TecHRseries Interview with Benjamin Granger, Ph.D., Sr. Principal at Qualtrics XM Institute

In today’s digital-first workplace, creating a balanced customer experience and employee experience is critical to brand success. Benjamin Granger, Ph.D., Sr. Principal at Qualtrics XM Institute shares his thoughts on what it takes to get that balance right in this chat with TecHRseries.


Tell us a little about yourself Benjamin…we’d love to hear your journey in tech.  

When I started my career, I had no intention of working in tech! I’m trained in industrial organizational psychology and started my career designing digital employee experiences at Verizon.

I then came to Qualtrics after a few years, moved to the XM Institute where I’m working to better understand the other pillars of experience management and bridge the gap between employee and customer experience. I ask myself questions like, “What can we learn from each other?” and “How can we increase the value of our work by coming together and breaking down organizational silos?” I found my way into tech by chance, and I have no intention of leaving now. It’s too much fun.

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What are some of the top customer experience and top employee experience best practices or activities you’ve come across over the years? 

One of the best things organizations can do is turn old-school employee surveys into digital conversations — on both the customer and experience side. Companies used to send out massive surveys to their workforces and customer bases, and while those may be useful, they’re not a great experience for the employee or the customer. I’m seeing a trend toward shorter, more conversational measures that are embedded into the actual experience itself — like giving your Uber driver a star rating at the end of the ride.

Organizations are also beginning to use more advanced methods to analyze employee and customer data. For example, market researchers often use conjoint analysis — a statistical technique used to measure preferences. This is new to most HR professionals, but it could be extremely useful to, say, discover which benefits or aspects of work are most valued by employees.

And of course, organizations need to act quickly on the feedback they receive and the conclusions they draw from that data. Qualtrics research shows that it can be more harmful to ask for feedback and fail to act on it than it is to not ask for feedback at all. 

In today’s digital, always-on world: what are your top thoughts on ensuring balanced customer and employee experiences? 

Organizations need to understand how people perceive the experiences they are delivering. Our research at Qualtrics suggests focusing on three things when trying to create a positive experience:

  1. Success. Was the customer or employee able to accomplish what they set out to do? Organizations need to deliver on the promises they make to build trust and confidence in customers and employees.
  2. Effort. How easy or difficult was the experience?. Even if a service successfully resolves a problem, if the effort was high, then the experience can still be perceived as negative.
  3. Emotion. What emotion did the experience elicit? Maybe it was low-effort and successful, but if the customer or employee is left with negative emotions, then the entire experience can be viewed as negative.

When we digitize employee experiences, emotion is often pushed to the side because success and effort are often the goals. But we lose that personal interaction that so often is what creates positive emotions for people. Designing employee engagement and customer experience programs for emotion in a digital environment is incredibly important.  

As employees return to the workplace during the pandemic and businesses try to return to a sense of pre Covid normalcy, how should leaders focus on implementing better organizational practices in a Covid-19 working era (where team members have to stay distant even while sitting on the same office floor). 

Right now, leaders are facing challenges they’ve never had to tackle before. As we work to get back to the office, all industries will need to quickly act on the new norms this global pandemic has made reality. As they do so, industries that aren’t as familiar with creating a culture of safety should look to other industries, such as energy, utilities, and manufacturing, that regularly implement safety standards in order to derive best practices.

Managers and leadership will also need to focus on creating a safe environment for more personas than they’ve had in the past. Increased awareness around mental health, diversity and inclusion, and family all need to be mainstays for businesses to create a safe and healthy working environment. Agile listening programs can help organizations do so and meet the needs of their employees.

What are some of the ways in which you feel HR leaders should drive more change within their organization (in terms of workplace culture, benefits, hiring process).

HR leaders should take some time to reflect on new practices they’ve incorporated or accelerated during the pandemic. Then they need to decide which practices they should continue. A bank we worked with that opened up its branches during the pandemic found that their employees were worried about workplace safety. So they launched an always-on listening program for employees to come in and say, “Hey, customers aren’t wearing their masks.” Or, “My co-worker came in sick, and that made me uncomfortable.” That feedback gets routed to the facilities team in real time so that they can resolve those types of issues immediately. Now, that bank’s business leaders and HR teams are exploring ways to use that sort of always on listening for other experiences.  

Can you talk about some of the most innovative hiring trends in tech you’ve seen in the recent years?

A job candidate’s experience is, ultimately, where an employee’s experience starts. But that doesn’t mean we need to turn the hiring process into something short and fun — that’s a misnomer I’ve seen floating around.

Candidates really want to showcase their skills. They want a fair process. They want to be communicated to transparently. Companies that break down the candidate journey and optimize the touchpoints will provide an employee with a positive experience from the get-go, and that will ultimately bleed over into the customer experience they provide later.

Before we wrap up, we’d love to hear a little about the employee culture and experience at Qualtrics XM Institute?

At Qualtrics, we value transparency and openness. That kind of culture builds trust. An important part of being transparent is listening frequently to employees, acting on their feedback, and communicating the actions taken. When employees can see and understand why leadership has taken certain actions and how their feedback affects those actions, they become more engaged in the process and their work.

When the pandemic began and we sent everyone to work from home, we frequently asked employees a simple but important question: “Are you okay?”. It was important that we knew how our employees were doing so we could take action on their needs and make their employee experience a positive one — even in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic.

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A few parting tips on what companies and HR heads should keep in mind as they shape their strategies in 2021 amid the new normal?

Build agility into the experiences you deliver. Be very intentional about the expectations that you set for people going into an experience — explaining to people what they can expect will greatly influence how they perceive an experience.

And finally, share ideas, integrate with others across the company, and listen to employees to create, not just a new normal, but a new better. Then share those insights. Find someone in the company with a problem, and offer them a small piece of insights that you’re generating. It will go a long way in building relationships and reciprocity.

Qualtrics XM Institute (XM) is a software platform that helps brands to continually assess the quality of their four core experiences—customers, employees, products, and brands.

Benjamin Granger is a Ph.D.,and Sr. Principal at Qualtrics XM Institute

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