Are you tying customer experience to product marketing?
Carla Guzzetti, Vice President of Customer Experience and Product Messaging at Extreme Networks, says CX has to be cross-functional. In this episode, Carla shares how she and her team use initial research to impact design and truly understand the market and user value of their products. Listen in to learn how to differentiate your brand through design and create meaningful digital experiences for both your customers and your employees.
- Product marketing teams and CX teams should work together to inform design
- Identify the specific points in the experience that will define your company as a brand
- Focus on creating a meaningful digital experience for your employees and your customers
[01:15] Differentiating through design
[02:36] CX misconceptions
[03:47] Tying experience to product marketing
[06:48] Why you should establish a unique brand experience
[11:21] Allowing customers to self-soothe
[15:05] The importance of technical content
[18:03] Getting a 360 view of your customers
[19:55] How to create meaningful digital experiences
Our product marketing team actually works with our experience team at times, because they want to hear from marketed position. What are our competitors doing? How does that change it? That feeds into our design, as well. It's actually a really nice dove tail between the two, that you wouldn't expect. I think really, if experience is going to be successful, it has to be cross-functional in nature anyway.
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Your product is a solution to a problem, your customer's problem, which means their journey should start with design. I'm Shannon Katschilo, your host for "Flourish CX." In this episode, Carla Guzzetti, VP of customer experience and product messaging at Extreme Network, shares the innovative ways she and her team intertwined product marketing and CX. Carla is not only focused on defining CX, but brand experience as well. As a result, you'll hear her talk about how to use that idea as a springboard for scaling your customer success approach. As you listen, consider the ways your design might change if it were included in your customer's journey, and vice versa.
Carla, thank you so much for joining us, and welcome to the Flourish podcast. As we get started, can you tell us a little bit about Extreme Networks, and your role?
Yeah, absolutely. Thank you so much Shannon, for inviting me. I love being able to have the opportunity to geek out about CX, and I love the podcast. I think it's just such a brilliant thing, what you guys are doing. Yes, I'm at Extreme Networks, I'm head of customer experience and product marketing. It's been a really interesting and compelling journey I've been on here at Extreme, and I think it's going to be an even more interesting journey that we're going to have in the very near future. Everything that my teams focus on is about, how can we really differentiate through design, in an industry which traditionally isn't design led? Networking is not something that people really think of as, "Oh, you've got to have fantastic designs in networking." If you look at so many other industries, they are truly disrupted through design, and through making it simple for the user, and we want to take that same approach here in networking.
My experience team, we take a look at user research, we take a look at our user flows, how we can make everything easier. We have in product design, and we also have what I call XT design, which is everything that's outside of the product. We're thinking about, how does that impact shipping order management? How do we work with our distributors, so that when a product shows up from Extreme, it's a beautiful experience not only in our digital products, but also our physical products? That's just a small overview of what I'm working on right now.
One of my favorite questions to ask is, any misconceptions about your role that might drive you crazy? Anything that, when you introduce yourself at a cocktail party, you've got to maybe explain?
I think the thing that I end up explaining the most, and maybe this is more of a commentary on the type of cocktail parties I'm going to rather than anything else, I'm having to explain, what is customer experience? I think customer experience can mean a variety of different things in different industries. The most common one is, "You provide help support," like our G-Tech team, which is a fabulous team, but that's not what experience is about. I think that's usually where I end up correcting people most of the time, is saying, "Actually, what we're thinking about is the design of the product, and how it's going to be more meaningful to the user." Like I said, that might be more of a commentary of the people I'm talking to at cocktail parties.
Interesting. When I look at your title, you're a VP of CX and product messaging, definitely not a combination you see every day. How do these two aspects intersect at Extreme? It is quite unique.
Yes, it is quite unique. One of the things I love most about my role is that I get to see a product from inception, from when we start working with our PLM teams, and we're doing the market research of, what is our addressable market? What's our obtainable market? I get to see the product go all the way through the experience and product development cycle. We go from, what is the research? Who is the persona? What is the market we're addressing? Then, it goes into design. Then, it goes into XT design. Then, it comes back around to research once it's launched, because we're looking at the quantitative data of how users are engaging with the product. Through that, in product messaging and product marketing, how do we position it in the market? How do we make sure that we cascade that to our partner marketing teams, and to our partners and distributors?
They're actually intrinsically tied, and I think this is a misnomer of experience. I think that a lot of times, people think that customer experience is a siloed division, and it's not. True success in customer experience has to really be throughout the entire company, but most importantly, it is a cross functional experience. Having product messaging, and also experience, I feel like we do that really well. It has a really beautiful tie in, because the research that defines the very beginning of the product cascades, and really impacts how we choose to position everything in product marketing. It's been really interesting as we've introduced... we use a framework called jobs to be done. For your listeners, they're probably well familiar with this discipline, but it has been very useful in helping us identify the value prop to the marketplace, and to the user.
We can outline that based on the user, or the buyer, and also, the work that we've done to understand what's the obtainable and addressable market. Seeing that all the way through is such a, for me, very fulfilling experience. It's also really incredible to see the tie-ins that, traditionally, you wouldn't go, "Why would product marketing be connected to experience?" Actually, they have a lot of push/pull on each other, and our product marketing team actually works with our experience team at times, because they want to hear from marketed position. What are our competitors doing? How does that change it? That feeds into our design, as well. It's actually a really nice dove tail between the two that you wouldn't expect. Like I said, I think really, if experience is going to be successful, it has to be cross functional in nature anyway.
I think CX is so unique, and reflective of every organization and their culture. A lot of our listeners are representing B2B organizations, which sometimes, not always, when you think about the maturity curve, can be a little bit behind. I think they're really learning from leaders such as yourself on how to really do this. Can you share a little bit more about the unique challenges that you're faced with at Extreme Networks, when it comes to providing a phenomenal customer experience?
Yeah, I think everybody in the B2B space, it is tough, because sometimes you don't always own that experience all the way through to your customer. That is something that we are just starting here at Extreme to really cut our teeth on, and to think about. Right now, we're primarily focused on, how can we revolutionize through design in product? XT design is the next place that I am very keen to get to, because we work through a two tier distribution model. We sell directly to our customers, but we also sell through partners and distributors as well. Controlling that experience, when it has to go through two other levels, is a very tough thing to do. What we are looking at right now is, what are the most important points that we want to make sure that distinct Extreme experience comes through?
I would say, for anybody who's looking through it, and not to say that I'm an expert at this right now, because we're working through it ourselves, but the conversations that we're having internally are, where do we really want to put our stake in the ground as a brand experience? What is the most important part of that to us? Is that the unboxing? Is it the onboarding experience? Where are the specific points in the experience that we feel will truly define us as a brand? That's what I would say you should really spend your time focusing on, because to scale, to own every part of it is very difficult.
We're a global company. The issues that we face in North America for distribution, and what we're working with in Asia, and what we work with in the Middle East, and Europe, wildly different. It is really difficult to try to control every part of that experience. I would say, pick an area that you think is going to be really important, that is going to define your brand experience, and focus on that. Then, slowly expand from there.
Yeah, that's great. What I'm hearing is, finding those critical moments of truth where you can put in your resources, make it exceptional, and it also is a really great change management strategy. To executives and people around, you can start to build out a model of ROI, and really build a business case across the journey. I'm curious, across a customer journey, what are the critical moments of truth for your customers?
For our customers, I think our critical moment of truth, or what we call our point of value, I think in networking, it is the onboarding experience. It's a bit of a joke, but how quickly can you un-box the toy, and get it to start working for you right now? In networking, there are multiple steps, and it also depends on the IT maturity level of the company. That's a lot of the things that we think about, because there are some companies that don't need fully staffed IT divisions. They might have one IT admin, and they work with a consultant. The next level might have a group, but still rely heavily on consultants. Finally, you have major companies out there, like the Walmarts of world, or big companies that have divisions of IT people that do all numbers of jobs.
What we tend to think about is, for all of them, the most important part is to un-box whatever it is that we sold them, whether it's a switch or an AP, but then, get them to connect to our subscription-based services, which is Extreme Cloud IQ. How quickly can we get them from unboxing their hardware to getting them into our cloud, and feeling the value of what our subscription services bring to them? That is really what we primarily spend our time focusing on. Are we showing value right away to the user, and to the buyer, that our product is absolutely not taking them a long time? Networking is complicated. This is a really important point for us, that if we can show our value faster than our competitors, they're going to be more likely to come back to us for more subscription services, and more hardware.
In line with that, as I imagine, as you're tracking and really measuring the jump to subscription after that critical, and I really like that by the way, point of value, how important is that in-product help, to make sure the onboarding experience is seamless?
We're spending quite a bit of time right now revising how we support our customers through their onboarding experience. We just introduced customer success, customer success at Extreme is the other side of the coin for us. We work hand in hand with our customer success team. We introduced customer success to help with that, to make sure that we both have a high touch, and also, a digital scale team, where they're focused on, "Hey, you've just bought your switch, or you've just bought your AP. Here are the next steps you're going to want to take, in order to take advantage of your X IQ subscription." As soon as they make that purchase, we're out there letting them know.
In product, absolutely we are completely focused on, how can we create better content to let our customers self soothe, so that they can onboard, so that we can see exactly where their trouble spots are? We've integrated the ability to request a GTAC ticket, or set up a call with our customer success team. We're thinking about, how can we make sure that they have connectivity to our community, to our services, and to customer success as they go through that onboarding experience? Our number one priority is to give them enough content so that they could actually guide themselves through it. That's the fastest and easiest way.
Nobody likes it when it doesn't work. When you're trying to book your ticket to go someplace, you don't want to have to go and call Delta. You just want to book your ticket, and get it done. In networking, it's no different, I want to un-box it, I want to get my subscription done, and I want to start setting it up right now.
Self-soothe versus self-service. Is there any context to that, about how you're thinking? I love it, and I'm sure our listeners would like to understand as well how you decipher the two, and the choice there in wording.
We use self-soothe to describe our environment, rather than self-service, because we're providing the service. I think the context is a little bit switched based on the industry that we're talking about. Self-service is, and I'm not going to say that I'm 100% accurate in this, but by and large, a lot of the times, self-service I find is used in a very traditional, SAS environment, in a software as a service environment, where the user is trying to accomplish something on their own. Whereas, in our context, we like to use self-soothe, because most of the time, our users are usually engineers themselves.
They purchased our service for a number of reasons, and what we're trying to help with the soothing is if they run into a trouble spot. We're trying to soothe any kind of issue they might potentially have, particularly in that onboarding process, but also, management process, so that they don't feel like they have to actually go to register a ticket with GTAC, or things like that. We want the product to be able to find their own way to solve their problems, so we call it soothe rather than self service.
I really like it, and you're right. I think, what we're seeing is that customers, regardless if you're a customer in a B2B organization, or even in the B2C, we want to do everything possible to not log a ticket and wait. We all want access at our fingertips. It sounds like engineers, really bright, capable people, they want the data experience as well, to do it on their own. Can you talk a little bit more about technical content, and the role that plays in serving up information, and making it accessible? Do you have a consolidated portal? How are you serving up that level of content in the journey of onboarding?
Oh my goodness, you've just hit on my most favorite topic. I could talk about content all day.
Wow, you're unique. Okay, let's hear it.
I know what I would say, I'm exposing my nerd credentials right now. Technical content, I think, is actually crucial to whether you call it self-service or self soothing. It is the crux of everything, and I think it is something that is frequently overlooked by every organization. It is crucial to get this figured out, and organized, and to have everything centralized, in order to be able to scale that self-soothing, or that self-service. Technical content is really interesting, because I do have a user enablement team within the experience group. Previously, we actually called them info dev, and before that, they were technical documentation. When I started working with them, I said, "We're going to rebrand ourselves, because we're actually user enablement." Not only do we have deep technical documentation, as you can imagine, there's a lot of complexity in networking. It requires some very technical writing. I said, "We're going to level that up, because also, we need to think about, how do we help the user find their way through this product, and understand, what the features that are going to deliver the most value to them?"
Within our user enablement team, we actually have two groups, one that is focused on video, and one that is focused on written content. We use both within the product, but we are deploying a video-first strategy, and understanding those moments of value through the user journey when they're in the product. Then, we have to tag all of this content, both to our community, and to our partner portals, and our customer portals, and our website. We're actually just right now rewriting our entire information architecture and taxonomy for our website, and also, for our end product, and consolidating our CMS, and our digital asset manager.
We're bringing on a brand new DAM, and a brand new CMS, with a whole new information architecture. It is the nervous system. It is the backbone of your entire customer experience. Whether you're a partner, or a user, or someone who's just coming to our website for the very first time, we will have all of that content unified and tagged appropriately, so that we know what to serve up based on where that person is in the journey, whether it's a partner journey or a customer journey.
Wonderful. How do you measure the success of that? I would imagine you're putting a lot of resources into this revamp. What is it that you're looking at to showcase the value that you're driving with this transformation?
We're taking a look at a number of different metrics, and that is also one other thing that we are building within the organization right now. We're taking a look at what we're calling a 360 customer view, looking at their behavioral data, their operational data, and their financial data. I would say that the key metric that we're going to be looking at, when you measure the success of your content you're developing, is really your customer's behavioral data. Taking a look at, how much time did it take for them to complete the task, or the job to be done? Where did they get stuck? Did they engage with the content? Did they not engage with the content? How quickly are we pushing them through that customer journey, if they're a net new name that's landed on our website, because they're able to find the appropriate information?
We've been able to take a look at our current benchmarks, and we're waiting to see, once we get this all implemented, how do we shorten that timeframe? If we've done our job correctly, particularly in the beginning stages of the customer journey, when you're at awareness and consideration, we will see that awareness and consideration timeframe reduced significantly, because they're going to find the content that they're looking for so much faster.
Great to hear, also, just thinking about those measurements, to really reflect and see the business impact as well. I'd love to get back on a podcast with you next year, and hear about all the amazing things that you and the team are accomplishing. I'd like to touch on a little bit macro, what's happening right now in our economy, and of course, the turmoil that we're experiencing across the globe. What's your overall perception on the value of self-service, and doing the type of initiatives that you're rolling out at Extreme Networks? What type of impact are you seeing the macro economy have at your own company, or even outside, alongside your peers?
At the macro level, I think it's exceptionally important for every company to be investing in this, and here's why. Not to be a little self-serving, but I do think that it actually ties into our tech vision here at Extreme Networks. We introduced this concept of the infinite enterprise about two years ago. Essentially, what it states is that networks have to be able to serve people who are going to be infinitely distributed. They have to be able to serve people at scale. It also has to be incredibly consumer centric, meaning that the experience that you have remotely has to be the same as the experience that you have in person. How that ties to the question that you just asked is, I think that we are very much still going to be in a world where businesses are going to have customers that are going to be distributed everywhere, and that experience is not always going to be in bricks and mortar.
It's not always going to be in person, and you have to invest in that consumer-centric, digital experience every time. Whether it's self-service or self-soothe, whatever the environment is, the customer is going to expect the same level of customer service. They're going to expect the same experience that they would get if they were to walk into your showroom, your hospital, your school, wherever it is. Our new normal is already here. It's a hybrid environment, and it's always going to be a hybrid environment.
I know the media loves to go back and forth about, "Elon Musk is requiring everybody to go back to work, and Apple is forcing people three times a day." Gen Z knows what's going on. They know what they want, and what they want is to have a flexible work environment. They're not going to want to sit in an office. What we've experienced over the last couple of years, this new normal we're in, it is here to stay. That's really what I believe. I think any company that isn't considering how they create a meaningful digital experience for their customers or employees, they're already missing out. Investing in customer experience and customer success is going to be the cornerstone of all of that.
I cannot agree more, it's definitely going to be a forcing mechanism where, in the long term, we're going to end up on the other side, and in a much better place. Carla, thank you so much, it's been wonderful talking to you today. Anything else you'd like to bring up, that we didn't touch on?
My only parting words would be, for every company, you have to put the customer at the heart of everything. It really has to define everything that your company does. Yes, we're all in business to be successful, and make money, but the only way I really truly believe that any company can be successful is if they have their customer's best interests at heart, and they invest in that. Make sure you back it with the funds in order to do it.
Thank you for listening to this episode of Flourish CX. To learn more, head over to zoominsoftware.com/podcast, and follow along wherever you get your audio.