Happy, happy new year! I think it’s safe to say that 2021 was something of a rollercoaster, but it ended on a high note for us here at XM Institute. We closed out the year by publishing Expert Answers, a page where XM Institute faculty and experts from around Qualtrics tackle some of the most common questions we hear from XM professionals. Wondering whether you should be using a 5-point scale or a 7-point scale? Which questions to include on your employee engagement survey? How to measure the ROI of CX? We’ve got answers to all those and many more! 

But Expert Answers wasn’t the only thing we published last year. In 2021, we added 74 new assets to this site, bringing the total number of resources in our XM Library to a whopping 625 (and counting). Which is a lot of content to navigate through! So to help you narrow down which resources you should check out first – and to celebrate the end of 2021 – I’m going to highlight 21 of our top, most unmissable pieces of content from the year. The list is divided into three groups: our most popular new resources, my favorite new resources, and our all-time top-performing resources. (If you rightly think that all our resources are “unmissable,” you can sign up to receive daily or weekly emails notifying you whenever we publish new content.)

The Rising Stars: Most Popular Content of 2021

Of the 74 resources we published in 2021, the most popular assets were:

  • XM Professional (XMP) Certification Handbook (Tool). One of the achievements we are most proud of accomplishing in 2021 was the launch of the XM Professional (XMP) Certification, the world’s first credential recognizing an individual’s professional experience and expertise in the discipline of Experience Management. And judging by the numbers, we’re not the only ones excited about this offering! The handbook we created to accompany the certification – which includes the certification blueprint, experience requirements, and steps to earn the XMP designation – was our most-read new resource from 2021. Two of our most popular blog posts from last year also centered on this certification: one introducing it and one listing exam-prep resources. We can’t tell you how gratifying it is to see something we are so proud of creating resonate so strongly with our followers! (P.S. Interested in earning your XMP certification but not sure how to go about preparing? We asked three XMPs to share their advice during a panel discussion. Check it out here.)
  • Fundamentals of Digital XM (Launchpad). Even before a global pandemic drove most customer and employee experiences online, digital channels were rapidly becoming the primary interaction channel for many organizations. Which is great news for us as XM professionals! Compared to offline channels, digital environments make it easier to collect visitor feedback, they automatically generate vast amounts of operational data, and they provide a controlled environment for designing and testing new experiences. This Launchpad is the perfect starting place to learn how to build a strong Digital XM program that can harness and capitalize on all these different opportunities. And if you’re still recovering from the holiday slump and not keen on reading lots of text, the short video at the top of the Launchpad provides an excellent overview of how to collect experience data from digital visitors and then use those insights to drive meaningful changes across your organization.
  • How Do You Explain Experience Management to Senior Executives? (Blog Post). For those of us who live and breathe XM, the inherent value of improving people’s experiences may seem obvious. Yet success within our roles often hinges upon our ability to convince key stakeholders – most especially senior leaders – that XM is worth the investment of organizational attention and resources. Which can be challenging to say the least! No surprise, therefore, that this blog post, which lays out a five-step process for engaging executives in a dialogue around Experience Management, was our most popular of the year. The approach we outline here is particularly effective because, rather than trying to convince leaders to care about XM, it shows them how XM can be a valuable capability for helping them achieve their goals.
  • Global Study: Calibrating NPS Across 18 Countries (Research Report). Is Net Promoter® Score (NPS) “the ultimate question?” No. Is it even a useful metric in today’s increasingly globalized business environment? Ehh. To understand differences in how consumers around the world respond to the NPS question, we asked nearly 18,000 consumers from 18 countries two versions of the question, one where they considered a company they liked and one where they considered a company they didn’t like. Turns out, there are substantial cultural differences in how people respond. When consumers in India like a company, its average NPS is +64, whereas when consumers in Japan like a company, its average NPS is -47. Again, that’s when they like a company! Wondering what implications this has for your NPS program? I recommend checking out Bruce’s analysis of this data in his post examining Is NPS a Good Global Metric? as well as his Advice for Propelling your NPS Program.
  • Bad Customer Experience Puts $4.7 Trillion in Global Consumer Sales at Risk (Blog Post). Interestingly, our second-most popular blog post of 2021 also tackled the challenge of communicating the value of Experience Management – in this case, Customer Experience Management – in a way that resonates with non-experts. In this post, we use data from nearly 18,000 global consumers to translate the value of customer experience into the dollars-and-cents language that leaders and business owners actually care about. Skipping over all the math bits (don’t worry, we show our work in the post!), the key finding of this analysis is that bad experiences are enormously costly, putting $4.7 trillion in global consumer sales at risk every year.
  • Five Phases for Creating Powerful Personas (Research Report). It’s all well and good to assert that our goal as XM professionals is to design and improve people’s experiences… but which people? Customers and employees are not a monolith. Each individual comes to an experience with their own unique set of preferences and requirements. So what constitutes a “good” experience for one person may not be a good experience for another. Enter, personas. These critical XM tools will help you understand, document, and share the key characteristics of individuals within your target design audience, allowing you to create experiences tailored to their specific needs. Check out this popular report to learn how to develop and deploy personas within your organization. You may also want to download the persona templates we created to support this process.
  • It’s Time to Update Your Relationship Program (Blog Post). The title of this post says it all, really. Relationship measurement programs form the backbone of many organizations’ CX efforts, yet most remain stuck in the past – more dedicated to delivering the same metric over and over than to generating meaningful insights that are capable of driving better customer experiences and smarter business decisions. To address the needs of modern customers, organizations need to evolve their relationship measurement programs into relationship management systems. How? By building four key capabilities: Dynamic, Always-on Listening, Comparative Insights, Financial Linkage, and Action-oriented. Check out the post to learn more about what each capability is and how you can go about establishing each one.


The Unsung Heroes: Isabelle’s Personal Favorite Content of 2021

Here are the seven pieces of content that, while they may not have attained the same towering heights of popularity as the resources above (though some are close!), I believe still offer powerful insights for any organization looking to build and mature its XM program:

  • Which Employees Are Looking For A New Job? (Blog Post). “The Great Resignation” has seemingly been at the top of every mind and business article for months now. And it’s not just a catchy phrase. As I write this, news has just come in that a record 4.5 million workers quit their jobs in November. So to help organizations understand which employees are most at risk of imminent departure, we dug into the data from our 2019 and 2021 consumer benchmark studies. We found that 52% of U.S. employees are at least “somewhat” likely to look for a new job in the next six months, up from 38% in 2019. Of these, the most active job seekers are B2B salespeople, executives, factory workers, and medical professionals. However, there are two sides to this anticipated turnover. “The Great Resignation” is one piece, sure, but all those workers are looking for new employers. Which brings me to another one of my favorite resources from 2021…
  • What Candidates Want From a New Job (Data Snippet). Record numbers of employees looking for new jobs doesn’t just present a risk, it also presents an opportunity. How can organizations capitalize on the current environment to upgrade their workforce? By first building a strong employment brand that attracts the right people and then by delivering a standout candidate experience that secures them. To help companies understand the relative importance job candidates place on different workplace characteristics – including things like their manager, compensation, flexibility, and company values – we asked 10,000 U.S. citizens about their preferences using conjoint analysis. We captured the results of this analysis in one of my favorite Data Snippets of the year. It shows that job candidates value the social aspects of work most highly – especially their immediate manager and team. These findings, which are consistent with the emerging EX trend that employees look to their employers and work for a sense of belonging, should inform how organizations design their candidate experiences to attract and land top talent. 
  • Best Practices Across the Activate Category (Research). One of my favorite types of resources we produce here at XM Institute is best practice reports, which combine expert guidance around a certain topic with examples of how real organizations are putting those principles into practice. In this particular report, we explore how organizations can align the mindsets and behaviors of their entire workforce with their ultimate XM vision. How does one go about accomplishing this minor miracle? By building the skills and activities associated with the Activate Competency – one of the six Competencies that are foundational to the discipline of XM. The entire report is chock full of great examples, but I particularly love all the different ones around how organizations are establishing rewards and recognition programs to motivate the adoption of XM behaviors. 
  • It’s Time to Fix Five Common Broken Experiences (Blog Post). The organizations we work with are often convinced that the XM challenges plaguing their business are entirely unique to them. Let us assure you, after working with hundreds of organizations spanning dozens of industries and countries, that is rarely the case. In fact, we’ve found that generally speaking, the exact same set of experiences tend to be broken across different companies, regions, and even experience areas. For instance, my favorite broken experience (is it weird to have a favorite broken experience?) is the Decision Experience, which – thanks to a fun quirk in human nature (see Paradox of Choice) – often comes with a lot of anxiety that may not be obvious just by analyzing your X- and O-Data. Never fear, though. One of the reasons I like this blog post so much is that it doesn’t just diagnose likely problem areas, it also provides concrete guidance on how to fix each one.
  • The State of CX Management, 2021 (Research). One of the (admittedly many) ways I know I’m a dyed-in-the-wool nerd is that I actively look forward to our annual State of CX Management report, to the point of pestering our Research Associates to share advanced screenings of the data with me weeks before it’s ready for publication. The reason this is my favorite report – and has been since I started working at Temkin Group in 2013 – is that it’s a veritable smorgasbord of interesting, useful insights into the current CX landscape. This year, striking tidbits include the fact that 59% of companies say that customer experience is a “significant” or “critical” priority for their organization, 67% of companies use NPS as their core CX metric, and 81% of companies are still in the earliest two stages of CX maturity. 
  • Modern XM (Video). Although, as I just noted, almost all organizations are still very early on their path to Experience Management maturity, it’s never too soon to look ahead and see what an XM Program par excellence looks like so you can calibrate your efforts accordingly. In a modern XM program, experience-based insights become a catalyst for wide-scale change, helping organizations improve how they innovate and bring products to market, how they engage their employees, how they evolve their brand, and how they service and support their customers. This highly consumable and shareable video explains how you can use the three key elements of a Modern XM program as a foundation for driving enterprise-wide transformation. If this short video piques your interest, you can dig into this concept more fully through our series of posts on the Modern XM, including Are Your Experience Management Efforts Outdated? Modernize Them!, Five Areas for Modernizing Employee Experience Management… Right Now, and 4 Ways to Modernize Your X-Data Systems.
  • Four Levers to Fix Response Rates (Blog Post). It’s hard to overstate how frequently we get asked some iteration of the question, “What’s a good response rate?” (Unsatisfyingly, the answer is, “it depends.”) It’s no surprise, therefore, that one of our most popular posts of 2021 looks at how to boost your project or program’s response rate into a healthy range. Here we explore four levers you can manipulate – Mode, Sample, Design, and Action – and concrete tips for putting each into action. We’ve also included examples of how companies have successfully deployed each of these measures, my favorite of which brings together two of my great loves… Experience Management and curly fries. 


The Heavyweights: All-Time Most Popular Content 

If you follow XM Institute content even casually, you’ve probably stumbled across these resources in some fashion before. These assets, which often embody some foundational piece of our XM philosophy, have enjoyed enduring popularity since we first launched the site eighteen months ago:

  • XM Operating Framework (Launchpad). Our most popular Launchpad – and overall resource on the website – continues to be this primer on the XM Operating Framework. This framework describes the scaffolding (made up of Technology, Culture, and six XM Competencies) that organizations must build in order to establish and mature their XM programs. Like all Launchpads, this one includes a short opening video, an overview of the topic, tips for taking action, and a list of key resources you can check out to build your knowledge in this area.
  • What is Experience Management? (Video). Interested in learning what Experience Management is but not interested in reading lots of text? You’re not alone. This short, fun video introducing the fundamentals of XM remains one of the most visited assets on the site. Watch it yourself and/or share it with colleagues or leaders (or possibly even family members) who still need a quick explanation as to what this XM thing is all about.
  • Six Laws of XM (Research). This report is a must-read for all XM professionals as it lays out the six fundamental principles that govern how people and organizations behave. In the same way that you need to understand the laws of physics before you can build a stable bridge, you need to recognize and account for these underlying laws of XM before you can build a sustainable Experience Management program. In addition to introducing each Law, this report provides some guidance around how to start putting it into action. 
  • CX Maturity Assessment (Tool). Becoming customer-centric doesn’t happen overnight – it takes years of systematic focus on making changes across multiple teams, departments, and projects. Our CX Maturity Assessment will help you evaluate the current state of your program and develop plans for reaching your CX goals. No surprise, therefore, that it continues to be one of our most downloaded pieces of content ever. We also have employee experience (EX), XM, and Digital CX maturity assessments available… not to mention a Launchpad entirely dedicated to Maturing Your XM Program and a blog post sharing tips on how to use our maturity assessment. We are really committed to helping you mature your program!
  • Driving Insights with X- and O-Data (Launchpad). If you’re at all connected to the world of Experience Management, you’ve probably heard the terms Experience Data (X-Data) and Operational Data (O-data) at some point. But what do they actually mean? In this popular Launchpad, we demystify these terms and explain how you can bring them together to produce richer, more predictive insights. This Launchpad includes an introductory video (one of my favorites on the site) along with an overview of the topics, tips for using X- and O-data to measure and improve experiences, and a list of related resources you can dig into to learn more.
  • B2B CX Best Practices: Embedding Actionable Insights into Key Processes (Research Report). Customer experience in B2B organizations has historically lagged behind the CX efforts of their B2C counterparts. Which is why I couldn’t be more excited that one of our most perennially popular resources is this best practices report. In it, we explore – with the aid of more than 30 company examples – how B2B CX teams can embed customer experience within five key B2B processes: account health tracking, dynamic relationship management, insight-driven expansion, continuous reference-ability, and targeted best practice sharing.
  • Understanding Human Behavior (Launchpad). The presence of yet another Launchpad on this list should tell you all you need to know about how phenomenal these resources are! And this one, in particular, is my favorite of the bunch. One elemental (yet often overlooked) insight about Experience Management is that it’s all about people. Which means that before an organization can effectively manage the experiences it delivers, it first needs to understand and embrace – at scale – how the people who interact with it actually think and feel. Check out this Launchpad to learn how human nature shapes people’s experiences and how organizations can design interactions that appeal to how people actually process and remember these experiences (spoiler alert: we aren’t as rational as companies often assume we are!).


Hopefully, this list introduced you to at least a few valuable resources and ideas that you can use to shape and improve your XM program in the coming year. To stay up to date with all our latest content, sign up to receive our monthly newsletter, the XM Journal.


The bottom line: We are looking forward to bringing you even more great content in 2022 and beyond!

Isabelle Zdatny, XMP, CCXP, is an XM Catalyst with the Qualtrics XM Institute