The Gist

  • Enhancing experiences. Integrating tools, processes and people around the customer journey is key to improving customer experiences and achieving specific goals.
  • Future experience. AI is the future of Experience Management, providing real-time customer feedback and historical research to improve employee and customer experiences, but it requires training and leadership to be effective.

Experience Management, or XM, has grown from a niche idea to the very heartbeat of truly customer-centric organizations. XM is when everything comes together, including data, tracking, measurement, analyzation and improvement management, on behalf of the different people organizations serve. This is way beyond customer relationship management, or CRM. This is about leveraging data and technology to understand and respond to customers, employees, suppliers and stakeholders in faster and more efficient ways.

At the X4 Summit, an annual conference hosted by Qualtrics last week, several leaders connected these ideas to both the challenges and opportunities of tomorrow. (X4 refers to the way Qualtrics defines XM as the “discipline of designing and improving the four core experiences of business: customer, employee, product and brand.)

The Desired Single Source of Customer Truth

Semantics aside, the quest for the “single source of truth” remains elusive for leaders seeking answers on how to better serve customers and employees. Many platforms are close, but each organization has unique challenges based on everything from legacy software platforms to data privacy issues.

A few customer experience leaders got real with me on how these challenges turn from molehills to mountains, obstructing their view:

  • One leader in banking shared that someone at the top became nervous about data transparency and pulled permissions back from the very teams who can act on feedback, leading to lagging improvements and red tape.
  • Another in retail shared how their customer data included purchase history, contact center interactions and survey results, but lacked a connection with customer social media and user reviews. Customers expected the frontline employees to also recognize what they had posted about the brand on social media, but frontline workers lacked that visibility.
  • And more than one leader expressed frustration with how customer data and feedback was handled completely separately from employee feedback. There is plenty of evidence that connecting the employee experience to the customer experience will improve the journey for both employees and customers, yet many organizations are still acting like these are separate islands.

To understand the future, we must start with the reality of the present. And these challenges persist, even with the new tools, technologies and real innovations around artificial intelligence and data science. Throughout the X4 Summit, certain themes emerged that leaders need to consider for their own innovations.

Related Article: How to Deliver a Customer-Centric Digital Customer Experience

The Future of Experience Management Is Integrated in Ways Big and Small

Brands must integrate the tools, processes and people around the customer journey. Zig Serafin, Qualtrics CEO, described the customer journey as the blueprint for operations.

Physical and digital experiences are one experience to the customer. While this is a common theme, now the tools and technology are there to back it up. The systems can now understand key signals like “click confusion” for the user and prompt chatbots to proactively help. Contact center agents can see detailed and integrated customer history, too. This prevents the annoying reality of customers sharing what happened because the contact center has no visibility into digital experiences.

Investments in better experiences can pay off, as long as these are integrated with specific goals. Ed Bastian, CEO of Delta Airlines, shared that Delta invested $1 billion in better, free WiFi for their domestic flights. It’s free for passengers, but they must join Delta's Skymiles membership, which is also free. By offering this perk, Delta earned 250,000 new members in just a few weeks of launching. That will build their relationship with these new customers, making the investment worth it.

The Future of Experience Management Focuses on Employees

Ryan Smith, owner of the Utah Jazz NBA team and founder of Qualtrics, shared a truth about team fans everywhere. When your favorite team is winning, that has a halo effect on the rest of the experience. Food tastes better, parking is easier and the halftime show is totally entertaining! In fact, fans value a WIN more than 22% above ticket price. He discussed creating an “experience moat” around the product that you can’t necessarily control.

This type of intelligence can help leaders find other ways to earn that 22% lift, but it requires collaboration and investment in the employee experience. Focus on turning a “good” experience to a “great” one and that provides a 15% value to the ticket holder. Turn a “somewhat clean” environment into a “really clean” one and that’s a 7% value. This type of data analysis should be all about including employees, who are the ones delivering on these experiences.

Learning Opportunities

Rob Swain, global chief operating officer of KFC, shared the importance of knowing the role of restaurant managers as critical to each location’s success. Saying “I see you” and catching people doing things right is part of recognizing their employees. Every manager in their 27,000 restaurants is a part-time data analyst. They watch social media, evaluate their customer feedback, coach employees and suggest improvements. This type of empowerment helps the overall brand prioritize what is actually important to customers by combining feedback from both customers and employees.

AI: Future of Experience Management

It’s no surprise that artificial intelligence, or AI, was THE hot topic throughout the Summit.

AI will help connect customer feedback in real-time ways. AI will provide contact center agents and other frontline employees with access to answers in seconds. AI will provide research teams with a historical library of research from all the corners of the organization. These are all real-world challenges teams are facing today.

While AI-driven solutions are technically “here” today, they require some training for both the machines and the people involved. According to Qualtrics President of Products & Engineering Brad Anderson, the company's product Frontline XM will be 80% ready on day one. This is due to the massive amounts of conversations and data already leveraged in training the AI. Qualtrics touts more than 2 billion conversations analyzed already. This involves data that customers have voluntarily provided.

So ideally, frontline contact center agents and others interacting with customers directly will have access to information like if there’s a problem and WHY. AI and machine learning can help employees understand the why in real-time. This type of tool also provides visibility into things like past ratings and feedback, the customer’s lifetime history of service interactions and purchase history.

Related Article: 5 AI Applications for Marketers to Streamline Work

Final Thoughts on Smart Experience Management

There is a need for a more robust and complete view of the customer today. To get there, we’ll need to continue to champion data centralization, integration and visibility. The machines, tools and technologies will certainly help us get there faster.

Yet leaders still need to lead on behalf of the customer. Leaders will need to focus on setting the strategy and receiving the right information at the right time to make better decisions. The future of experience management includes smart robots, for sure, but requires smart leaders today.

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