I was at Qualtrics’ X4 Summit in Salt Lake City last week. The two-day event featured a heavy-hitting mainstage lineup, including President Barack Obama, Sir Richard Branson, Ashton Kutcher, Adam Silver, Oprah Winfrey, and dozens of breakouts about new developments across Qualtrics’ product line.

You might wonder what a former president and industry moguls have to say about customer feedback technology — and the answer is: not much. While there wasn’t much tech talk from the mainstage, Qualtrics’ 2019 theme — “breakthroughs” — set the stage for speakers to share the wisdom and life lessons that helped them break through from one level of success to the next. Qualtrics’ promise: to help your organization do the same by providing the technology to empower you to know what’s happening with your business’ experience — and act fast.

So can Qualtrics — or a product like it — help guide your organization toward breakthroughs? This attendee has a few thoughts.

Qualtrics technology can help organizations with experience management. Qualtrics is a leader in the voice-of-the-customer space — its client list looks like a readout of the Fortune 500, and it scored as a Leader in my colleague Faith Adams’ recent Forrester Wave™ evaluation of customer feedback management platforms. And there were plenty of product announcements at X4: advancements to Qualtrics’ analytics capabilities to surface key action items; smart-routing capabilities to get notifications and data to the right teams and people across your organization; a directory to facilitate better respondent management; and an employee experience feedback solution that enables firms to monitor the employee experience in real time by pushing feedback to specific points in the employee journey. These show that Qualtrics is continuing to improve and innovate in ways that will allow the company to maintain its position as a leader and continue to help its customers succeed.

But for most organizations, achieving these benefits requires major organizational change. One of Qualtrics’ main objectives is to “democratize” data — take data out of the experts’ ivory tower and get it into the hands of employees across the organization. Qualtrics’ products that it calls XM Solutions aim to allow anyone in your company to run quick studies and get answers. And while in theory this all sounds great, most firms lack the organizational infrastructure and mindset to make this feasible at scale. Understanding how to interact with data, even data that is simple, requires knowing the role that customer understanding and data should play in decisions — something I’ve written about elsewhere. And making data democratization your strategy requires not only that employees know how to accurately interpret data but that they be empowered to act on it — something that clunky processes and legacy bureaucracy often prevent.

So does that mean that organizations just shouldn’t try to do this? Absolutely not. Qualtrics is right that to offer differentiated experiences, firms will increasingly have to embed customer understanding into the way they operate at scale. But jumping into a technology without ensuring that the organizational conditions exist to support it is a losing game that will drain the value from insights that have the potential to transform your business.

And breakthroughs are not just about data — they’re about what you do with it. As someone who spends a lot of time thinking about experience design and speaking to design research leaders, I was struck by how the X4 conference focused so much on getting data to the right people so they can “act on it” — but didn’t discuss what that process entails. There are, for sure, certain metrics — for example, knowing a customer’s history and satisfaction scores when they are routed to the call center — that employees must respond to because those metrics are inherently designed into the employees’ responsibilities. But companies should use feedback at a large scale to help unearth trends that suggest what changes they need to make to experiences at a macro level. And once they’ve spotted these trends, they need to conduct design research to really understand what customers need and then design experiences accordingly.

Design is not Qualtrics’ wheelhouse, so it makes sense that the event didn’t focus on it, but any firm that really wants to create great experiences must treat feedback and design as essential partners. Metrics are not enough to understand a problem — that requires in-depth qualitative understanding. And even then, knowing the nuances of a problem is not enough to craft a great solution — that takes an iterative design process led by practitioners skilled in the craft. So the message to all customer experience (CX) pros not grounded in experience design practice? Customer feedback is important, but it is not enough — make sure you have the design chops in place to solve the problems your feedback unearths in impactful ways.

The Takeaway

Powerful customer feedback technology like Qualtrics is part of your experience breakthrough journey, but it is just one piece of the puzzle. As Obama said from the X4 stage: “Making good decisions as President required including a diversity of perspectives.” Make sure your CX approach is a diverse one — including design chops on your team.

For suggestions on the full diversity you need to excel at CX, check out our CX transformation playbook.