2023 Customer Awards: NetApp - Best-in-Class: Community

2023 Customer Awards: NetApp - Best-in-Class: Community

Medium Res-na_logo_black_rgb.JPGCompany: NetApp

Company background: In a world full of generalists, NetApp is a specialist. We’re focused on one thing, helping your business get the most out of your data. NetApp brings the enterprise-grade data services you rely on into the cloud, and the simple flexibility of cloud into the data center. Our industry-leading solutions work across diverse customer environments and the world’s biggest public clouds.

Contact: Drew Claybrook

Title: Community Manager

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Kudos Category: Best-in-Class: Community

1. Describe the organization's objectives in launching a Khoros community. What is the use-case and purpose of your community (support, enablement and learning, marketing awareness, customer success, driving sales, product innovation, etc.)? Has the community charter evolved since its launch, and if so, how?

The NetApp Community empowers our customers and partners to optimize their support journey. Built on robust Knowledge-Centered Service (KCS) v6 Practices and a five-channel support model, the Community operates in the peer-to-peer space. You may be familiar with the standard three-channel approach, but in 2021, our strategy was expanded to include “detect and predict” with our Active IQ solution. 2022 brought us the development of an in-product, API-based offering.

For many years, support tickets were required for customers to resolve issues that could’ve more easily been automated or otherwise handled via a self-service option. This manual process for support drove up costs and took time away from troubleshooting more urgent requests and ultimately isn’t a good experience for us or our customers. NetApp’s pursuit of the “shift left” approach to building a better, digital-dominant support model aims to increase customer satisfaction and decrease costs by helping customers get ahead of problems before they begin.


Our focus on continuously improving the customer experience keeps us at the forefront of trends in the support industry. Though NetApp has had a community since 2008, the Community’s role in this project really began in 2019, when responsibilities were transitioned from Marketing to the Digital Support Organization. The Community Manager role was filled in January 2020 when we began to place particular emphasis on ensuring that questions are responded to (and answered) in a timely manner. This initiative has been met with a variety of challenges over the past few years, but none have been insurmountable.

Community means nothing without its supporting resources, and often, those resources can be summarized simply as tools and people. Without good tools like a Knowledge Base and Support Site, the community is likely to struggle and without good people, the community will fail. Persevering through staffing changes and re-orgs, we’ve been able to show the community’s value in overall customer satisfaction and in our cost-per-answer measurement, which we’ll cover below.

NetApp’s Kudos Award entries from 2021 and 2022 highlight our previous successes if you’re interested in reading more about our experiences.

2. How did the community get brought to life? Was there executive/business/stakeholder buy-in? What was the process to gain this buy-in? How was cross-functional support and organizational adoption achieved?

We were fortunate to have strong, top-down support of the community early on in our transformation. Building community tasks into the everyday activities of support engineers seeds familiarity, and after securing executive buy-in, this ultimately means engineers are given more flexibility. Occasions to explore and learn about new products, features, and tools outside of one’s normal focus area aren’t usually presented very often. The community is also able to offer unique insights on product interoperability that can’t always be foreseen or tested in a lab environment.

Fortunately for our community team, the opportunity to learn presents itself regularly. Questions about unique use cases and best practices are frequently posted in our discussion boards. The support engineers love it because they're learning about new things, and our customers love it because they're getting answers and learning from the shared experiences. Maintaining a strong alliance with our marketing team through these transitions also fosters new strategies for instilling community awareness in our current and future members.

The recognized success of NetApp’s industry-leading KCS program opens the door to community contributions and ultimately improving our Knowledge Base. Even when a post isn’t directly actionable in the Knowledge Base, its presence in Google and other search-engines is sufficient to drive traffic to the Community and add value to the overall experience. In fact, over 75% of the Community’s traffic comes from Google referrals.

Sometimes, information in the Knowledge Base and the Community can benefit from supplemental video content. Our knowledge team has published numerous videos highlighting popular articles, and our Community Manager has also produced videos demonstrating common tasks on our support site. Check out NetApp KB TV on YouTube to see what we’ve created!

Ensuring community content is accurate and available becomes a key factor in reducing cost-per-answer, and maintaining viability of the community is our best tactic for driving costs down. Content that is useful and relevant tends to perform better in search results. We know people are searching and better performance leads to more views from unique users, which is part of our cost-per-answer calculation.

3. What were the results? More revenue generated, a reduction of costs, improved customer experience, more innovation, etc.? Tell us how Khoros helped you achieve those results. Please include quantifiable metrics if possible.

Because the shift-left initiative necessitates a more holistic approach to improving customer satisfaction, we track a wide range of data points. These insights help us to learn more about how we can meet our customers where they need support, and not just when they need it.

Numerous improvements and features have been added to the NetApp Support Site, but those leading to automated self-service success have had the biggest effect on raising our contact ratio and CSAT scores. The latest addition to our digital support offering is the introduction of APIs for in-product support. Customers no longer have to “leave” the product to get assistance. Tasks like downloading software updates, checking entitlement, searching knowledge, or opening a case can all be done in from the same place. If you’d like to see the API in action, check out the video I recently published.

In our Knowledge Base, we’ve reduced the time to publish an article from 30 days to 0 minutes. The ability to rapidly publish articles ensures that we provide information about known issues (even new ones) as soon as possible. Additionally, our article visibility rate has gone from 65% to 94%, meaning more content is available for consumption. Both factors are critical components in building a thriving KCSv6 program like ours.



To improve the value of community, we’ve focused on ensuring responses answering the question being asked are marked as the topic’s solution. This pairs nicely with the Knowledge Base because it means these “known issues” are published immediately and can be quickly ingested by search engines. In doing so, we’ve seen topic views increase coupled with more frequent surveyed successes, which results in a reduction in contributed cost-per-answer.


As more answers were being marked, more new topics were being posted. Proving to customers that solutions are available builds trust that the community is a reliable source for information.

The community specifically is about 7x cheaper than the next closest support channel (our KB). Both of which are many times “cheaper” than operating solely in assisted support. Unfortunately, plotting this in a way that demonstrates these savings without compromising certain integrities is not something we can do in a public forum. That said, we’re seeing considerable cost reduction across our digital support platforms.

Results from these initiatives (among others) increased our overall contact ratio in April 2022 from 70:1, to 83:1 in April 2023. Cost per answer was reduced by nearly 20% in the same period, and by nearly half since 2021. We’ve also maintained CSAT scores >96% and improved our Customer Effort Score by 7% (to 88%).

As we continue to shift-left, we’re excited to see what new value we can find in the Community. We’ve got a thriving Discord community server as well, which we treat as a peer-to-peer sub-channel. Since the community is our most cost-effective solution channel, we’ll need to seek new ways to measure and grow.

We’re looking forward to FY24 and the availability of Khoros Aurora, which, no doubt, will also shape the future of the NetApp Community in the coming months!

Special Thanks: Ryan Hinchliffe - CSM, Marcial Saldana, TAM

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