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Qualtrics Insights Summit Recap

qualtrics summit


Editor’s Note: IIeX wasn’t the only big MR event last week. Qualtrics hosted their first ever user conference and summit in Utah too, and from all accounts they made a pretty big impact. Client-side attendee Katie Clark has the details for those who couldn’t attend. Sounds like this is going to be an event to add to the “must list”.


By Katie Clark

Want to be treated like a rockstar (and see some real rockstars)? Apparently the answer is to become a Qualtrics customer.

The inaugural Qualtrics Insights Summit was held last week in Salt Lake City and from all reports (including mine) it was an outstanding success. The Qualtrics team pulled off quite a feat for an inaugural event, selecting a great venue (I definitely recommend the Grand America), booking fantastic keynote speakers including Dan Ariely, Fred Reichheld and others, enlisting key ‘name’ clients for sessions, and somehow getting Boyz II Men and Third Eye Blind, they pulled off an event that had attendees buzzing about how Qualtrics was going to top this next year.




Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith kicked off the event on Wednesday with an energizing, heartfelt and future-focused keynote bringing the audience in  on the company genesis story starting in Smith’s parents’ basement. With a laser-focus on making data collection faster and easier for researchers, Smith has taken the company from the basement to the Summit. Qualtrics is in hypergrowth mode, quadrupling their engineering team to keep up with new customers and demand. With 5000+ corporate users, a million enterprise users, and “at least a thousand in this room, we’re a long way from that basement when no-one would listen to us” said Smith.

On a humorous note, just like Google Qualtrics is fast on it’s way to becoming a verb. Overheard at a business school recently (most of the top business schools are customers): if the answer needs to be sought out through customer feedback, “just Qualtrics it.”

Up next after Smith was Dan Ariely, professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke University, the founder of The Center for Advanced Hindsight and the author of New York Times bestseller Predictably Irrational. Ariely kept the energy going with stories ranging from pain testing (from burn units to vises to leg waxing) to manipulating behavior to combat obesity…and redesigning men’s urinals (yep, you read that right).




The theme throughout was honing in on those forces that shape our decisions or in some cases indecision. A key insight? When faced with a big decision, people can freeze…thus by default leaving the decision up to the person who designed the form (in his example an organ donation form). Ariely reminded us all that environment and details matter, and there are benefits to obsessively figuring out those barriers to good behavior.

Qualtrics has an impressive customer roster, and several were on stage Wednesday morning in a customer showcase: Lisa Wolfe from DeVry Education Group, Charan Nagaraj from Hewlett Packard, Richard Shakarchi from E*TRADE and Rebecca Crotts from eBay.

Wolfe shared how DeVry has used Qualtrics’ Research Suite to streamline their market research and build a full Voice of Customer platform.   Nagaraj shared his goal at HP, to “turn terabytes of data to byte-sized insights!”  He emphasized that business intelligence and measurement cannot be an afterthought and need to be considered during research design, and shared how HP has shifted to much more open-ended feedback via text boxes. We heard how Shakarchi was able to get a seat at the executive table through research and insights, and how Crotts and eBay are honing in on what drives employee satisfaction at eBay – a strong sense of the company’s purpose.

Thursday’s keynotes included David Rock, the Qualtrics engineers, Johannes Seemann, and Fred Reichheld and Rob Markey.  The morning keynotes started off with neuroscience and math…before 9am! A hard sell? Not if the audience is a group of researchers, and not if the speaker is Dr. David Rock, author of Your Brain at Work and director of the NeuroLeadership Institute.

Rock is fascinated by how the brain finds insights, and what state the brain needs to be in for insights to happen. Rock shared how the brain constantly toggles between ‘toward’ and ‘away’ states and neuroscience has shown that the brain has a much higher capacity for insights in a toward state, and you need to get your clients in that state too for them to be more open to insights. It’s important to use data to facilitate insights rather than use data to create a defensive position/threat state in your client (the ‘away’ state).

What’s the ideal brain state for insights to happen? Quiet, inward-looking, slightly happy, not directly working on the problem…and sleep is also big. Afterwards, the room was buzzing about facilitating insights through sleep pods, yoga at work, and why insights often happen in the shower.

Next up was the engineering portion of the morning, and it was one of the most entertaining and lively sessions of the conference (new hashtag: #engineerswithpersonality)! This section was kicked off by Jared Smith (brother of CEO Ryan Smith) sharing the hypergrowth story of engineering at Qualtrics and why he left Google for Qualtrics. Smith was followed by Steve Brain, head of engineering, formerly of, and denizen of “business casual, Park City-style.”





The engineering team introduced new product features including One-Click NPS,  a “Survey Health” dashboard, new SMS survey options, and other great new features. There was lots of chatter, applause, and a few ‘awesome’ exclamations from the audience as the new features were introduced.

Johannes Seemann was on hand next from IDEO to discussing design thinking and to share a case study of creating new lunch experiences for the San Fransisco schools. Seemann’s talk provided actionable takeaways and examples of combining stories with data for greater impact.

The excitement in the room (remember, a room of researchers) was palpable for the next two speakers, the co-authors of The Ultimate Question 2.0. How Net Promoter Companies Thrive in a Customer-Driven World Fred Reichheld, the father of Net Promoter, and Rob Markey. Reichheld spoke to the genesis story of NPS, how loyalty is tied to growth, and the need just not to measure NPS but to create a system. Markey followed that up with examples of how NPS systems are created and highlighted the key NPS system requirements including a reliable outcome metric, closed-loop feedback, learning and action, and strategic priority to earn loyalty.

Afternoon breakout sessions throughout the two-day conferences covered topics ranged in topic type from software-specific learning in sessions like “Advanced Survey Creation Recipes for the Research Suite Master Chef” and “Reporting Basics” to more industry-wide topics like employee engagement,  “Voice of the Customer Best Practices and Key Trends” with Bruce Temkin and “The Mobile Survey Revolution.”

What’s was on deck for the evenings? Nothing less than what the hashtag says: #partylikeaQstar!

The first evening included a concert by Boyz II Men, followed by Third Eye Blind rocking the house. This was definitely not your average conference entertainment!




The second evening was a winter wonderland-themed dinner with an Olympic twist in honor of the Games in Sochi. The high-flying entertainment was provided by the Flying Ace All-Stars – a group of Olympic freestyle skiiers, trampoliners and stuntmen in double-trampolines. Quite a show!


flying aces

Overall, the event was quite a success, and what struck many of us was that the Qualtrics team was always iterating. It warmed our hearts when after filling out a survey last evening regarding Day 1, several logistical changes were implemented for Day 2 (add more Q&A, get the camera boom out of eyeline, etc).  It was clear that the information was not only gathered, but analyzed and discussed by the team and changes implemented before start of Day 2. I’m not sure when (or if) the team slept, but I was impressed by the acknowledgement of feedback and the quick implementation of changes.

Garrya Dunston, institutional assessment coordinator at Savannah State University, said something that I think many of us felt at the inaugural Qualtrics Insights Summit: “It’s the first one, but the inaugural Qualtrics Insights Summit feels like a reunion.”

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Katie Clark

Katie Clark

Communications Manager, Maine Historical Society