sometimes being tasked with solving a very tactical problem.

Making the case for qual research— whether to prove to the client they’re thinking more narrowly than they need to, or how effective qual can be at explaining pain points/co-creating —is sometimes half the battle.

I talk to consultants and agencies a lot about leaving room in their research design for scouts to surprise them. They can ask the very zoomed-in question about what color a button is on a website, but they also have to have a section where scouts tell them their biggest pain points in using the website. Scouts may come up with something that wasn’t even on their radar.

It's 2022 planning time—are you noticing any trends across your customers?

Qual had a big year in 2021. I’m particularly excited to see clients in slow-to-change industries (like manufacturing) tell me that the tangible results they created in 2021, and the value they were able to deliver, increased their budget and license to get creative in 2022.

I’m also seeing some really interesting research being done to head off issues at the pass. For example, a client knows their supply chains will continue to be affected into 2022 and this will create a shortage on a product that US consumers are not used to not being able to get.

They’re running a ton of research looking into industries that just experienced this in 2021: grocery, fitness equipment, paper goods, etc. so they can predict what their customers might do when faced with this problem.

Your consultancy clients are often advocating and educating as they execute projects. What advice do you have for folks trying to advocate for "doing" more human-centered research (on dscout or in general)?

With qual, I think seeing is believing in so many ways, referring back to when I mentioned using dscout to pitch. I think the types of photos, videos, quotes and creative content you can get from human-centered qual speak for themselves.

To that point, the more examples I can send folks (of templates, of demo projects, of use cases and insights pulled from other clients), the happier they are.

Unmoderated qual is a nice gateway, in my opinion, because you can sort of set it and forget it in the background. It doesn’t have to be a huge time investment from the consultancy or agency team if they come ready with objectives or a mission design in mind. It’s kind of like an impactful side dish; we’re making the client eat their vegetables but secretly it will end up being their favorite part.

Maggie's Joy or Pain Experience Template

Here’s a multi-entry dscout part that works across categories and experiences. It’s designed to make it quick and easy for people to reveal moments of delight and frustration related to any product, product category, service, or experience.

Whether you’re in service design, healthcare, technology, apparel, whatever, understanding the high and low moments people have is key to understanding unmet needs and unlocking innovation opportunities. Framing the part in terms of joy and pain moments provides a useful and intuitive trigger for scouts to show moments when a pleasant or unpleasant emotion or feeling is involved.

Joy or Pain Experience Template


Use this part to video capture the joys or pains/frustrations that you experience related to {subject}, no matter how big or small!

Each entry only takes a few minutes to complete.

Note: For this template, we use skip logic. Depending on which option the participant selects, they may be skipped to a later question unbeknownst to them. These will be indicated using [brackets].

1. Multiple choice, single-select
What are you about to share with us?

- A joy moment

- A pain moment [skip to Q3]

2. Scale

How would you rate the amount of joy you're experiencing at this moment?

- 5 = Great joy

- 4

- 3

- 2

- 1 = Little pain/frustration

[Skip to Q4 upon completion]

3. Scale

How would you rate the amount of pain/frustration you're experiencing at this moment?

5 = Great pain/frustration




1 = Little pain/frustration

4. Open-ended, 140 character limit

Use this question to inquire a little further about why your participant answered the way they did. Or, use an alternate question to get a little more information from your participant. For example, you can ask them to share three words that describe their experience.

5. Media response

Record a 60-second selfie or screen-recording video to help us understand what's happening. What’s causing this joy or pain? How’s it making you feel?

Share your thoughts and feelings in as much detail as you can!

6. Multiple choice, single-select

What is this joy or pain related to?

- Possible cause 1

- Possible cause 2

- Possible cause 3

- Possible cause 4

7. Multiple choice, single-select

How often do you experience joy or pain moments like this?

- Always or almost always

- Frequently

- Sometimes

- Occasionally

- Never or hardly ever

Ben is the product evangelist at dscout, where he spreads the “good news” of contextual research, helps customers understand how to get the most from dscout, and impersonates everyone in the office. He has a doctorate in communication studies from Arizona State University, studying “nonverbal courtship signals”, a.k.a. flirting. No, he doesn’t have dating advice for you.

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