Data-driven Experiences take Center Stage at Qualtrics X4

Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith
Customer Experience
Delightful CX is good—strategic CX is even better.



At the X4 Experience Mgmt Summit—Qualtrics’ big coming out party after being acquired by SAP—11,000 attendees descended on Salt Lake City, UT to learn about new practices in collecting, analyzing, and implementing data insights to drive superior customer experiences. Here are key takeaways from the event.

Great experiences don’t happen by accident
Savvy brands don’t sell products, they sell experiences. It’s this belief that’s fueling the customer experience industry. In fact, the customer experience management market is expected to be worth $32.5 billion by 2025, according to Grand View Research. And as customer expectations continue to rise, brands have to deliver the right experiences. When it comes to product-based business models, “the old way of winning doesn’t work,” said Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith in an on-stage keynote. “It’s become a race to the bottom.”

And while the future is marked by advances in automation, the customer experience continues to be a blend of the human touch and automation. To that effect, many of the tools and features that were unveiled use machine learning and artificial intelligence to help employees be more effective at their jobs, such as by sharing insights across different departments of an organization (Smart Routing); parsing through data points and identifying patterns faster (B2B Command Center); or making informed next-best decisions (Voice IQ). Meanwhile, the bar for creating an experience that resonates with valued customers continues to rise.

SAP CEO Bill McDermott alluded to this fact when he explained his reasoning for acquiring the startup Qualtrics for an eye-popping $8 billion. “The most important investment for us is experience management,” he said. Industry analysts have speculated that as a company synonymous with enterprise resource planning, SAP can ramp up and expand its capabilities with Qualtrics’ customer analytics to offer a more comprehensive solution. In fact, the letters X+O were displayed throughout the conference, representing the merger of experience and operational data. To be competitive, McDermott continued, companies should take a holistic approach to answering, “the why questions” as in, why do our customers love or not love our brand? Why do our employees behave a certain way? Answering these questions is the first step to understanding how to create compelling experiences.

Even small gestures matter
Understanding “the why” is precisely what Patricia Lopez-Calleja, VP of guest engagement at Fiesta Restaurant Group, hopes to do. Fiesta Restaurant Group, which owns, operates, and franchises quick-service brands like Pollo Tropical and Taco Cabana, is in the midst of a renewal strategy to strengthen existing customer relationships and forge new ones. Lopez-Calleja selected Qualtrics to help Fiesta uncover actionable insights based on customer feedback that’s collected from online surveys.

An early insight, for example, was that customers who picked up carry-out orders weren’t aware that salsa was not included in their bags. “Our salsa bars are very popular with our guests and we allow them to select and mix their own sauces,” Lopez-Calleja told 1to1 Media. “But we realized we needed to let our guests know they can stop by the salsa bar to pick up their salsa.” Reminding customers that they can make their own salsa may seem minor but it’s these types of small customer-based improvements as well as larger ones like connecting online and offline experiences, that Fiesta is betting will make a differentiated dining experience.

Next on the horizon: greater EX
In addition to creating personalized end-to-end customer experiences, companies are increasingly looking to do the same for their employees. Organizational leaders are also looking for tools to create an employee experience that’s optimized end-to-end from recruitment and onboarding to training and retention. According to a recent Altimeter study, 48 percent of executives reported that creating a culture of empowerment and innovation was a priority in transforming the employee experience — a 65 percent increase over last year. As such, Qualtrics offers a platform for tracking employee engagement insights and collaborative tools like Frontline Feedback, which employees can use to submit ideas for improving the customer experience, as well as upvote/downvote them.

But the reality is while companies are beginning to prioritize the employee experience as it relates to the customer, “only a small percentage at this point” are capable of listening to their employees and acting on those insights in a truly end-to-end employee experience, noted Bryce Winkleman, global head of growth and strategy, employee experience solutions, at Qualtrics. “That doesn’t mean companies won’t get there, but compared to CX, it’s still early.”