Zig Serafin, CEO of Qualtrics

Qualtrics CEO Zig Serafin sat down with Silicon Republic editor Elaine Burke to discuss his leadership style as an expert in experience management.

It has been an eventful few years for US tech company Qualtrics, not least because of the pandemic.

The company, founded by a family from Utah, was bought by SAP in 2018 for $8 billion. It then went public in January 2021 with a successful IPO that valued the company at $15 billion. That same year, Qualtrics earned $1 billion in revenue for its experience management technology. But what is experience management?

CEO Zig Serafin says this is the “ultimate advantage” for modern companies. It is about responding to the needs and wishes of customers and taking action with that knowledge “with empathy, speed and scale”.

Serafin was recently in Dublin on a tour of Europe with Qualtrics clients. He spoke to SiliconRepublic.com for our Conversations with Leaders series shortly after checking into the company’s new office in the Irish capital.

Qualtrics’ already significant footprint, a stone’s throw from St Stephen’s Green, is expanding in response to the company’s global growth. “Dublin is the epicenter of how we operate across Europe,” says Serafin, and this European headquarters is fully equipped with all the fixings of the modern technical office and more – including its own pub.

But Serafin said Qualtrics, a company obsessed with creating optimal experiences, knows that workplaces today need to offer flexibility and the ability to work from home, as well as a workspace that provides a “home from home.”

“Both experiences are important,” he said. “That digital experience and the physical experience, and how they come together.”

Qualtrics’ own research shows that it only takes one negative experience to lose a customer or employee, and with the sheer amount of tools available to businesses today, it’s possible to continuously track and improve experiences. But possible doesn’t mean easy.

There is a lot of data out there – from user analytics to customer support chats to online sentiment analysis and everything in between. And while Qualtrics has all the software and AI capabilities to parse this information and make it not only digestible but usable, Serafin said the secret sauce is something very human.

“Ultimately it comes down to this understanding of empathy,” he said. And that is also the common thread of Serafin’s leadership.

In our interview, he pointed out how empathy (and a helping TACOS) is at the heart of Qualtrics. He also shared what he learned about leadership from his early years on the family farm to 17 years at Microsoft, where he got a review from Bill Gates in his first week on the job.

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