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Qualtrics' customer experience tools enter rage-filled times

Qualtrics rolls out new customer experience tools while it ponders a buyout from Silver Lake, a private equity firm.

Qualtrics has new tools to enhance customer experience amid a backdrop of increasing customer rage and incivility. The experience management vendor, which is considering a $12.4 billion buyout offer, sells into a market where customer experience may be broadly deteriorating.

Customers "are becoming increasingly bellicose about their problems," with 43% saying they yell or raise their voice when dealing with services or products, up from 35% in 2015, according to a new survey by Customer Care Measurement & Consulting, which has conducted its Customer Rage Survey since 2003.

The survey measures not only "rage," which directly relates to a product or service, but also a second source of consumer anger it terms "uncivility." This is unsettling behavior "triggered by socio and political belief systems being out of alignment with a particular company," said Scott Broetzmann, president and CEO of the consulting firm in Alexandria, Va.

He expects the customer experience problems to increase as the 2024 presidential election brings more attacks on so-called "woke" businesses or socially liberal firms.

Technology, in many cases, is only worsening the experience.
Scott Broetzmann President and CEO, Customer Care Measurement & Consulting

"Technology, in many cases, is only worsening the experience," Broetzmann said. The top customer experience frustration, cited in this survey of 1,000 Americans, is "being forced to listen to long messages before you're permitted to speak to a representative.

To improve customer experience, Broetzmann said businesses have to prioritize the customer experience from leadership on down. The critical aspect is "giving customers what they want, and, in many cases, they don't want much," he said.

Tracking customer experience

Qualtrics is scheduled to hold its big X4 conference in Salt Lake City this week, where it may face customer questions about the potential buyout. But it will also be telling how it is making it easier to understand customer pain points.

Some of its new tools, dubbed Customer Journey Optimizer and Digital Experience Analytics, capture "key frustration signals" such as error and rage clicks, where someone repeatedly clicks on something, and analyzes sources such as call center transcripts, social media posts and other "points of friction," the firm said.

The intent is "to try to make sense of what's going on with customer experience across every different point in the journey," said Fabrice Martin, Qualtrics chief product officer XM for customer frontlines.

The Digital Experience Analytics tool tracks and analyzes every individual experience to find "where people get stuck," Martin said. It also creates a record that can follow the customer, so if a customer transfers to a different support level, the new agent would understand the customer's issue, he said.

Qualtrics reviews buyout bids

As Qualtrics presents its upgrades at the conference, the Provo, Utah-based firm is considering a potential buyout by Silver Lake Management Co., a private equity firm, and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

Although customers may wonder what the new management will bring, they aren't likely to leave a company unless they notice drastic change, said Thomas Smale, CEO of FE International, a technology merger and acquisition advisory firm in New York. 

To keep key employees, leaders of an acquiring firm will often identify the people they think are essential on day one and might give them a pay raise, a promotion and an incentive package, Smale said.

The first 90 days of a takeover are critical "because, similar to customers, employees are evaluating the new owners," he said.

SAP bought Qualtrics in 2018 for $8 billion and then spun it off. Qualtrics held an IPO, but SAP remained a majority stakeholder. Last month, the company said it would sell the firm. If the deal with Silver Lake goes through, Qualtrics will become a private company again. 

For Qualtrics, becoming private may help in the long run, said Trevor White, an analyst at Nucleus Research. "Not having to focus on quarterly earnings and instead on the longer-term future is a benefit to tech vendors" concentrating on developing new features, he said.

Patrick Thibodeau covers HCM and ERP technologies for TechTarget Editorial. He's worked for more than two decades as an enterprise IT reporter.

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