For the first time in nearly four years, a crowd of 10,000 gathered at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, UT, for the Qualtrics X4 Summit, and the BNO team was there! The event, which kicked off on International Women’s Day, featured a powerful cohort of customer experience professionals from every industry and a handful of celebrities who know a thing or two about creating memorable experiences.
Rachelle Powell, Abey Abraham, Andrea Hunter, and Trista Walker of BNO discuss their personal highlights
Fostering emotional connections with customers was a main theme this year, with new, AI-enabled tech from Qualtrics empowering brands to listen, understand, solve, and delight their customers on a deeper level than ever. And this was true of the conference itself, which was clearly engineered to create those connections between Qualtrics and attendees (their customers), including BNO. Read on for an insider’s view of our favorite speakers, moments, and experiences.
Our favorite sessions
TRISTA: I have to give it up for SHRM CEO Johnny Taylor. He electrified the day 1 pre-lunch crowd by dropping wisdom about the post-pandemic war for talent (“it’s real”), expectations of new grads vs. their reality (“they’re getting paid HALF of what they think they should be getting from you”), declining birth rates among millennials and Gen Z (“they’re not having babies, they’re having PETS”), diversity, equity, and inclusion (“we’re diverse, but we still don’t like each other”), and last but not least the inadequacy of current mental wellness programs in the workplace (“there is no parity in our physical wellness and our mental wellness programs”). Best. Keynote. Of. The. Morn. I mean, other than Nobel Prize Winner Malala Yousafzai. But then again, who can compete with Malala?
ANDREA: Exactly! Obviously, I wrote down that quote from Malala when she said “if you ever doubt the importance of education, ask a girl.” I loved listening to her because she’s awesome and it was inspiring to hear her experience and her words on the importance of education. I feel like I take that for granted sometimes. Listening to her reminds me to be more grateful that I got to go to school.
RACHELLE: Malala also spoke about the important role of ethical technology and technology support for girls and women. Apple is partnering with Malala to provide technology support for women. I love that.
ANDREA: My favorite breakout of the day was Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Carolina’s Lyndsey Wooten on “taking the squish out of CX.” She stressed keeping in mind that CX is all about helping people and not to lose sight of that. She also recommended that CX teams within companies treat themselves like outsiders instead of insiders and to remember it’s our job to hold the rest of the company accountable. Step 1 is asking for a seat at the table. Step 2 is to earn the team’s trust by showing why CX matters. She also shared her four key CX metrics: overall customer satisfaction, trust, ease of use, and an emotional metric. That last one is important. Know what emotion you’re trying to create–e.g., love, respect, loyalty–and measure the emotional connection. Your CX strategy should be purpose driven and tailored to your organization in creating that emotion.
RACHELLE: Speaking of emotion, YouTuber and science nerd Mark Rober was a revelation! I love how he talked about making learning fun. Not just fun but engaging, interactive, and cool. I would love to be able to bottle his curiosity. It just seems like there’s nothing outside of his purview. If he finds something naturally interesting or important, he just goes and does it. That’s his magic. His approach is empowering and innovative. He really impressed me.
ABEY: I loved his quote “I start with the perspective of what would be fun, and then I teach them physics along the way.”
TRISTA: Loved Mark Rober! How cool was it to break the world record for the world’s largest science demonstration? It was really amazing that he cared enough to create an amazing experience for all of us. Definitely a lot of love in the room for Mark Rober.
Thoughtfully designed experiences
ABEY: Can we talk about the event experience? I was really moved by the thoughtfulness of the design of the entire experience. They approached everything from a storytelling perspective from the speaker introductions to the videos to the physical design of the event—the banners, the fast registration process, the staff T-shirts, the Dream Team in a different color, their public TACOS (values) on display and the food trucks. All of the contextual clues, the Killers concert bracelets, and Fight Night with the origin story with the (Qualtrics) founders, it was all very thoughtful and very intentional.
TRISTA: YES! They even assessed attendee sentiment in real time and made adjustments in the middle of the conference! That was cool.
ANDREA: That makes me think about another breakout session I really valued. In “Storytelling with Data” with JD Schramm, he talked about his “Ready. AIM. FIRE” approach. “Ready” is knowing what story you want to tell and using story elements like what conflict the data resolves, then figuring out what data you have and what data you need to tell that story. “AIM” is an acronym for defining your audience and your intent, and building your message around that. What do you want people to do? “FIRE” is another acronym. Focus on the audience’s attention while you’re making the presentation. Include the correct visuals. A great quote was “if you have to explain the visual then it’s not the right visual.” Reduce clutter and keep it simple. Last, Evaluate the effectiveness of your presentation. What did you learn for next time? One other thing I loved was the advice to never use visuals that look like food. No pie charts, no donut charts, and no spaghetti charts!
TRISTA: Hah! Note to self. Speaking of boring charts, Andrea, you also went to “Taking a Holiday from Metrics to Focus on People” with Raj Sivasubramanian from Airbnb. Intriguing title. How was that?
ANDREA: It was good! Raj talked about CX and UX and how talking solely about metrics can make the work feel boring. He shared his approach to using the literal voice of the customer to inspire empathy. An example is sending out real customer calls as a listening exercise for his team to remind them that this work is for real people—and not just numbers. Raj also uses video to build empathy. He shared that empathy can jog the brain and spur creative ideas. Raj also asked why everyone is so focused on the negatives. He shared a story of calling one of those “How’s my driving?” numbers to report that the driver was doing a great job. He said the person on the other end of the call was very confused (“this is a complaint line”). He asked for the number for the compliments line and the person told him there is no line for compliments, only complaints. This was a memorable way to get the point across about inspiring your team with the positive outcomes of the work. CX efforts are not pointless!
RACHELLE: Ryan Smith, owner of the Utah Jazz and co-founder of Qualtrics, also talked about positive experiences. While interviewing Delta CEO Ed Bastian, Ryan talked about protecting your brand’s great experiences with an “experience moat.” Call it an early warning mechanism for your product or a protective field around the experiences you want to protect. Protect what is working well by creating a continuum of good-to-great experiences. If one fails, you have an opportunity to recover.
Hot topic: empathy and agility in the workplace
TRISTA: Speaking of experiences, Qualtrics Chief Workplace Psychologist Benjamin Granger’s session on “Navigating the Ever-Evolving Nature of Work” focused on employee experiences. Granger shared findings from the Qualtrics EX Trends 2023 Report and the Qualtrics 2022 Destination Workplace Study. The bad news: The percentage of employees who believe they are paid fairly has steadily declined since 2021 and burnout has increased sharply even among the highly engaged (with inefficient processes being the biggest driver). The good news: “Low pay is rough, but not impossible to overcome” for employers willing to overdeliver on other important factors such as flexibility, a welcoming workplace, aligned corporate and employee values, a decent work-life balance, opportunities for employees to fulfill their passions, and a culture of rapid learning and growth.
ABEY: The inefficient process part really got to me. As an operations leader, it got me thinking “what are the things that are operationally problematic for our team? What’s killing them? And how do we minimize those things?”
RACHELLE: On that topic (EX), to circle back to SHRM’s Johnny Taylor, he talked about how “presenteeism” has morphed into “resenteeism” and the importance of listening beyond employee surveys. He also shared that 80% of people who left their jobs during COVID regret it and are “boomeranging” back to their previous role and/or company. This is a real thing and could be a great opportunity for alumni and referral networking for our clients.
ABEY: Qualtrics’ Bruce Temkin talked about the increasing importance of empathy and agility in the way that we operate. This isn’t news, but we live in uncertain times. Temkin shared the sad story of the Ever Given, the world’s largest cargo ship turned internet meme that ended up wedged sideways in the Suez Canal in 2021, jamming the canal for six days and freezing $10 billion in daily trade. Look it up. Failure to monitor changing conditions and adapt. In Temkin’s view, shifting conditions call for scenarios vs. plans. Adjusting vs. maintaining. Sensing and learning vs. trending and fixing. Decentralized vs. centralized. Don’t fix interactions—instead, orchestrate journeys.
RACHELLE: I loved, loved his quote “an experience designed for everyone is good for no one.”
ABEY: Right, he talked about designing for “cohorts, not averages.” Also, you’re not designing for yourself. “Don’t do self-referential design.” Last thing about Temkin, he also wondered aloud if being apart has impacted our ability to be empathetic, which I thought was an interesting insight.
A profound sense of togetherness
TRISTA: In bringing this to a close, can I please shift from apart-ness to togetherness? Because I don’t want to end this discussion without mentioning how fun it was to dance in unison (mostly!) with 10,000 people under the direction of “Dance Psychologist” Dr. Peter Lovatt (aka “Dr. Dance”). His keynote on the psychology of the groove was pure joy! Why do we dance? And why are we talking about this at an experience management conference? Turns out dance has a big effect on not only our physical but also our emotional well-being and behavior. Dance impacts the body and the brain. The social, physical, and cognitive effects of dance have been shown to have measurable physical and psychological improvements in a study of Parkinson’s patients, and are associated with lower risk of dementia in another study. To the co-worker who scoffed at my “5-minute daily dance break” idea–and you know who you are–allow me to quote the late, great David Bowie in saying “let’s dance!”
There were so many great keynotes, smart breakouts, and engaging experiences—too many to cover. However, we wanted to give a shout-out to a few others we really enjoyed: Martha Stewart on doing your homework and staying true to yourself, Magnolia Network founders Chip and Joanna Gaines on “pulling together” when things get tough, and Olympic Gold Medalist Shaun White on embracing your uniqueness and triumphing over setbacks. Evening entertainment included Fight Night hosted by Derek Hough, featuring Light Balance, Vik & James, and Freestyle Love Supreme. Night two kicked off with a food-truck-palooza and a half-pipe skater-fest featuring Tony Hawk and friends, before wrapping with a night of bangers from The Killers and a literal confetti bang.
We learned tons, our heads are spinning, and we can’t wait for next year! Thanks to the Dream Team and everyone at Qualtrics for a first-class experience from top to bottom!
Need a partner to help you design customer experiences that create strong emotional connections? See how we can help at www.bnoinc.com.