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My Take on Qualtrics X4 2024 and the AI announcements

Qualtrics X4 Summit is the most attended customer and employee experience event. Close to ten thousand people join Qualtrics X4 each year in Salt Lake City. To be honest, I regret not adding it to my “conference circuit” sooner. This was my second time, and again it’s definitely been worthwhile!

The unique thing about Qualtrics X4 is the lineup of speakers. The founder Ryan Smith, now a billionaire, owns an NBA team. With his connections, he brings the world's biggest celebrities to speak at the summit. At each event, there will be someone you look up to, a politician, a sportsperson, a businessman. This year, the main draw was Michelle Obama!

I’ve already written about what it’s like to attend Qualtrics X4. Since last year’s event, the company transitioned to new ownership, and noticeably scaled down. Below, I’ll summarize my highlights and lowlights. That said, take it with a grain of salt since it’s a huge event and I was only able to catch a part of it. I will also share my thoughts on the new AI capability announcements.

Best parts of Qualtrics X4 2024

There were many great aspects of the event, but if I were to pick just three…


X4 continues to be the biggest event in the industry. Each year a crowd of close to ten thousand people fly to Salt Lake City. So it's a great opportunity to reconnect with people who work in the same space! For Thematic, it meant reconnecting with our customers and partners. I met many great new people, and made new friends too! Kudos to Qualtrics for organizing plenty of industry gatherings and evening events. I only wish the event was a bit longer to catch up with everyone I wanted to catch up with.

My paparazzi colleague captured networking in action!


I loved the positive vibe of the event. The Qualtrics crowd was welcoming. The company leaders stayed out late mingling with the attendees. The CEO shared during day two's keynote how the team took action on feedback from day one. Qualtrics showed that they practice what they preach! Having been to other industry events, I can say that this is admirable. The Qualtrics keynotes were full of great humor. Well done to the writers and marketers for these aspects.

Focus on community was clear, as was a welcoming vibe at the event

Breakout sessions

The quality of sessions were a mixed bag, but I liked how they were organized. Only 3 sessions per afternoon, with plenty of time for questions. The ServiceNow session stood out to me and several others who I spoke with. They described an internal program addressing a common challenge: low survey response rate. Over 70% of customers don’t respond to surveys, but a machine learning model can guess their NPS status! They trained their model on hundreds of operational and behavioral data points.  For example, how often have they contacted support or how many logins were in prior weeks. I bet this model would improve if fed themes and sentiment in unsolicited feedback (something Thematic can help with).

If you know if someone is a potential advocate or might churn soon, you can act on it. ServiceNow gave their support team a guide on what might be the issue with each customer and how to act on it. The support team became more proactive in improving net retention.  

Example of recommendations in the ServiceNow presentation

Bain’s Rob Markey talked about a similar idea in his presentation and introduced the notion of “synthetic NPS”.

Meeting with Rob Markey, one of the creators of NPS

Low points at Qualtrics X4 2024

There were several aspects of the event that I wasn’t a fan of. Curious if others would agree…

Morning keynotes

The three-hour jam-packed morning sessions on both days were too much... Sitting in a dark room with no breaks and a constant stream of information was tiring and exhausting. Compared to last year, the mornings were more inspirational and less Qualtrics-oriented. But the content wasn't that useful and could have been shorter. You can only take so much generic inspiration ("there is no "i' in “leadership”, "change is good" etc).

Too many cringe statements

The marketing slogans went a bit too far this year. For example, Qualtrics claimed that they invented “XM”, as in experience management. In reality, Qualtrics launched their experience management solution 7 years ago. Meanwhile, Carbone and Haeckel described experience management back in 1994, almost two decades earlier.

Various software solutions addressed this need for many years before Qualtrics.

Qualtrics also encouraged everyone to join their revolution/movement of humanizing intelligence. A revolution led by a software company in today's world seems cringy. People want software that solves their problems and doesn't take a long time to implement. Focus on the novel, sure, but don’t claim that it’s “noble”.

Same old unproductive discussions

Is NPS the right metric? Why is it good or bad? Is it linked to financial returns or is a random statistically insignificant number? After listening to similar arguments for 8 years I am not excited to keep banging on this old chestnut. (Speaking of old, seeing Backstreet Boys jump around on stage did not make me feel any younger 😂)

The most frequent word mentioned on stage: AI

Qualtrics mentioned more than a few times how AI is a big focus for the company. They invested $500M into R&D and at Qualtrics X4 unveiled a number of AI features. So many that I got lost in the sea of product abbreviations: OS, XiD, IQ, xFlow etc.

Several AI demos on stage caught my attention. The research hub looks fantastic. I particularly liked interview analysis that showed mentioned themes by aspect. This was the only place where insights were linked to original sources for validation. At Thematic, we believe it's critical in research.

The Qualtrics Assist is an obvious and helpful addition. Type in questions ChatGPT-style, and get a quick answer. Qualtrics highlighted two key differences to doing it in Qualtrics rather than in ChatGPT / Co-pilot:

  1. Their LLM was trained on billions of data points from anonymized customer experience data. I wonder how happy a client like Delta might feel about their data being used in this way to benefit all other airlines.
  2. Unlike ChatGPT, Qualtrics has access to the context of who is asking the question and what they are likely to be doing at that moment. For example, they might be reviewing employee performance, or a customer experience dashboard. And it can then trigger actions and workflow straight from the chat window.

The CPO showed how Assist can help you prepare a training plan for an employee or write a letter in Gen Z speak (supposedly a joke?).

When it came to AI-powered feedback analysis, Qualtrics showed examples of insights automatically pulled from a contact center dataset and suggestions on how to act on them (Similar to Thematic Answers). But their solution seems to be focused on summarizing the data, rather than analyzing it in-depth and linking back to the original source. As far as I could see, no improvements to TextIQ and Discover XM were launched or mentioned. I’ve heard several customers comment on the lengthy setup (one customer mentioned 18 months!) and costly manual maintenance. So these tools would definitely benefit from an AI revamp.

In summary…

After dedicating 25 years to working in AI, I was happy to see it being the key area of focus during keynotes and announcements. There are still so many manual processes in place and I hope the new advances will be easy to adopt.

Like many other attendees, I am buzzing with the energy Qualtrics X4 gave me. I still have a few dozen emails to send out to people I met over the last few days. And I look forward to staying in touch with new friends made at the event.

At one of the events for the international crowd!

Thanks to Qualtrics for hosting us in Salt Lake City! A well-organized event the team should be proud of pulling off again!

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