The future of CX: the Employee Experience – a conversation with Nicolle Paradise

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

14 Years Leading Product at Salesforce: Q&A with Shawna Wolverton

When I saw Spekit’s announcement that Shawna Wolverton was taking an advisor role with the company, I quickly fired off a message to my friend Melanie Fellay, CEO and Co-Founder of Spekit, and told her that she needed to interview Shawna about life after Salesforce, and why she wanted to be involved with Spekit. Melanie’s reaction to that – you’ve known Shawna longer than I have Eric, you should interview her! 


First a little background: Shawna started at Salesforce in late 2003, when there were only about 300 employees. She spent her time there leading product strategy, helping to create amazing solutions and incredible value for the Salesforce ecosystem. During her 14 years at Salesforce, Shawna held various roles building the Salesforce platform. Most recently she led their next generation user interface migration, or as we call it in the Ohana, “Lightning.”

Shawna was always very focused on listening to the challenges of customers, then taking the next step and building out solutions to meet those challenges head-on. In December 2017, Shawna took her sharp customer focus and keen eye on product development to Planet as their new Chief Product Officer.


Most recently, Shawna has taken on an advisor role with Spekit, started by two female founders Melanie and Zari.  Spekit is a scalable in-context learning and knowledge solution that’s built from your CRM. Spekit allows your users to learn by doing, with a solution that sits on top of their Salesforce or email application, for greater knowledge retention and increased Salesforce competency and skill progression. Built from your CRM, your knowledge automatically scales with your business to drive operational efficiency and alignment around your data, processes and content.



And now the conversation with Shawna.


So, Shawna, what’s life after Salesforce like?

It’s been really fun to dig in on brand new challenges. I had a number of roles over the years at Salesforce, but thinking about the democratization of access to Satellite data has given me the opportunity to have a genuinely fresh perspective.


What part of the Ohana do you miss the most?

The satellite data market is still relatively new. There isn’t the community of super engaged customers like I had at Salesforce. I’m focused on building out that community, but in the meantime, I miss the folks who were always there to tell me when I’d done something right, and more importantly, something wrong.


What is the biggest challenge that you’ve had since leaving Salesforce?

Going from being an old timer to the “newbie” has been great, but is also a challenge. My deep knowledge of the technical intricacies of salesforce workflow aren’t much use in space.


What would you say if I simply said “banana-pants”?

Not sure I’d say anything, but it sure would bring a giant grin to my face. Having the kind of connection I did with my Salesforce customers was a tremendous source of joy.  


Do your current colleagues walk through the office saying things like “Shawna rules the Planet!“?

Not yet! Give it time…


How did you first learn about Spekit?

I kept hearing about Spekit from my former colleagues at Salesforce and in the ecosystem. When you hear good things from various sources like that, you take a look!


What attracted you to Spekit as an advisor?

As the PM who owned setup and had close relationships with admins, I immediately recognized the benefit the product could bring to both admins and end users as both a dynamic data dictionary and in-context knowledge solution. As various folks work on an instance, so much of the “why was this done” gets lost. And then giving end users access to that “why” so that they can be the most effective – it’s a very powerful tool.

And then once I met Melanie and Zari, I was in. Their passion for this product is infectious and their deep understanding of the pain in this space makes them uniquely qualified to solve it.  


What challenges in the ecosystem do you see Spekit solving?

Many companies rely on other applications outside of Salesforce, such as email, to support their growth. Yet, the knowledge around their business, data and messaging is the same across the various applications. Spekit helps bridge that gap by allowing employees to leverage this knowledge, both inside and outside of Salesforce, to bring efficiency to their day-to-day.


Where do you see room for innovation in the CRM learning and training space?

I think the lifecycle solution – from admin to end user and back again – is a fresh approach to learning and training. So often training material gets stale – which is why it’s so critical that Spekit’s knowledge solution is tied to your underlying data model in Salesforce so that as your CRM scales, your knowledge does too. More importantly, having end users contribute to the tribal knowledge, directly from their workflow, really changes the game.


Where do you see Spekit in 5 years?

I think this is just the beginning for Spekit. When you understand what the platform is capable of doing – bringing the information a user needs to wherever they are – the possibilities are endless.



Personally, I’m excited to see where the Wolverton-Spekit relationship goes. Knowing Shawna as well as I do through my 9 years in the Salesforce Ecosystem, and understanding the passion and drive that Melanie and Zari have for Spekit….the sky’s the limit!


Thanks Shawna for your words of wisdom, for the trip down memory lane, and for all the awesomeness you’ve accomplished, and will still continue to accomplish. Thanks team Spekit, for allowing me the honor of interviewing your newest addition, Shawna Wolverton!


Curious about Spekit? Attend their upcoming Dreamforce session or stop by their booth, #25, in the Trailhead Zone and see first hand, what all the fuss is about!