Nicolle Paradise recently joined Spekit as an Advisor and I had the opportunity to learn more about what makes her such a force in the Customer Experience industry.


You recently gave the opening keynote at TalkDesk’s annual conference called “Winning, Losing and the Employee Experience.” How do you define the Employee Experience (EX) and how does that fit into the Customer Experience (CX)?

When I discuss the employee experience (EX), I’m referring to specifically, the environment that those employees work in and why it’s the driving force for winning products that come from winning companies.

Like any ecosystem, EX and CX thrive when there’s a balance. When employees have a positive experience in their work environment, those employees tend to stay at a company longer (vs. quitting and moving to a new company).  That employee retention contributes to overall company stability, which has a positive impact on company efficiency. Company efficiency contributes to stable growth, innovation, and certainly benefits profitability.  Those are all cohorts that help connect the internal experience of a company to the external experiences that shape the perceptions customers have with that company.


2-minute highlight video from keynote

Are those external experiences what define the Customer Experience? 

The academic answer is that CX is the sum of all the interactions a customer has with a company.  I think the more thoughtful answer is that it’s the sum of all the perceived interactions a customer has with a company and its brand.  

Why that distinction is important is because it places the focus back on how the customer is viewing the end to end journey and what choices they’ll make because of it, not on how the company thinks the customer should view that end to end journey.


So how do winning companies really stand out with their Customer Experience?

The last 7 years or so of my career have been within Fintech, both at startups and multi-billion dollar organizations, so I tend to view customer experiences through two lenses:  one is, “is this product easy for the customer to buy, use, and when needed, service?” and the other lens is, “does this experience contribute direct value and/or financial impact to both the customer and my company?”

Endless conferences and books are dedicated to exploring how to deliver world-class experiences to customers, though few index to the financial aspect of the customer experience:  what is the customer ROI for buying a company’s product – and more importantly, keeping it?  Companies stand out when they help customers calculate the value of what that customer is actually spending money on — the product.


Companies need to think like a customer, but communicate like a CFO.


A CFO should be able to calculate an ROI from the use of the product. If they can’t, the discussion of renewal pivots away from quantified business outcomes to qualified outcomes (how responsive or friendly our company is, etc.).  Non-measurable returns on investment are less influential to decision makers than measurable returns.

Today, customers have dozens (or hundreds) of varying products in their ecosystem, so it’s on us (the company) to create the mechanisms for calculating and communicating ROI to our customers, proactively.

Few companies are tackling this challenge of their own product at scale, thus the companies that truly stand out are the ones who take up the challenge of figuring out how to deliver that insight, that experience, for their customers.


How does a company’s brand and purpose fit into the Customer Experience?

A company’s brand is the WHAT; what story that company wants to be known for, irrespective of explicit messaging or marketing.  A company’s purpose is the WHY; why do customers believe that story when using their products or services.


We’ve recently seen the rise of employees developing their own “personal brands”. How is an employee’s personal brand different than their company’s brand and can the two co-exist?

Well, the foundation is the same:  it’s what story does either a company or a person want to be known for.  To your question, I view them as complementary though decidedly distinct. Take Salesforce (the company) as an example.

For 10 years now, they’ve been on the “Fortune 100” list of best companies to work for, which is noteworthy for any company, particularly in tech. Naturally then, part of their story – part of their company personality – is that they are the type of company that people want to work for.  

Then there’s the personal brand of the company’s CEO, Marc Benioff. He’s been quoted over the years saying that the secret to successful hiring is to look for people who want to change the world.

And so, how does he leverage that messaging on his personal brand? Well, he’s often in the media locally here in San Francisco and via social, advocating for the charitable causes that he believes in and donates to.  He puts his money – and his brand – toward the sort of changes he wants to see in the world. That’s a classic example of how the personal and company brands co-exist and complement.

Another great example would be Drift and Julie Hogan, Vice President, Customer Team at Drift.  I was chatting with her at a conference last year and was impressed by her commitment to gender equality in her personal life and how she’s connected that to her work, her teams, and the balanced opportunities she helps create for teams at Drift.  It’s very personal to her, and she leverages that passion and empowerment within her personal brand, as well as to the action-oriented way she leads at Drift.


Is it through your research on the Employee Experience that you first learned about Spekit?

No, it’s a funny story actually. I was at a very loud birthday party –  a happy hour where I didn’t know many people, and I struck up a conversation with someone who looked like they also didn’t know many folks.  That was Melanie. We started laughing about how we could just yell over the music to chat about business, which led to some thoughtful chats (once the music quieted a bit) around how we each viewed the world, the costs and opportunities of being a female entrepreneur, and of course, the Employee Experience and Spekit‘s mission to improve it with real-time access to knowledge.

We grabbed coffee a few weeks later, and I learned more about the launch of Spekit and that she and Zari would be speaking at Dreamforce. I volunteered to help them with speaker and content prep. for Dreamforce and from then on, we began spending a good deal of time with each other.

Mel, Zari and Nicolle rehearsing for Dreamforce presentation in October 2018


What was your initial impression of Spekit?

Well, I was initially impressed with the passion and focus Mel and Zari both had.  They had observed real world problems, solved them, and were committed to turning those solutions into a business.

Spekit is building something that fills a big void in the corporate training world, and they are doing it the right way – by spending time listening to their customers and advocates, and creating functionality that solves real problems. Their bootstrapping approach –  the way they started out by tapping into the power of the Salesforce Community rather than through personal networks – is really shaping the order of knowledge sharing for years to come. They’ve already closed a deal with Jones Lange LaSalle (JLL — a $6.7B company). Not a bad catch for a small startup just finishing up their first year!

They’ll certainly grow to a 100+ person company within a one to two years, and likely, they’ll be as common of a tool in enterprise technology stack as Slack. I was – and am – so thrilled to be part of this rocket ship that is Spekit and equally thrilled to see two female entrepreneurs achieving so much success so quickly.


About Nicolle

Nicolle Paradise has been architecting and leading client-centric organizations for 15+ years that deliver value for clients, profitability for shareholders, and inspire employees. She is an keynote speaker, Head of Attendee Experience for TEDx San Francisco, and has had the good fortune to travel to all 7 continents.  

Learn more about Nicolle at www.NicolleParadise.com.