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October saw the first Experience Week, from experience management firm Qualtrics — an online event devoted to sharing insights, anecdotes and expertise on improving customer loyalty, developing a winning culture and creating a customer experience (CX) that matters.

Experience Week brought together a wide range of speakers including psychologists, sports personalities and customer experience professionals from brands including Microsoft, London Olympics and Salesforce to offer their unique perspectives on CX in 50+ sessions.

Here are four lessons we took away from the week:

  1. Build a culture of customer journeys

Leslie Pagel, Vice President of customer experience at Walker, highlighted the importance of brands “shifting their thinking from silos to journeys’ to create a culture that is committed to customer satisfaction. Rather than employees aligning themselves to a particular business function, Pagel believes that we must all see our roles in a broader context, recognising that we all have a job that supports customers along a full end-to-end journey. Bringing employees along that journey is important, as Pagel summarised, “It’s about sharing insights along journey stages, having metrics and dashboards that show customer intelligence at each step of their journey, and using that intelligence to prioritise improvements at every stages.”

  1. Customers don’t always have rational needs

While the role of data in customer experience is significant, Qualtrics’ Experience Week also recognised the importance of emotion in today’s CX landscape. This was stressed by Kantar TNS’ Tim Pritchard, who noted how “having the prevailing customer context is critical for companies to go beyond the functional needs of customers to better understand their emotional needs.”

While many CX professionals will know Kantar TNS as one of the world’s leading market research groups, Pritchard was keen to highlight that data alone doesn’t build relationships, it simply helps brands better understand their customers’ decisions. As he put it, “Successful brands are those that use emotions to create memorable experiences. And it’s those memories that drive strong, lasting relationships, which in turn drive the business outcomes that every organisation prides itself on.” Unfortunately, as Pritchard notes, all too often organisations address only the functional needs of customers, rather than their emotive needs.

  1. The role of the CX “professional” is growing — and changing beyond recognition

A common theme across Experience Week was the dramatically changing role of the customer experience professional — a point that was highlighted by John White, Customer Experience and Service Expert at Kantar TNS. According to White, the CX professional is now expected to be “more of a program lead and a data interrogator”. As he explains, “in order to set up and run a successful CX operation, you need to combine strategy, design, operating model changes, people and technology.”

This sentiment was mirrored by Ellen Needham, Omnichannel and Customer Experience specialist at outdoor apparel company Patagonia, who believes that while the role of CX professionals is changing, it is evolving into something much more effective. According to Needham, “Customer experience as a field is really growing. There’s new tools, new ideas, new ways that companies are implementing it every year. Recognising how our CX program is very much living and breathing and not static has been important.”

  1. Xdata™ is the future of CX

A key theme was the rise of Experience data or “X-data”, as an alternative to more widely used “operational data”. As Qualtrics highlighted, operational data is the quantitative currency of business success — metrics such as conversion rate, win rate, revenue, sales leads and other “short-hands for success”. While these metrics still have a key role to play within customer experience, ambitious marketers are no longer willing to rely on these data points alone.

According to Ryan Smith, CEO of Qualtrics, X-data is “the why behind your operational data, adding qualitative insights to help brands easily identify the key drivers behind their most prized metrics.” Being able to identify the why behind consumer decisions allows marketers to make improvements in the areas of the customer journey that they know will have a direct impact on their end-customer experiences.

Experience data is fast becoming the new competitive currency, plugging in huge volumes of human factor data to intelligently improve the overall customer experience.

To access and watch all the sessions from Experience Week 2017, visit https://experienceweek.com.

Jack Davies, Head of Content for Qualtrics in EMEA
Jack researches and writes about Experience Management and how organisations are driving results by focussing on optimising the four core experiences of business – customer, employee, brand and product.

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