Women at center of three days of corporate tech talk at X4 Summit in Salt Lake City

An estimated 10,000 people attended the event in downtown Salt Lake City.

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Volunteers and staff prepare for the Qualtrics X4 Summit at the Salt Palace Convention Center in Salt Lake City, on Tuesday, March 7, 2023. The three-day conference, aimed at customer service and human resources executives at major companies, closed out Thursday, March 9, 2023.

Ten keynote speeches, 100 breakout sessions, 10,000 attendees.

These are the stats Qualtrics, the Utah-based tech data company co-founded by Utah Jazz owner Ryan Smith, boasts about its three-day X4 Summit, which ended Thursday at The Salt Palace Convention Center in downtown Salt Lake City. The conference is billed as “the experience management summit.”

Essentially, it’s a conference for some of the world’s leading companies (and other entities, such as Utah’s state government) to learn about new technology — much of it sold by Qualtrics — to improve employee management and customer experiences. (Qualtrics works with over 19,000 corporate “partners.”)

The event is the second in recent weeks, after the NBA All-Star Weekend, to bring in thousands of visitors to Utah’s capital city. In a talk with media and analysts on Tuesday, Qualtrics CEO Zig Serafin said, “you yourself personally should feel like you’re also getting a seat at the table.”

The cost of that seat reportedly can run upwards of $1,799 each — the price is on a tiered system, the details of which a Qualtrics spokesperson declined to provide when The Tribune asked — and those attending can readily afford it, or their employers can. The event is geared toward people at all levels in major companies, with the idea they will take what they learn back to their workplaces to help their customers.

Women were well represented at the summit, both among attendees and with such keynote speakers as education activist Malala Yousafzai and home-improvement entrepreneur Martha Stewart.

Sydnie Cunningham, manager of employee listening and people analytics at Johnson & Johnson, said she wasn’t surprised to see so many women at X4, because so many of the tools are nested in HR work — a field where women are predominant.

According to a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics survey from 2022, nearly 73% of human resources managers employed in the country are women.

Disparities in gender pay equity, though, cast a shadow on that statistic. The newsletter HR Brew, working with Qualtrics, surveyed 500 HR professionals in December 2021 — and the results found that female respondents were “more likely than male respondents to take home smaller paychecks.”

“I do think that data science and analytics overall [are] becoming more popular for women and minorities,” Cunningham said. “Overall, it’s becoming more gender diverse.”

Cunningham came to the convention from Baltimore. Her team, she said, uses Qualtrics products for their enterprise survey work, such as the company’s annual engagement survey.

While many at the summit came for the customer experience, Cunningham said the talks helped her as someone who works to improve the employee experience.

“[Qualtrics] is a good tool to help us collect employee feedback, to develop action plans and present that data in an aesthetically pleasing way to leaders,” she said.

Michelle Muse — director of change management at Nabors Industries, a global oil- and gas-drilling contractor — traveled from Houston for the conference, and sat on a breakout panel called “Accelerating customer experience transformation.”

“Conferences are a great opportunity to network with a lot of different people from a lot of different industries, to see what best practices are going on,” Muse said. “Ideally, if you come to a conference like this, they should have a wide variety of speakers and topics.”

Nabors Industries doesn’t use Qualtrics now, Muse said, but the summit had great speakers and insights for someone, like her, whose background is in customer service and employee experience.

Every company can apply such customer-service practices, either with their customers or internally with their employees.

“What’s interesting to me is there’s been definitely a technology evolution in customer experience in the last few years, in terms of what the tools are out there to be able to measure,” she said.

“Ten years ago, when we were looking at customer experience, it took a team of analysts or data scientists to take and analyze that data. … Now there are tools, through AI and listening, [that can] accelerate how we manage customer experience.”