Well, 2020 has been an eventful year, to say the least. For us at XM Institute, one of the most exciting things to occur this year was the launch of our new website, xminstitute.com. Our vision for this website was to build the single-most valuable resource for XM professionals anywhere in the world. To achieve this goal, we decided to not just update our existing reports and blog posts – though we did do that – but also create entirely new types of content that could more specifically address the everyday needs of XM professionals, helping them expand their own knowledge and skills as well as communicate the value of Experience Management to those less versed in the discipline.
Since the launch, our entire team has been busy producing a continuous flow of high-quality content, and I’m very proud of what we accomplished. The website now contains 528 (!) pieces of unique content created by XM Institute.
Top XM Institute Content of 2020
On the off chance you haven’t spent your entire quarantine reading all 500+ pieces of content on the website, I thought I would share our three most popular resources within each of our six content types. Plus my own personal favorites.
The emerging discipline of Experience Management is undoubtedly exciting (at least for those of us who work in it!), but all the new terminology, frameworks, capabilities, data types, etc. can be overwhelming to wrap your head around. That’s why XM Institute created Launchpads. These resources provide you with a clear starting point to learn about fundamental XM topics. These Launchpads not only summarize what this core topic is and why it’s important, they also offer concrete, tactical tips on how to put it into action at your organization. Plus, they include a list of key resources we recommend you check out to grow your knowledge in the given area.
- 1st: Introduction to Experience Management. Perhaps unsurprisingly, our most-read Launchpad for 2020 was the one that covers the basics of what XM is all about. If you’re looking to get a solid grounding in the fundamentals of XM, I recommend jumping on the bandwagon and checking out this Launchpad.
- 2nd: The XM Operating Framework. If the Introduction to Experience Management Launchpad is XM 101, then The XM Operating Framework Launchpad is XM 102. To master the discipline of XM, organizations need to adopt the XM Operating Framework, which is built on a combination of Technology, Culture, and six XM Competencies. So this Launchpad is perfect for people who are trying to understand and mature the building blocks of XM.
- 3rd: Understanding Human Behavior. One critical – yet surprisingly overlooked – insight about Experience Management is that it’s all about people. Technology and processes are important, but ultimately, they’re just a means to an end. They’re not the ones having and responding to experiences…at least not yet. This Launchpad explores how human nature shapes people’s experiences and how organizations can design interactions that appeal to how people actually process and remember these experiences.
- Isabelle’s Honorable Mention: Driving Insights With X- and O-Data. Experience Data (X-data) and Operational Data (O-data) are increasingly common XM buzzwords. But what do they actually mean? In this Launchpad, we demystify these terms and offer guidance around how you can bring them together to generate richer and more predictive insights. If nothing else, I highly recommend checking out at least the video at the top of the Launchpad – it’s one of my favorites on the site!
Research is fundamental to what we do here at XM Institute. It’s the engine that drives all our other content, and we showcase the findings from these efforts in our research reports. If you’d like more information on how we conduct our research and turn it into content, I suggest checking out our blog post, “A Look Behind the Scenes at XM Institute Research.”
- 1st: ROI of Customer Experience, 2020. If you’ve ever wondered, “How can I make a business case for customer experience?” Well, this one’s for you. In this research report, we analyze feedback from 10,000 U.S. consumers about their experiences with 314 companies across 20 industries, examining how CX correlates with five loyalty behaviors, including likelihood to recommend, repurchase, and trust a company. My favorite aspect of this report is that it really hammers home that emotion has the most significant impact on loyalty and, by extension, organizations’ bottom line.
- 2nd: The Six Laws of Experience Management. During his quarantine from a plague in 1665, Newton discovered the Law of Universal Gravitation. During our quarantine from a plague in 2020, we defined the Six Laws of Experience Management. And just like the law of nature, the Laws of XM are a set of fundamental principles. Only in this case they govern how people and organizations behave, not physics. Understanding these laws is essential to XM success as, before you can effectively manage people’s experiences, you need to recognize and account for the underlying realities that are shaping these interactions. Give it a few years, and I think it will be as influential as Newton’s Principia… probably.
- 3rd: The XM Diffusion Cycle. How can organizations expand their XM capabilities beyond just a few isolated use cases? By following the XM Diffusion Cycle. This cycle – which was identified through research with nearly 50 organizations – is made up of three repeating phases – Infusion, Absorption, and Recalibration. To help guide you through this process, the report shares more than a dozen best practices on how organizations are actually putting this cycle into practice. And if you’re looking for a quick overview of this process, you may also want to check out our short, fun XM Diffusion Cycle video.
- Isabelle’s Honorable Mention: B2B CX Best Practices: Embedding Actionable Insights into Key Processes. Although CX is becoming a more mainstream activity within B2B organizations, their efforts often lag behind those of their B2C counterparts. This is due in part to the fact that B2B customer relationships are much more complex, which means CX advice that works for B2C companies doesn’t always translate. What I appreciate so much about this particular report is that the (more than 30) best practices and company examples are tailored specifically to how B2B organizations operate.
Experience Matters Blog
If you are searching for a place where you can find short, accessible articles on essential XM topics, then look no further than our Experience Matters blog. Bruce Temkin started this blog back in 2007, which makes it a fascinating time capsule on the evolution of customer experience and Experience Management…not to mention his thoughts on Napoleon’s not-so-terrible leadership style. But don’t worry, this blog isn’t some relic from the days of yore. We keep it fresh by publishing new thought leadership from our XM Catalysts on timely and interesting XM topics multiple times a week.
- 1st: NPS Collapses During the Pandemic. You don’t need us to tell you that the pandemic has taken a toll on consumers and businesses alike. But this blog post puts some numbers behind just how much it’s affected U.S. customers’ attitudes towards organizations in 20 different industries. Every industry we looked at saw their NPS drop between May 2019 and May 2020. Some – like TV and Internet Service Providers – got off pretty light, while others – like rental car agencies, credit card issuers, and hotels – saw their NPS drop by almost 30 points.
- 2nd: Existing Metrics Aren’t Enough for Customer-Centric Strategy. On a slightly cheerier note, in our second-most popular blog post this year, Luke Williams advocated for why organizations should use relative metrics to track how customers’ experiences with them stack up to their experiences with competitors and substitutes. Relationship studies have remained relatively unchanged for a while now, and this post is so powerful because it provides a way that organizations can – through slight changes in their X-data systems – generate CX metrics that are much more valuable strategically.
- 3rd: Are Your Experience Management Efforts Outdated? Modernize Them! While most organizations are still early on in their path towards XM maturity, it’s never too soon to look ahead and see what a gold-standard XM program looks like so you can calibrate your efforts accordingly. This blog post not only paints a picture of what XM programs should be capable of in the future, it also offers some concrete advice on how to get there.
- Isabelle’s Honorable Mention: The Five Questions of Journey-Centric Thinking. Is there some hometown refereeing happening with this pick? Probably. But journey maps are one of the most popular tools in the XM toolkit, so who wouldn’t want to read about how an organization can enjoy some of the benefits of journey mapping without doing all the work? Journey-Centric Thinking is a simple exercise that XM professionals can use to embed a broader, journey-level perspective into employees’ day-to-day decisions and behaviors. So instead of trying to create a map of every potential journey – which is not a realistic proposition – this exercise encourages employees on an individual level to proactively consider and support people’s true goals for interacting with the organization.
Concepts and frameworks are all well and good – but how do you actually put them into practice inside an organization? That’s where tools come in. Our website boasts a range of simple, practical tools XM professionals can use to assess and mature their XM efforts. These tools vary widely in both type – from worksheets to assessments to handbooks – and topic. Each tool is designed to help you take one of our high-level concepts and translate it into tactical actions that will help you improve key elements of your XM program.
- 1st: Maturity Assessments. Okay, I am going to cheat a bit here because we actually have four different maturity assessments – CX, EX, Digital CX, and XM – and they dominated the top of our rankings. So to give some of the other tools room to shine, I’m going to lump all four of these assessments together in the top spot. Although I may be giving them short shrift here, I highly recommend checking each on out as they not only allow you to diagnose which maturity stage your organization currently falls in, they also offer specific recommendations across the Six Competencies on how to advance your program to the next level.
- 2nd: CX/EX Metrics Programs: Strengths and Challenges Worksheet. To really cement my cheater status here, I am going to – once again – group together multiple tools. In this case, our two worksheets on identifying strengths and gaps within your CX or EX metrics program. These worksheets – which are built on our Five Steps for Building a Strong Metrics Program research – will help you evaluate the current state of your metrics program. And don’t worry – even if your results are heavy on the weaknesses and light on the strengths, we provide you with lots of tips around how to improve!
- 3rd: Responsibilities of a Core Team: Strengths and Gaps Worksheet. I’m just going to lean into the bit at this point and award third place to all three of our worksheets on the responsibilities of a core CX, EX, or XM team. A strong core team is often the heart and soul of an organization’s Experience Management efforts, and these tools detail which activities these centralized teams should be owning and managing.
- Isabelle’s Honorable Mention: Human Biases: Design Worksheet. I’ll be honest, the popularity of this tool took me – pleasantly! – by surprise. Often when organizations are designing experiences, they forget that human beings aren’t perfectly rational automatons who unerringly choose the most logical option. Instead, people make almost all their decisions based on intuition and emotion. This worksheet will help you create positive experiences for irrational people by designing around common heuristics and biases, which we’ve grouped into six broad categories.
Reports and blog posts are great, but sometimes you just need to exercise a different part of your brain (that’s how learning works, right?). In those instances, you can turn to our collection of multimedia resources. These resources include both webinars – where our XM Catalysts offer their insights around a certain topic – as well as highly consumable, fun videos that quickly explain foundational XM concepts.
- 1st: The Six XM Competencies. Our most popular video this year – also my personal favorite – is a short, engaging overview of the six Competencies that organizations must build to master the discipline of Experience Management. It’s perfect for sharing with colleagues, leaders, social media connections, family members who are talking too much over the holidays… really with anyone who isn’t yet super familiar with XM and doesn’t have the time or inclination to dig into a Launchpad.
- 2nd: What is Experience Management? In a very close second, this more fundamental video not only answers the titular question of what Experience Management is, but it also lays out a business case for why it’s important and it introduces the XM Operating Framework. I also highly recommend this video to anyone who still needs an XM primer.
- 3rd: Webinar: Getting Started Adopting CX Principles to Propel EX Management. One of my absolute favorite aspects of working at XM Institute is the opportunity to hear my brilliant colleagues discuss interesting XM topics (and sometimes Tiger King). Well, this video gives you the opportunity to listen in on such a conversation yourself, as Aimee Lucas and Ben Granger explore three specific CX principles and practices that EX professionals can immediately apply in their work.
- Isabelle’s Honorable Mention: The Employee Engagement Virtuous Cycle. I am choosing this video for honorable mention because it is both one our most popular videos and it examines an important series of interconnected organizational relationships. Namely, how engaged employees kick off a virtuous cycle that ultimately leads to better customer experience and stronger business results. My selection definitely has nothing to do with the fact that an animated version of my dog makes an appearance around the one-minute mark. It’s based solely on the concise and compelling case this video makes for why organizations need to invest in engaging their employees. Really.
As I’m sure many of you can attest, a lot of our work as XM Professionals revolves around making the case for why our efforts deserve resources or attention. To help XM professionals do this quickly and effectively, we’ve created a resource called “Data Snippets,” which are charts and graphs depicting key findings from our benchmark studies. While these Snippets may be useful in a variety of situations, we designed them to be particularly easy to download and plug in to your presentations to help you communicate key information around Experience Management.
- 1st: The Business Impact of CX and EX Management, 2020. Our most popular data snippet of the year pulls data from our Global State of XM, 2020 report and shows that organizations with above-average customer experience and above-average employee experience perform better than their competitors across three key business areas: revenue growth, profitability, and employee retention. I’m not surprised this data snippet is so popular because it makes the case for CX, EX, and XM in a single – aesthetically pleasing – swoop.
- 2nd: Customer Experience Correlates with NPS, 2020. You don’t have to be a stats whiz to look at this chart and quickly deduce that there is a high correlation between the quality of an organization’s customer experiences and its Net Promoter Score. While the tight relationship between the two may seem intuitive to us XM professionals, showing benchmark data like this can go a long way inside companies to convince key stakeholders of the value of investing in customer experience.
- 3rd: XMI Customer Ratings – Consumer NPS Scores, 2020 (by Industry). There is a definite NPS-centric theme to which data snippets were most popular this year. This chart displays the average NPS for the 20 industries included in our 2020 U.S. Consumer Benchmark Study. At the top of the list, the streaming media and retail industries both had average scores over 25, while car rental agencies had the lowest average NPS – and the only negative score – with a -7.1.
- Isabelle’s Honorable Mention: Financial Consequences of Bad Customer Experiences (by Industry). One of my favorite data snippets breaks down the financial ramifications of delivering bad experiences to customers across 20 industries. I find it interesting to see – not only how much revenue is at stake for organizations in different industries – but how the mix of “stop spending” versus “decrease spending” varies across the industries. For instance, retail customers are much more likely to reduce their spending after a bad experience, whereas credit card customers are more likely to simply stop doing business with the issuer altogether.
Hopefully this list has introduced you to some valuable content and convinced you that at least a few good things came out of 2020! To stay up to date with all our latest content in 2021, sign up to receive our monthly newsletter, the XM Journal.
The bottom line: We hope to see you here next year as we add even more great XM content!
Isabelle Zdatny, CCXP, is an XM Catalyst with the Qualtrics XM Institute