Consider the Employee Journey When Improving Workplace Experiences

Engaged employees make a big difference inside organizations because of the higher level of commitment and contribution they bring to their work. However, many organizations still struggle to manage employee experiences in a manner that results in engaged employees. In the XM Institute’s recent best practices report, Three Shifts for Employee Experience Success, I highlighted three ways companies should be adapting their mindsets and actions when it comes to delivering experiences that raise employee engagement. Those shifts are:

  1. From functional job execution to purpose-led empowerment. Rather than expecting uninspired compliance to narrow job descriptions, leaders must recognize empowered employees as a critical enabler of company strategy and success, and invest in strengthening the connection of employees to the mission of the company.
  2. From disinterested surveying to collaborative understanding and action. Companies must shift from periodically measuring and reporting on employee satisfaction or engagement to seeking out candid and actionable insights that enable conversations between managers and people across the moments that matter to them.
  3. From HR-driven programs to employee-engaging leaders. The individuals who lead people and teams must recognize the benefits of and be ready to fulfill their personal responsibilities to engage employees every day instead of relying on the periodic motions of HR programs.

All three of these shifts will help companies improve the effectiveness of their EX efforts. However, how an organization demonstrates or acts on those shifts can vary based on different stages of an employee’s journey. Here’s how the three shifts can positively impact experiences when put into action across four typical stages of an employee’s journey:

  • Interview and accept job. In this stage, both the company and the candidate are assessing fit. When companies take a more purpose-led approach, prospective employees will get a more holistic sense of how the role fits within the company’s mission and how their individual success will be supported, not just the job description they are being hired to fill. Companies will get smarter in the process because they will proactively seek feedback, close the loop with candidates, and inject key learnings to improve the recruiting and hiring experience.
  • Join and onboard. Once the company offers a job and the employee accepts, it’s time to set expectations and help the employee learn the ropes. Where traditional orientation programs concentrate on generic presentations of company information, adopting these shifts will result in a more personalized experience for the new employee. Because a new hire’s manager understands the experience starts with themself, the onboarding journey will include one-on-one time spent getting to know the employee and helping the employee get to know the company and its mission and culture, the team and their goals, and their new role as part of both. Periodic check-ins will ensure that while the new employee is learning the ropes, the company and manager are also learning about what’s working and jumping in when things are not quite on track.
  • Perform. Employees will spend most of their time in this stage over the course of their careers. In this stage, companies need to consistently deliver on the experience they have promised employees. When the shifts are embraced, employees understand how they can personally control their experiences at work, while managers invest in reinforcing positive performance so that the employee and the company succeed. In this stage, processes that enable listening, learning, and getting better – from lifecycle surveys or multi-rater assessments to individual engagement reports or performance conversations – are highly valuable to the company and employees alike.
  • Advance. In this stage, employees pursue and step into roles with greater responsibility, influence, and impact. Organizations that prioritize employee experience can be confident that those who advance not only are high in functional competence, but also live the company’s mission and values every day. Because they’ve experienced it themselves, newly promoted managers readily act on the key beliefs that help them engage employees every day.

Bottom line: When you embrace the three shifts across all stages of employees’ journeys both the company and employees will benefit.

HR Leaders: It’s Time to Build Your XM Skills

Over the last few years, it’s been great to see a rising number of HR professionals focusing on Employee Experience (EX) and driving more engaged, high-performing workforces. This has only enhanced my belief that EX represents a critical opportunity for the entire HR profession to increase its value.  

By definition, EX is the collection of experiences and interactions that employees have with their employers. But despite the increased focus on EX, many of the HR leaders that I’ve worked with over the past few years find this effort daunting and many still leverage decades-old approaches. 

That’s why I decided to write this post about an organizational capability that will equip HR professionals to manage and master EX. This capability, called Experience Management (XM), is defined as:

The discipline of using both experience data (X-data) and operational data (O-data) to measure and improve the core experiences of a business. 

And one of the most foundational of those core experiences is the employee experience (EX).

Now, most organizations do measure and improve certain components of their employees’ experiences. And many have even built formal people analytics functions and teams to produce insights and implement changes. This ad-hoc approach to EX, however, represents only the most basic level of XM. 

The Role of XM in HR

While many organizations focus on isolated approaches to managing EX, very few have built XM into a discipline. As a discipline, XM requires a sustained focus; it’s not a project or two that an organization implements and then suddenly “achieves.” In fact, among the hundreds of HR departments I’ve worked with, the ones with the highest levels of XM maturity are the ones that constantly feel like they are behind and look for ways to improve.

Another hallmark of XM is that it involves the combination of X-data and O-data. While most organizations have multi-instrumented O-data systems in place to collect and manage employee operational data, like course completion rates, employee productivity, turnover, etc, their X-data systems are lacking. That is, organizations know a lot about what is going on with their employees, but not nearly enough about why it’s happening.

XM combines the power of what and why with a set of operational processes for putting those insights into action. Specifically, XM helps HR teams to:

  • Continuously Learn. XM helps organizations more effectively sense and interpret what’s happening to employees, how they are behaving, and why. For example, employees’ needs, wants and expectations are always changing, as are organizational priorities, and HR teams need formal, flexible mechanisms to keep up with these changes.
  • Propagate Insights. XM helps organizations put actionable intelligence in the hands of people across their ecosystem who can use it, creating seamless access to the right information, in the right form, at the right time. As the organization collects insights from its workforce, it must act on them. And in order to act on them, those insights must be available and consumable to senior leaders, frontline managers and individual contributors alike. 
  • Rapidly Adapt. XM helps organizations act on the insights they’ve uncovered at an increasingly faster pace, finding ways to create new experiences and renovate existing ones. Senior business leaders, HR teams and people managers need to make changes faster than ever, especially during times of major disruption and crisis.

Operationalizing XM Across HR

How can you weave the XM discipline across HR and across your EX practices? By focusing on three areas that we call the XM Operating Framework:

  • Competency. To gain value from XM, HR teams need to expand their skill sets and develop new approaches for gaining and using insights. Competencies are the skills and actions that ultimately establish XM as a discipline. We’ve identified six XM Competencies: LEAD, REALIZE, ACTIVATE, RESPOND, ENLIGHTEN, and DISRUPT. 
  • Technology. To master the competencies at scale, organizations need a flexible, scalable platform that is capable of collecting, analyzing, and distributing insights to the relevant people and processes. This technology empowers everyone to understand and – more importantly – take action on the insights generated from both X-data and O-data. Technology also helps core EX teams create modern X-data systems that operate more like O-data systems, collecting employees’ attitudes, thoughts and feelings in seamless, automated ways. 
  • Culture. For XM competencies to thrive, companies need to foster an environment that instills XM-centric mindsets and behaviors in their leaders and employees. Most organizations have established ideal cultural values which are represented by artifacts and underpinned by underlying beliefs. When these artifacts, values and underlying beliefs are aligned with XM, not only do XM mindsets and practices grow, but so do business outcomes.

Starting Your Journey Towards Employee XM

So how can you move from ad-hoc employee surveying or disjointed EX efforts to true employee experience? Here are 4 simple steps to get started. 

  1. Learn more about the XM Operating Framework. Specifically, start by focusing on the six XM Competencies. While culture and technology are critical enablers of XM, the competencies are the most foundational and directly actionable for HR leaders. 
  1. Assess your current EX Maturity. Once you’re familiar with the competencies within the XM Operating Framework, it’s time to assess your organization’s current maturity. We’ve developed a short assessment designed for HR leaders and practitioners. As you take the assessment, be honest; there is absolutely no benefit to inflating your scores.
  1. Learn about the State of EX Management. We conducted a study of large, North American organizations of their EX maturity. Within the same report as the maturity assessment is a summary of our findings. This report will help your benchmark your organization against others who’ve taken the same maturity assessment. 
  1. Join the XM Professional Network (XMPN). At the XM Institute, we have created the XMPN which connects XM professionals across all experiences (employee, customer, product and brand) and facilitates greater learning and education. Click here to register. 

A final benefit of XM is that it is a singular capability that organizations can leverage across the core experiences of business: customer (CX), employee (EX), brand (BX) and product (PX). Personally, one of the most rewarding aspects of XM is that it has introduced new and innovative ideas from the other pillars to greatly enhance its application to EX!

How Do You Engage Employees? Adopt The Five I’s

One of the key goals of any Experience Management (XM) program needs to be employee engagement. This is not only a critical outcome for Employee Experience (EX) efforts, but it’s also a critical input to delivering great customer experience. Why? Because engaged employees are the trigger of a “virtuous cycle” of good customer experience and strong business results.

So how can companies tap into this value? By focusing on a set of activities that we call the Five I’s of Employee Engagement:

  • Inform. Provide employees the information they need to understand the organization’s vision and brand values. Ad hoc, inconsistent communications are not effective in engaging employees. Instead, organizations should develop a thorough communication plan and deliver key experience management (XM) messages through multiple channels on a regular basis. XM leaders we have interviewed stress the importance of persistent and consistent communications to ensure messages are heard, understood, and internalized by employees.
  • Inspire. Help employees understand the organization’s vision and values, and to recognize how their role contributes to them. Leaders play a key role in inspiring employees to embrace the company’s vision and values. Whether that’s meeting directly with employees to share organizational stories or demonstrating commitment by holding leaders and managers accountable for changing behaviors to support XM goals, successful organizations identify specific ways to tap into the positive influence of the senior executive team.
  • Instruct. Support employees with the training, coaching, and feedback they need to be successful. Employees first need to know what to do and then be enabled to do it with the necessary knowledge and skills. This happens through activities like formal training, on-the-job coaching, and peer reinforcement, to name a few. Organizations also need to make sure they are making it easy for employees to put what they are learning into action. If employees are constrained by things like out-of-date systems that require workarounds or frustrating policies they have to enforce with customers, then neither employees nor customers will have a positive experience.
  • Involve. Take action with employees when designing their jobs, improving work processes, and solving problems identified through customer or employee feedback. Raising engagement isn’t a one-sided effort. Successful organizations find ways to involve employees whether that’s through a formal voice of employee process, journey mapping, employee-driven process improvement or innovation processes, or other ways. Even if early efforts are informal and simple, take action to raise employee engagement from the ground up, not only top down.
  • Incent. Deploy the appropriate systems to measure, reward, and reinforce desired employee behaviors and motivate employees to give their best. Employees and teams that deliver excellent experiences – to customers, fellow employees, partners, or others – should be celebrated with meaningful gestures of appreciation along with formal awards and incentives. And if engagement is truly important, then organizations should establish and measure employee engagement levels as a management metric with defined goals, action plans, and progress tracking on a regular basis.

Putting the Five I’s into action isn’t solely on the shoulders of the Human Resources (HR) or EX team. Executing on the Five I’s involves stakeholders from across the organization, including:

  • Senior executives: The leaders of an organization need to be visible and accessible to employees as they reinforce the importance of XM as a company priority. Their daily actions including how they help overcome internal resistance and hold others in the organization accountable can be very valuable when bringing the Five I’s to life.
  • Middle managers: This group of people is an important leverage point as they help their teams understand and apply the organization’s vision and values into daily work. They can be particularly helpful in providing coaching and feedback to employees following training and fostering an environment that encourages feedback and recognizes people for doing the right things.
  • Marketing: This function is a key collaborator when it comes to supporting communication plans, promoting employee involvement opportunities, and incorporating employee recognition into internal messages.
  • Finance, IT: In their own way, each of these internal functions may be asked to support the Five I’s through policy, process, system, or tool changes. For Finance, it may be systems and budgeting for employee rewards and recognition programs. For IT, it could be updating internal social networks to allow for easier employee connection-building and collaboration. 
  • CX core team: As an important part of the XM machine inside an organization, the CX team does have a role when it comes to raising employee engagement. It can contribute starting points for organizational success stories, curate customer feedback to spur employee innovation or recognition initiatives, and help translate organizational values into a clear set of customer promises employees help to keep through their roles.
  • Human Resources: While they don’t take whole responsibility for employee engagement, the HR team is the de facto leader of strategic engagement initiatives from the start. Many functions native to HR are key enablers of the Five I’s, including training/development, performance management, employee feedback oversight, and compensation (to support rewards and incentives).

Effective Communication: A Critical Skill to Propel XM Success

In a world where humans are inundated with messages 24/7 through a myriad of channels from a variety of sources, it’s a challenge to cut through the noise to reach employees with important information that helps them do their jobs better. Yet this is exactly the challenge experience management (XM) leaders must overcome if they want to successfully design and deliver great experiences to employees or customers.

In fact, effectively informing employees about XM is so important that Ecosystem Communications is one of our 20 XM skills organizations must master to embed XM as a discipline. When people understand why XM is important, how they play a part in its success, and the value and progress of XM efforts currently underway they are more likely to stay aligned and positively contribute to results. That’s why no XM initiative is complete without a well-designed communications plan. Organizations need to deliver ongoing messages that balance both practical and inspirational elements relevant for each target audience.

So how can XM teams navigate the noise to reach the people who bring experiences to life in their organizations? Here are five tips drawn from across our research that you can put to work to elevate understanding, encourage participation, and celebrate progress:

  1. Design role-specific messages. Not all employees are the same. Different groups of employees have distinct information needs. Therefore, ensure your communication plan considers how key messages need to be adapted for different audiences from senior executives to operational leaders to people managers to individual contributors. This adaptation should apply not only to the substance of the messages but also with the timing/frequency and delivery channel used to disseminate information across the organization. This includes translating “corporate speak” into clear and relatable terms all employees can understand and reinforcing how XM contributes to their own success at work.
  2. Communicate with empathy. Not only do employees have distinct information needs, but they will also react differently to what is shared compared to other groups of employees. There are many times where XM-related communications may ask employees to change what they need to do or to think about their work in a different way. Organizations need to anticipate employees’ emotional reactions and convey support across each message. This is even more critical in times of disruption and uncertainty, as in our current environment, so XM leaders should put a premium on designing communications with these four tips in mind: don’t be shy with bad news, choose certainty over uncertainty, share exact next steps, and stay empathetic.
  3. Use social tools to amplify messages. Effectively deployed employee social networks and similar tools can enhance communications by adding emphasis through executives’ or other key influencers’ personal participation in message threads or by enlisting employees at all levels in sharing updates or elevating topics. The interactivity of social communications has the ability to create “buzz” and tangible energy around a topic in a way that email or other one-way communication channels cannot.
  4. Capture feedback through a two-way dialogue. While communications plans typically focus on getting employees the information they need on a regular basis, they can also be used to bring information back to the XM teams and others. Employees are a valuable source of insights and ideas for their companies and their co-workers. Reserve some capacity throughout your communication plan for learning from employees and adapting how you frame and deliver your ongoing flow of XM communications. You can also encourage broader dialogue around key XM messages that yield employee ideas on how to improve processes or solve problems identified through customer or employee feedback.
  5. Share XM success stories. It is well-known that stories have staying power. XM success stories can bring to life what good experiences look like, what it takes to create them, and help employees connect to the XM strategy in very meaningful ways. There are lots of types of XM stories to tell. Three of my favorites are how-to stories (share the employee mindset and actions that resulted in the success), winning team stories (trace tangible wins by connecting the dots across all the teams that contributed), and everyday hero(ine) stories (instead of superhero moments, highlight employees who are demonstrating desired XM behaviors on a consistent basis, day in and day out).

XM efforts can easily falter when they share too little information, provide disjointed, hard-to-understand messages, or leave out compelling content like progress on key initiatives and success stories. That’s why investing in effective communications is critical to propel the success of your XM program.

Tapping into the Six Traits of Human Beings During a Crisis

Experience Management (XM) is all about human beings. Customers are human. Employees are human. Partners, leaders, suppliers, prospective customers… all human. In the current environment, where many people are facing hard times, it’s more critical than ever for organizations to find ways to demonstrate their humanity and build deeper emotional ties with all the people who interact with them.

This, unfortunately, is easier said than done. Human beings are complicated and can be difficult to understand. So to adapt your experiences to address the shifting concerns of the people you care about, consider their needs across all Six Traits of Human Beings:

  1. INTUITIVE. People use two different modes of thinking to make decisions and judgements: Intuitive Thinking, which is fast, automatic, and emotional and relies on cognitive biases and heuristics (mental rules of thumb) to make decisions, and Rational Thinking, which is slow, effortful, and deliberate and relies on logic and reason to reach conclusions. While humans always tend to use Intuitive Thinking more frequently than Rational Thinking, our dependence on it intensifies during times of stress and uncertainty. So emergencies often exacerbate our existing biases – such probability neglect, availability bias, aversion to uncertainty, and herding behaviors – leading to “irrational” reactions, like buying mountains of toilet paper.
    • Customer Example: Reduce customer uncertainty by proactively communicating how your company is addressing the current situation (e.g. new safety precautions, expanded channels for reaching customer service, plans for waiving certain fees or penalties, etc.). Studies show that during an emergency, communication is most effective when it is timely, credible, empathetic, emphasizes useful individual actions, and is tailored to specific audiences and segments.
    • Employee Example: Engage employees’ Rational Thinking by providing them with a continuous flow of relevant data and insights and then holding them accountable for using that information to make evidence-based (rather than intuition-based) decisions.
  1. SELF-CENTERED. Everyone views the world through their own personal lens, which is informed by their unique life experiences. Unfortunately, this individual context can make it hard for us to put ourselves in other people’s shoes and see the world through their eyes. However, in the current environment, where empathy is paramount, organizations must actively work to help leaders and employees escape their individual context and instead demonstrate understanding and compassion for each other and for customers.
    • Customer Example: Instead of continuing to survey customers about the company’s performance, shift your Voice of the Customer efforts to understand how your customers are doing on a personal level. Shorten surveys to only a few open-ended questions that ask people how they are feeling and how the organization can help them get through this challenging time.
    • Employee Example: Engender empathy in employees for both coworkers and customers by sharing people’s stories in their own voice – whether that’s through contact center recordings, customer verbatims, or inviting employees to recount their experiences during team or company-wide meetings. 
  1. EMOTIONAL. As Maya Angelou once said, “People don’t always remember what you say or even what you do, but they always remember how you make them feel.” Human beings remember experiences based on the most emotionally extreme points and how it ends – a phenomenon known as the “Peak-End Rule.” Because of the heightened emotional climate, people are going to be particularly sensitive to how organizations make them feel right now…and will remember those emotions long after this episode has passed.
    • Customer Example: To create positive emotional peaks, review your major customer journeys and find moments where your organization can add a special moment of surprise or delight, such as sending a customer a handwritten note, waiving a fee, adding a small gift to their package, or empowering employees to spend a certain amount of money to go above-and-beyond to make a moment special.
    • Employee Example: When conveying bad news to employees, lessen the negative emotional spike by carefully preparing for the conversation in advance rather than leaving it up to chance. Think through how you will explain the situation and its causes, communicate with transparency and respect, deliver the news in an appropriate setting and format, and allocate plenty of time to answer their questions at the end.
  1. MOTIVATED. All people strive to fulfill four intrinsic needs – a sense of meaning, choice, progress, and competence. These four motivations are especially important for a company to tap into during a time of crisis as people often feel stalled and discouraged, and the business may not be in a position to incentivize people with extrinsic motivators, like money or formal recognition.
    • Customer Example: Tap into customers’ desire for choice by offering them a variety of solutions to problems they encounter, such as canceled flights, out of stock items, or long wait times for the contact center. Studies show that when companies give customers a variety of potential solutions to choose from to resolve an issue, they are ultimately more satisfied with the outcome.
    • Employee Example: Tap into employees’ desire for meaning by finding ways to redeploy your organizational capabilities to help the community (e.g. repurposing factories, donating products, providing logistical support, etc.), and provide opportunities for employees to contribute to these efforts – both within the scope of their everyday roles and on a volunteer basis. 
  1. SOCIAL. People are naturally social, and we particularly enjoy connecting with other people and institutions who are “like us.” Because people are more attracted to brands who are able to give them a sense of community and belonging, in this time of social isolation, companies should actively create opportunities for employees and customers to connect with each other around shared interests.
    • Customer Example: Give frontline employees space to emotionally connect with customers by waiving efficiency metrics like Average Handle Time.
    • Employee Example: Studies show that the greatest predictor of a person’s success and happiness during a challenging time is his or her social support network, so encourage all employees to start every day by reaching out to someone in their social network – a coworker, family member, friend, etc. – to briefly express gratitude and appreciation. This will help people to feel more connected and recognize they have more social support than they may think.
  1. HOPEFUL. People flourish when they envision a positive future. When we are optimistic, our brains perform better across a number of different categories – such as intelligence, resilience, and creativity – compared to when we are feeling neutral or pessimistic. To help people focus on the positive amid the continuous barrage of bad news, organizations should articulate a compelling vision of the company’s future that specifically addresses people’s personal needs and aspirations.
    • Customer Example: Instead of only communicating with customers to convey negative or disappointing news, share inspiring stories from around the business as well as positive lessons the business has learned that will be carried forward to make the company – and its customer experience – better than before.
    • Employee Example: Start every company meeting by highlighting successes, praising team members, or sharing something you’re excited about. Priming people with positivity will change the way their brains process the challenges you are about to tackle.

Managing the Working-From-Home Employee Experience

Last week, my colleagues Steve Bennetts, Sally Winston, and I held a webinar (watch it here) focused on how organizations should manage their employees’ work-from-home experience. While we covered several meaty topics, we also tried to keep the discussion light and lively. In fact, we covered this topic while working from our own homes and at certain points during the webinar, you can clearly hear children playing and laughing in the background. This is indeed the world we are living in right now! 

Importantly, each of us represented different global regions, with Steve based in Sydney bringing perspectives from the Asia, Pacific region, Sally based in London with perspectives from the EMEA region and myself, based in the U.S. bringing a North American perspective. 

Here is a summary of our discussion:  

  • Organizations must understand the human experience cycle. We started the discussion by anchoring on a basic understanding of the human experience cycle. This is a foundational concept for experience management (XM) that explains the determinants and outcomes of human experiences. We focused heavily on expectations – a core component of the human experience cycle that influences how humans perceive experiences. Among the components of the cycle, we agreed that organizations have the greatest direct impact on the experiences they deliver to their employees and the expectations they set and manage. We also agreed that employee expectations of their employers are very likely to change in the future, based on the dramatic and emotionally-charged experiences they are going through right now. 
  • Now is the time to adjust Employee Experience (EX) Management programs. Next, we dove into the most tactical topic of the webinar, starting with an overview of our research that employees want to be asked for feedback during times of change and are actually more engaged when they are. This is precisely the time when organizations should ask their employees for feedback. However, we also vehemently agreed that conducting a business-as-usual survey is not appropriate and that organizations must be extremely sensitive to employees’ concerns and uncertainties (e.g., safety, job security). We closed this section by concluding that one of the hallmarks of a strong EX Management program is its agility and we pointed to resources that answer other common, tactical questions about EX management programs. 
  • Employee health and well-being must be top-of-mind. To be clear, organizations should always be concerned with employee health and well-being but it is especially important right now. Many employees are working remotely for the first time ever and have lost their social networks (at least physically). This has the potential to dramatically impact employee mental health and physical well-being. Steve Bennetts, who brings a strong background in clinical psychology and workplace safety, explained that “employees are having a normal reaction to abnormal events”. He suggested that organizations and its leaders attempt to “normalize” peoples’ reactions to this unprecedented situation. We closed this section by discussing practical tips for people leaders managing remote teams such as creating new, virtual touch bases (e.g. daily standups, virtual lunches, virtual happy hours) and getting to know employees in this new, virtual world. The latter point is important because employees may behave very differently in this novel environment. 
  • Strong people leadership is even more important right now. While there are tons of articles providing direct tips for remote workers, we acknowledged that far less has been published for people leaders. As our founder and CEO, Ryan Smith, pointed out in his recent article, “right now the work needs leadership, and it has to start with people managers”. We discussed several global examples of organizations that have actually created sub-task forces focused specifically on front-line people leaders and the ways in which they have trickled tips and tricks. Our discussion ventured into performance management and goal setting and how people leaders play a critical role in continuously aligning their newly-remote workers’ goals and expectations.  
  • Employees’ expectations of their employers are likely to change. Our discussion came full circle, back to the human experience cycle and the role of employee expectations. Here are 3 changes to employees’ expectations that we think are likely to persist:
    1. Employees will expect to bring their whole selves to work. Employees will expect that the blending of their personal and professional lives will not be counted against them in the future.
    2. Employees will expect more workplace flexibility. Not every employee will want to work from home but many will expect more flexible policies from their employers in the future.
    3. Employees will expect greater global alignment. While the COVID-19 pandemic is certainly a horrific global event, it is also globally unifying and employees will expect an increased level of global alignment in the future.

All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed our conversation and we all learned something about how different global regions are handling this crisis. Our overarching conclusion from the session was that organizations that are focused on XM during this time, are the ones who will thrive when this crisis ends.

Six Types Of Experience Data (X-Data)

One of the key building blocks of Experience Management (XM) is X-data, which helps establish an understanding of how people think, feel, and behave. In almost all circumstances, organizations lack the X-data they truly need. So how should organizations go about instrumenting their operations to collect the right data?

To identify the required X-data, it’s important to first understand how data flows from people’s experiences. That’s why you should start with the Human Experience Cycle (HxC). As you can see below, experiences lead to perceptions, attitudes, and behaviors.

1903_HumanExperienceCycle2

Using the HxC model, we examined the components of many XM programs and have identified six distinct types of X-data:

  1. Experience Expectations. How people think and feel about a future interaction with an organization, which can be collected on a regular cycle or periodically (e.g., whether a customer expects a product to be hard to use or believes they can accomplish a service interaction online).
  2. Interaction Perceptions. Feedback on a specific interaction, which can be tracked continuously or periodically (e.g., feedback after an online purchase or after an employee training course).
  3. Journey Perceptions. Feedback on collection of activities around a goal, which can be tracked continuously or periodically (e.g., feedback after an airline customer finishes a trip or after an employee completes her on-boarding).
  4. Relationship Attitudes. How people feel about an organization, including plans for future interactions, which can be tracked on a regular cycle or periodically (e.g., NPS or brand tracking study).
  5. Ad-Hoc Diagnostics. How people think or feel about a problem or opportunity, which is collected as needed based on other findings (e.g., pulse employee survey about a leadership issue or qualitative study into why a brand message didn’t work).
  6. Choice Preferences. How people would rank different alternatives, which is collected periodically (e.g., product feature selection or employee benefits optimization).

XM programs need to collect these six types of X-data for all human beings in their ecosystem (e.g., suppliers, employees, customers, prospects, stakeholders, etc.). This effort embodies what we call the “Experience Monitoring” skill within the XM Competency of “Enlighten.”

We’ll use this taxonomy in future posts and research to help organizations assemble the right XM programs. For now, think about where you might collect and how you might use these different types of X-data.

The bottom line: Every organization needs these six types of X-data.

Talking Employee Experience and XM With Ben Granger

Our team joined Qualtrics last October to create the XM Institute, and one of the great things that we’ve found is that there are many people across Qualtrics who are experts in different aspects of Experience Management (XM). So I decided to interview one of them, Ben Granger.

1907_BenGranger

Ben is a Sr. Principal for Global EX Strategy. He spends his days thinking about and helping organizations design leading-edge EX programs. Like many of the subject matter experts across Qualtrics, Ben had a strong background prior to joining the company. He has a PhD in Industrial Organizational Psychology and has worked in EX at Verizon.

Here’s our Q&A:

Q1: We describe experience management as a discipline where organizations “continuously learn, propagate insights, and rapidly adapt.” Based on our your work with companies, what do you think that looks like for a company that is really doing well with EX?

Ben: This shows up in the mindset that the organization has around employee experience. Namely, the belief that they will never get it perfect, that EX is a moving target and that they should always look for ways to improve. It’s ironic, actually, that some of the most mature EX programs I run into are run by organizations that seem to always feel like they are behind. They have this thirst to keep pushing things forward. Companies like Quicken Loans and Rogers Communications come immediately to mind – they are always very humble about the current state of their programs but in actuality, their programs are well ahead of others in their industries. I think this is because those organizations or either intentionally or unintentionally treating EX as a discipline.

Q2: We recently defined Six XM Competencies, LEAD, REALIZE, ACTIVATE, ENLIGHTEN, RESPOND, and DISRUPT. Can you share some best EX practices you’ve seen in one or two of the competencies?

Ben: Firstly, I should say that I am a big believer that the “best practices” organizations employ should be heavily dependent on their maturity. 

1907_6XMCOmpetencies3Some of the practices that highly mature EX programs use could backfire if an organization has never done formal employee measurement before. So that is always a consideration we make when we advise our clients. 

That said, one competency that I really like is “Activate”, which is about building the skills, support and motivation for EX. This is where many organizations get stuck in a rut. Leaders see the inherent value of measuring and improving EX but when they think about increasing the measurement of EX, it sounds very daunting because of the way that EX or engagement has been measured in the past. They are jaded by the old school process. So to “Activate” the organization, you really have to change leaders’ mindsets. You have to reframe what “action planning” is, which sometimes involves calling it something different! Basically, instead of handing leaders a dense report of data and charts, give them short and prescriptive readouts that are focused on “what they should do to improve EX”. Instead of forcing them to add “action planning” to their list of things they have to do, provide the EX insights in the same tools and systems they already use. These simple practices show leaders that it can actually be simple to leverage employee insights. 

Another that is a lot of fun is “Enlighten” which is about providing actionable insights across the organization. For this one, I like to borrow the principles and practices from the customer experience side of the house. For example, if you compare how organizations structure their employee surveys and their customer surveys, there is usually a huge difference. The CX surveys tend to be shorter, more conversational, more in-the-moment, and built into the apps and systems that the customers use. On the other hand, the EX surveys are quite the opposite – they are long, tedious and oftentimes require employees to completely leave their work environment to provide feedback. And to be clear, this is absolutely ridiculous and there is no reason why this has to the case! So when we are building the enlighten competency for our EX clients, we focus on those consumer-based principles – simple things like shortening surveys, giving employees multiple avenues to provide feedback (e.g., on their mobile phones), making the survey items more conversational, integrating the feedback into the systems that employees are already using to make feedback part of the process. 

Q3: When you run into companies that are just starting their EX efforts, what are the type of things that you typically recommend that they start with?

Ben: Employee engagement surveys have been under attack in the popular press recently but honestly, I think this is one of the most practical and reasonable places to start on the EX journey. So when I work with organizations that really have never done formal EX measurement in the past, I usually recommend starting with this approach. 

1907_EmployeeFeedback4I think this is important for a couple of reasons: (1) it gives the organization an opportunity to explicitly ask their employees for feedback. I borrow that line from professor Ed Batista because I think it summarizes how important it is for organizations to “explicitly ask their employees for their feedback, (2) it gives everyone in the organization the opportunity to give feedback, and (3) it gives the organization time to build some of those competencies like “realize” and “activate” without overburdening employees or leaders.

For example, if an organization has never done employee surveying before, then before jumping to frequent pulsing, for example, they have to build trust among employees that their feedback won’t be used against them, and that their feedback matters. And on the flip side, you have to build manager capabilities to understand and act on feedback. If this isn’t a natural activity for them, it will take time to build these capabilities. And a traditional engagement survey is a great way to start building that trust among employees and those capabilities among managers. And (4) this is the progression that most organizations have taken. So it’s a well worn path and we know exactly how to evolve EX programs from that starting point. 

Q4: Thinking about the future, what are some of the things that you imagine companies will be doing with their EX programs that they are not typically doing today?

Ben: I mentioned this earlier but I think that we will see a lot more consumer-based principles make their way into EX programs. We are already seeing it happen in mature organizations but this will accelerate in the next few years with the field of XM and the continued war for talent. 

Another that I think we will see more and more of is passive listening. For example, collecting employee experience data from social media and combining those insights with insights from formal, active surveys. We have some clients that are already doing this and it appears to be highly effective so long as organizations don’t misuse them and are transparent with their employees about them. 

And of course, I definitely see much more integration across the pillars of XM. We are only scratching the surface of what’s possible today. The linkage research across EX and CX is nearly 20 years old now and yet, there hasn’t been much in the way of progress in the field since. That will change and that will change quickly. Organizations are going to move well beyond the simple link between things like EX and CX and begin to have a sophisticated understanding of the interrelationships among practices that improve EX, downstream and long term CX outcomes, the brand experiences those practices create and how those brand perceptions, in turn, impact their ability to attract and retain employees and customers. And by the way, my guess is that this whole chain of events and experiences starts with EX!

Q5: When organizations are actively trying to improve EX, what are some of the obstacles that they really need to watch out for?

Ben: Trying to move too fast – this is a self-imposed obstacle in a lot of cases and it is completely avoidable. It is very tempting to want to go from nothing to best-in-class overnight. But this is rarely (if ever) a good idea. As I mentioned earlier, you have to first build trust among employees and capabilities and buy-in among leaders. This takes time to do. And business leaders can get impatient – they invested in improving EX and they want to see returns…today! I try to set my clients’ expectations – EX programs are kind of like diesel engines – they take a little while to get going but once they are running, they just keep on going.

Making assumptions based on anecdotes – this also is super common and avoidable. The point here is that organizations should not bypass legitimate measures of EX in favor of one-off anecdotes or examples. Within XM, we talk about experience gaps and oftentimes, these gaps exist between what organizational leaders “think” is happening and what employees or customers really think. There is nothing wrong with leveraging personal anecdotes and examples but using those as the sole source of information to drive actions or processes intended to improve EX is a terrible idea.

A quick example – I was working with a large retail bank a few years ago and one of the consistent themes that came out of their annual survey was that call center employees were not happy with their “career progression” opportunities. At the time, their survey was not sensitive enough to dive deeper into what employees meant by this. A few sr. leaders reasoned that the way to fix that was to build a formal career progression program to give employees line of sight into their next move. But we suggested that before they did that, we should really try and understand what the employees meant by career progression. And sure enough, we did a follow-up survey and looked at their open ended comments and the employees were actually much more interested in stretch projects and having more autonomy in their day-to-day jobs and opportunities to do different jobs in different departments. This obviously made a huge difference in what the company implemented…and saved them a ton of money by the way.  

Q6: What most excites you about the emerging category of Experience Management?

Ben: I mentioned it a few times but I am super excited about what we can learn and leverage from the CX space. I have learned so much from my CX counterparts over the last few years.

I also legitimately think XM is going to make the business world much more human. If you think about it, what XM essentially states is that it’s actually better for business if you do right by your employees, your customers and your stakeholders. Imagine if the opposite were true or if organizations perceived the opposite to be true? IF that were the case, our lives would be much worse! 

But luckily that is NOT the case. So XM will continue to prove this to be the case and eventually the organizations that provide the best experiences will be the ones still standing…and that is a great thing for all of us!

Q7: Now for something a bit more personal, what is your favorite quote from a movie, and why does it resonate with you?

Ben: “Where we’re going we don’t need roads” – Doc Brown from Back to the Future II.

First of all, this is one my favorite movie trilogies of all time – I could watch the first two movies over and over and never get tired. 

But tying it to EX, it really resonates with me that we often think about the future in terms of what we’ve done or what we’ve had to do in the past. Like when leaders immediately get scared of something like lifecycle feedback or pulse surveys because they immediately think about how painful running that one annual survey was in the past. Sometimes, we have to forget the past and imagine what it could/should be like. 

Debriefing My Qualtrics X4 Experience

X4_ImageLast week I joined more than 10,000 XM enthusiasts at the Qualtrics X4 Summit in Salt Lake City. This was my fourth X4, and the first one since joining Qualtrics. I really enjoyed seeing old friends and meeting many new ones. We have some really awesome clients!

My head is still spinning from the amazing event. Over two days, we were treated to the most incredible line-up of speakers, including President Obama, Oprah, Sir Richard Branson, Ashton Kutcher, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, and Imagine Dragons’ lead singer Dan Reynolds. Add to that an Imagine Dragons concert, skateboard exhibition by Tony Hawk and his friends, and a dance contest to support 5 for the Fight (including tWitch). And yes, there were also a bunch of fantastic industry speakers.

There were so many extraordinary experiential elements around the event, including the environment for my two speeches. One of my talks was in a very large open space where attendees listened through headsets and the other was in an informal setting that was part of a private lounge for senior leaders. (Note: I’ll write another post to share some of that content).

Here are some of my favorite X4 moments:

  • Oprah was just purely amazing and inspiring. She talked a lot about the importance of “intention,” having clarity of your personal purpose (I am totally bought into the power of purpose). Some other lessons from her include, “your legacy is every life you touch,”  “notice what you have, not what you don’t have, and you will recognize the abundance around you,” and you need to acknowledge and validate other people. Her closing question challenged all of us: How do you use your true self in service of the world? And, I’m still chuckling about her discussion with Ryan Smith about Barnaby.
  • President Obama was so chill. He looked calm and loose, which made it very entertaining. He discussed his approach for making difficult decisions: “setup a process to figure the thing out with facts, data, and reason.” He made sure that the people in his administration were there for the right reason; not personal gain, but achieving their common mission. He required everyone to have integrity at their core. One of my favorite moments was when Obama quoted from The Departed. He discussed a scene where Mark Wahlberg’s character is asked who are you? and answers “I’m the guy doing my job. You must be the other guy.” Obama said that his staff would often use the phrase “Don’t be the other guy.” He also left us with an important charge, “focus more on our common hopes, dreams, and values, not on the things that pull us apart, and we can accomplish great things.
  • Adam Silver really surprised me. I’m a big fan of his work with the NBA, and have seen him speak at the MIT Sports Analytics Conference. But I never knew he was such a data guy. He discussed XM, like a pro. He clearly articulated how the combination of SAP and Qualtrics would help the NBA. He even discussed X-and O-data!
  • Sir Richard Branson was truly authentic. He seems like a great person to work for. He discussed how you purposely help more and more people as you get successful, expanding the circles from yourself, to your family, to your community, to the world. He called the American holiday system “a total disgrace” for not allowing workers to have more time off.  Branson believes that “every day is a fantastic learning experience,” and he also believes in promoting from within and delegating. This is what he had to say about brand, “you are only as good as your reputation, and you will need to zealously protect it.” He will only get into a new business if employees will be really proud and customers will sing its praise.
  • Bill McDermott explained why SAP & Qualtrics makes so much sense. He described SAP as a company with ‘a great brand and a good heart.’ Not only is that the type of company I want to work for, but it’s also how I would love to be personally viewed by other people. McDermott labeled XM as “the ultimate category” for enterprise software. He summed up the acquisition with a quote from Jerry Maguire, “Qualtrics completes us.” You can see a lot of what he said in this really good article.
  • Qualtrics employees delivered awesome content. Ryan And Jared Smith did a great job sharing the XM vision and highlighting amazing new capabilities in our XM platform. I was really proud of all of the Qualtrics speakers that I was able to see. The overall storyline at the event was that organizations often fail because they get blindsided; they lack good instrumentation. In order to deliver breakthrough experiences, you need more XM instrumentation.
  • Our new offerings are incredible. We announced a crazy number of game-changing additions to the Qualtrics XM Platform. We’re using AI in many areas across the platform, including to analyze data and create automated alerts about potential problems and opportunities. And our new mobile experience is pretty cool as well. Here are links to some of the other announcements:

I’ll end this post with a shout out to our XM Breakout Artist Winners:

  • CX: American Express
  • EX: Coca-Cola
  • PX: Belkin
  • BX: Sofi
  • XM: L.L.Bean

The bottom line: X4 was amazing; I’m already looking forward to next year.

The Engaging Power Of Employee Feedback

Does your organization listen to its employees? I mean, really listen and act on what they say. Based on what our research has uncovered, it’s likely that the true answer is “no.” Check out some data from our recent research:

  • In our Q3 2018 Consumer Benchmark Study, we found that 40% of full time U.S. employees strongly agrees with the statement, “My company asks for my feedback and acts upon what I say.”
  • In the report, Employee Engagement Competency & Maturity, 2018, we found that only 40% of executives within large organizations  put a high priority on taking action based on results from employee engagement studies.

Does it really matter? Yes! While there is enormous value from using employee feedback to improve your business, the true win might be in how it improves the engagement level of those employees.

To understand this phenomena, we examined the relationship between how employees think their company listens to and acts on their feedback, and the degree to which those employees are willing to do something good for their company even if it’s not expected of them. Eighty-two percent of employee who strongly agree that their company takes action on their feedback are likely to do something good for the company, compared with only 30% of those who do not agree.

We decided to dig deeper into the data and look at how this relationship differs across employee roles. As you can see in the chart below:

  • Executives (87%) are the most likely to do something good for the company if their feedback is acted upon.
  • Financial services sales or relationship management employees (19%) are the least likely to do something good for the company if their feedback is not acted upon.
  • The “do-good gap” is largest for B2B sales or relationship workers, where there’s a 65-point difference in employees’ likelihood to do something good for the company based on how the company deals with their feedback.

1902_EmployeeFeedbackValue3

The bottom line: Employee feedback is an under-appreciated gift.

The Inextricable Link Between CX & EX

CXEX_LinkedIn.pngIf you’ve followed our research, then you know that we’ve always viewed employee engagement as a fundamental component of customer experience.  One of our Six Laws of Customer Experience is that “Unengaged employees don’t create engaged customers.” It just makes sense. How can you possibly expect to consistently deliver great customer experience with apathetic or disengaged employees?!?!

Although the connection between customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) may seem obvious to many people, it’s important that we periodically test the linkage. So we took a look at the data from our survey that drove the report, State of CX Management, 2018.

We started by splitting the 194 respondents from companies that have 1,000 or more employees into three groups based on how they rated the customer experience that their organizations currently delivers compared with their competitors:

  • 51 companies that deliver considerably above average CX (“CX Leaders“)
  • 61 companies that deliver slightly above average CX (“CX Moderates“)
  • 82 companies that deliver average or below average CX (“CX Laggards“)

We compared their responses to Temkin Group’s 20-question CX Competency & Maturity Assessment. As you can see in the chart below:

  • The percentage of CX Leaders who earned “good” or “very good” employee engagement ratings is more than 5-times larger than the percentage of CX Laggards.
  • Most organizations have a long way to go on EX; less than 40% of CX Leaders are good at it–and they’re the best!
  • CX Leaders significantly outperformed CX Laggards across all five employee engagement behaviors in our assessment. Here are the gaps in the percentages of companies that either “always” or “almost always” demonstrate these behaviors:
    • My company celebrates and rewards the employees who exemplify its core values (32 %-point gap)
    • My company actively solicits and acts upon employee feedback (35 %-point gap)
    • Managers are evaluated based on the engagement level of their employees (38 %-point gap)
    • The human resources organization is actively involved in strategic initiatives (36 %-point gap)
    • My company provides employees with industry-leading training (31 %-point gap)

1812_CXandEX_v2

The bottom line: EX is a fundamental enabler of CX.

CX Myth #6: Compensation Drives Good CX Behaviors

CX Myths: Debunking Misleading Beliefs About Customer Experience

Many common beliefs about customer experience are misguided, based on oversimplifications or a lack of consideration for real-world constraints. In this series of posts, we debunk these myths.


CX Myth #6: Compensation Drives Good CX Behaviors

What’s Wrong: Many organizations try to drive behavior change by tying employees’ compensation to customer experience metrics. While some level of compensation tied to CX can be helpful, it is often overdone. When you overly compensate on a single metric, it can often lead to unintended and detrimental consequences. Symptoms of these counterproductive behaviors include pestering customers for scores; focusing on activities that may improve scores, but aren’t good for the business; and actively debating the accuracy of the metrics. Rather than engaging in these activities, we want employees focusing on ways to improve customer experience.

What’s Right: Don’t use compensation to drive behavior change; instead, use it to reward good behaviors. With that in mind, you need to find other mechanisms to drive change, such as appealing to employee’s four intrinsic needs; their sense of meaning, control, progress, and competence. As I’ve previously written, keep in mind these three underlying principles about compensation:

  1. If there is significant compensation tied to any metric (including customer feedback), then people will look for ways to manipulate the measurement.
  2. If people don’t understand a metric, then tying compensation to it will have little impact on their behavior and any downside in compensation may create negative behaviors.
  3. If people don’t understand how they personally can affect a metric, then tying compensation to it will have little impact on their behavior and any downside in compensation may create negative behaviors.

What You Should Do:

  • Treat CX as a team sport. Your customers’ experience is almost never the result of a single person, even if that person is the only one interacting with the customer. So focus on team-level metrics and compensation that encourages key groups of employees to work together towards a shared objective.
  • Use an organization-wide CX metric. Developing a core CX metric for the entire organization that is tied to some compensation (not too large), is a great way to show commitment to improving CX, and it will encourage a regular dialogue about your overall CX performance.
  • Bias rewards towards the upside. Consider starting with a compensation plan that is biased towards upside. In other words, you may want to introduce the plan where there is little negative impact on compensation if the group doesn’t hit a goal, but there is positive impact of they exceed it. This can help eliminate some of the negative perceptions early in a program.
  • Celebrate good CX behaviors. Compensation is not the only reward system in an organization. If you want employees to behave in a certain way, then provide them with positive role models. Find ways to highlight employees who are demonstrating the behaviors that you would like others to emulate. This can include monthly or quarterly awards, shout outs at company meetings, or highlights across your internal communications.
  • Make it unacceptable to game the scores. When an employee asks a customer to “give me a 10 on a survey or I’ll get fired,” can you really count on the accuracy of that customer’s rating? This may be an extreme example of “gaming feedback,” but many versions of this behavior occur all the time. To keep gaming feedback in check, it’s important to be explicit with employees about what the company considers to be unacceptable behaviors.  I’ve identified five rules that you should strictly enforce with employees, which includes not talking with customers about survey questions, scores, or consequences.

The bottom line: Use compensation to reinforce, not force, good CX behaviors.

2019 XM Trends From Qualtrics Thought Leaders

This is the time of year for holiday cheer, family celebrations, and, of course, listings of annual trends!

To help me identify trends for 2019, I reached out to some of the many thought leaders across Qualtrics and asked them to share one or two of the top experience management (XM) trends they are expecting to see in the coming year.

It was a great exercise. We have some amazing people across Qualtrics who regularly help organizations master all aspects of XM: Customer Experience (CX), Employee Experience (EX), Brand Experience (BX), and Product Experience (PX). And the trends they shared highlight the enormous amount of learning and maturing that’s currently happening in the field of XM. For the sake of simplicity, we organized their trends into four broad categories:

  1. Humanizing through Technology
  2. Tailoring Insights for Action
  3. Expanding Predictive Analytics
  4. Authentically Living Brand Values

1) Humanizing through Technology

Companies are starting to recognize that their customers (and their employees!) are real human beings, with their own emotions, wants, needs, beliefs, and motivations. Companies are using technology and data to not only deepen this understanding, but also deliver more emotionally resonant experiences. Here are some trends from our experts:

  • Adaptive, Conversational Listening. “Survey” has a pejorative overlay in the common vernacular in the U.S. today. Customers are over-surveyed with surveys that benefit only the company and not the customer. We’ve come up with a way to change the survey to a conversation, whilst preserving methodological rigor around validity and repeatability. Our method seems simple but is built on a sophisticated process within Qualtrics. First, we identify the conversational aspects of the feedback request before we engage a customer. A conversation is a give and take, a social contract between two people (personas, in abstract) who are exchanging a number of responses that include emotions, meanings, motivations, and memories evoked by current, previous experiences and the cues of the conversation. We identify the main constructs that we are dealing with as part of this feedback strategy: the company, the Feedback Conversation and the Persona who represents the customer, and we adapt the feedback requests based on the customer response.  (Carol Haney, Head of Research & Data Science)
  • Make It Matter To Me. The advancement and application of artificial intelligence is already enabling more meaningful customer experiences. Whether it’s via chatbot, or a truly personalized experience, artificial intelligence has the potential to truly humanize endless reams of data. (Juliana Smith Holterhaus, Ph.D., Senior XM Scientist)
  • Quantify & Discuss Customer Emotions. Thanks to rapidly evolving technologies, in 2019, I expect to see more companies measuring and discussing customer emotions. Emotions play an essential role in how we make decisions and form judgments, and consequently, they significantly impact our experiences with and loyalty to different companies. And yet companies have historically ignored emotions – dismissing them as too squishy and unquantifiable. However, recent advances in technological capabilities – such as cloud storage, processing power, machine learning, AI, natural language processing, etc. – are allowing companies to start identifying and quantifying their customers’ emotions. For example, companies can now use speech or text analytics to automatically surface emotions during customer service conversations, and new analytics can infer customers’ emotions based on their digital body language (e.g. scrolling, clicking, hovering). Additionally, machine learning enables companies to uncover patterns in customers’ behaviors and preferences, allowing them to proactively address problems and personalize customers’ experiences. (Isabelle Zdatny, CCXP, Qualtrics XM Institute)
  • AI To boost Frontline Productivity. We are increasingly seeing more companies incorporate sophisticated technologies such as virtual agents to enable smarter self-service in order to rethink operational processes and deliver immediate gratification. Contrary to beliefs that virtual agents will start to replace agents in frontend operations, we actually expect AI to help drive adoption of virtual assistants to become the primary channel of self service, while saving effort and time for agents and increasing their overall productivity, whereby they can focus on being a source of revenue rather than be a cost-center by selecting and presenting the best possible solution to the customer when engaged in LIVE calls. But, the focus will need to be maintained on relying on mechanisms which can also distinguish when the customer is confused and can understand and distinguish based on that emotion to engage a live agent – so ultimately the experience is frictionless, yet effortless from all involved. (Arpana Luthra, Principal Consultant, CX Practice)
  • Augmented Reality Will Redefine XM. Technologies like augmented and virtual reality will be important in elevating overall experiences and improving decision making. These technologies will make shopping easy, convenient, attractive and certainly differentiated – enabling customers to touch, feel, discover and explore products to create an experiential environment giving them a realistic feeling of the product or service experience much before they make a purchase decision. This will require businesses to re-imagine their people, process, technological and service strategies while ensuring they continue to deliver to their brand promise, but do so more effectively. (Arpana Luthra, Principal Consultant, CX Practice)

My Take: Organizations will increasingly focus on the fundamental component of XM—human beings. It’s important to start with an understanding of how people think, feel, and act. How can organizations apply this knowledge? By applying the Human Conversational Model to all interactions, including the growing number of digital touch points.

2) Tailoring Insights For Action

While most companies are now fairly proficient at data accumulation, collecting data just for the sake of collecting data is not useful in and of itself. Companies must actually use these insights to drive customer- and employee-centric decisions across the entire organization. To do this, they need to be strategic about how they collect information, how they tailor the information to their separate audiences, and how they use that information to identify and act on improvement opportunities. Here are some trends from our experts:

  • Activating Managers’ Engagement Skills. More companies are recognizing that a strong culture and engaged employees are not a result of HR tactics, but on how effectively individual leaders and managers are connecting with employees. I’m seeing more companies putting time into helping managers understand their role in employee engagement and identifying and removing time-consuming administrative tasks that get in the way of managers supporting, coaching, and recognizing employees every day. Companies are also working on improving the feedback managers get so that it enables managers to have more productive conversations with their employees about what’s working and not working on the job. (Aimee Lucas, CCXP, Qualtrics XM Institute)
  • From Survey To Strategy. I’m beginning to see organizations ask how the annual engagement survey can best fit into their overall people strategy. Leaders are taking an interest in linking survey results to business outcomes, aligning surveys along multiple points in the employee journey, taking action that will impact the business both immediately and 3-5 years from now. Surveying is no longer an annual look backward, but a strategic tool in moving forward. These conversations are exciting for both the client and Qualtrics. (Kara Laine, XM Scientist)
  • High Frequency Feedback Isn’t Helping. We have had several customers this year pull back from a monthly employee survey strategy to something Quarterly or even Semi-Annually. Their manager report not having the ability to action it before the next survey goes out and they are overwhelmed by the frequency. We find that instead our successful customers are working to connect with employees at meaningful touch-points, such as during onboarding or on a work anniversary, rather than focusing on frequency. (Austin Nilsson, EX Delivery Services Manager)

My Take: As I wrote in a post earlier this year, the future of VoC is insight & action, not feedback. Companies are increasingly recognizing that they need to drive four different action loops. This requires them to tailor insights to fuel different decision-making processes across an organization. That’s why Qualtrics is so committed to helping our customers deliver role-specific insights.

3) Expanding Predictive Analytics

Customers and employees increasingly expect companies recognize them as individuals, anticipate their needs, and proactively address their concerns. To meet these rising expectations, companies are using powerful analytics engines to combine rich customer and employee feedback with reams of CRM and operational data, surface meaningful patterns within that data, and then generate predictive models that allow for proactive, personalized experiences. Here are some trends from our experts:

  • Hyper-Contextualized, Not Personalized. A positive, consistent experience has long become a table stake. Today’s customers want organizations to respect their time. A good product at a competitive price is no longer the basis for differentiation. Truly customer-centric organizations will increasingly leverage data-driven analytics to spot customers’ buying patterns, behaviors across channels and touch points to design experiences and content, at a time customers want it and deliver them proactively rather than reactively. Customers will increasingly look for a unique, customized experience that is memorable and reminiscent of a personal relationship. There will likely be a rise in teams and knowledge centers focused on identifying the experience along these personalized journeys. Closely tied will be the importance of measuring customer emotions and understanding how they feel in the moment because customers who have a negative experience during a brand interaction are more likely not to forgive that company. We expect analytics to not only empower brands to personalize experiences, but also enable them to identify and prevent issues before they would happen, so they can now shift resources not to problem solve but to get ahead of them. (Arpana Luthra, Principal Consultant, CX Practice)
  • People Analytics. People analytics involves deriving insights from employee data and advanced analytics to make talent management decisions to drive revenue and growth. Over 70% of companies now consider people analytics a high priority, but only 10% believe they have a good understanding of which talent dimensions drive performance in their organizations. People analytics may be leveraged alongside data captured at every employee touchpoint to develop algorithmic selection systems, dynamic workforce planning models, and social networks informing organizational silos and influence between and within teams – to name a few possibilities. (Brandon Riggs, EX Internal Program Lead)

My Take: Historically, insights have been used to describe what has happened in the past. While this retrospective provides value, the ultimate objective is to use insights to prescribe best actions for the future. As predictive analytics becomes more accessible and companies blend together X- and O-Data, we’ll see a surge in predictive recommendations. Qualtrics is putting a lot of energy into making these advance analytics much more accessible to business users.

4) Authentically Living Brand Values

People want to interact with organizations whose policies and practices align with their personal principles, ideals, and attitudes. Companies can build trust and emotionally engage both their customers and employees by authentically championing social causes and demonstrating that they share the same values as their target customer segments. Here are some trends from our experts:

  • Merging Inclusivity And CX. We’ve seen multiple news articles over the past year surrounding how companies can create better online experiences for customers with disabilities. One of my favorite CX-related stories from 2018 was on the work of the Hearing and Speech Agency in Baltimore, MD. The organization is working with D.C. area restaurants to train workers on how to understand and create enjoyable experiences for customers with speech disabilities and disorders. Starbucks also opened its first U.S. sign language store in Washington, DC this past year. (Stephanie Thum, CCXP Chief Advisor, Federal Customer Experience)
  • Maturing Of Customer Journey Mapping. Customer journey maps will sustain their momentum as a popular tool to diagnose and design customer experiences. Successful journey mapping companies avoid the common of mistake of assuming the map itself is the “finish line” but rather bring cross-functional subject matter experts together who use the map’s findings to take action around the key moments of truth that deliver on an organization’s brand promises. In 2019, more companies will use journey maps to highlight the emotional impact of the experience as a way to raise empathy for customers among employees, regardless of their roles. Companies will also shift from using maps solely to capture the current state experience and begin to use them to keep the broader journey in mind while innovating future-state customer interactions. (Aimee Lucas, CCXP, Qualtrics XM Institute)
  • Fusing The Concepts Of Ethics And BX. Customers oftentimes look to online reviews and ratings to make decisions, anticipating or expecting experiences that may be based on those reviews and ratings. But what about when reviewers have been compensated to write positive reviews, incentivized to do so with a discount on a future purchase, or reviews are just plain fake? Similarly, what are the CX ethical implications of score begging, when auto dealerships, for example, beg for 10s on a survey, rather than allow customers to provide an honest review that would then possibly trickle out via marketing to other, future customers? How do we consider and think about these things when creating or honestly evaluating the experience customers are having with brands? (Stephanie Thum, CCXP Chief Advisor, Federal Customer Experience)

My Take: For an organization to optimize its CX, BX, PX, and BX efforts, it must have a deep understanding of its core values. Without this clarity around a true north, it’s nearly impossible to align priorities across an organization. We’ve seen companies live their values by translating customer promises into employee actions —and we expect to see even more of this activity going forward. I recently discussed how Starbucks should have used this approach for training after its recent issues.

The bottom line: 2019 will be an exciting year for XM!

CX Leaders’ Employees Feel Prouder & More Appreciated

If you’ve followed our research, then you’ve likely seen a strong, almost inseparable link between between customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX). We continued to find that connection in our latest consumer benchmark.

In our Q3 2018 study, we asked 5,000+ U.S. employees to pick a word that best describes how their job makes them feel and split those responses based on how they judged the overall CX that their company delivers. As you can see in the figure below:

  • More than 80% of employees that picked “proud” and “appreciated” work in organizations that they believe are CX leaders. “Confident” is next on the list at 74%.
  • When employees picked “embarrassed” and “angry,” they were the least likely to work for CX leaders and the most likely to work in CX laggards.

Employee attitudes versus customer experience (CX)

The bottom line: CX leaders have proud employees, CX laggards have angry ones.

Employees Want To Make A Positive Impact

What motivates employees? This may seem like a difficult question to answer, but it’s not hard at all. There’s one overwhelming answer: Making a positive difference.

In our latest consumer benchmark study, we asked more than 5,000 full-time U.S. employees to select which of eight job characteristics they felt was the most important. Here’s what we found:

  • Making a positive impact: 42%
  • Earning a lot of money: 14%
  • Advancing your career: 13%
  • Building stronger skills: 12%
  • Using your judgment: 8%
  • Being seen as a top performer: 6%
  • Making friends at work: 3%
  • Impressing your family and friends: 2%

Making a positive impact is also the most important job characteristic across all age groups. As you can see below, it becomes increasingly more important as employees get older. For the youngest employees, being seen as a top performer comes in a close second place, but nothing is even close with older employees.

1811_JobImportanceByAge_v1

We also asked employees about the elements of their job that they enjoy. The chart below shows that once again, making a positive impact comes out on top across age groups and increases with age. For younger employees, building stronger skills is a very close second. As employees get older, using your judgement becomes an increasingly enjoyable element of their job.

1811_JobEnjoymentByAge_v1

The bottom line: Help employees feel like they’re making a positive impact.