Tag Archives: customer service

9 Survival Essentials For The MLM Industry

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If you’re in the MLM industry, by now you’ve undoubtedly heard of the $200 million fine the FTC just slapped on ‘once mighty’ Herbalife. I’m saying, ‘once mighty’ because this fine was very possibly the beginning of the end for Herbalife and also a wak- up call for the vast majority of the rest of the MLM and Direct Selling industry that has abused the public’s trust for so many years.

What have they done that is so naughty, you ask?

It’s simple. Basically, they just got greedy. If you want more detail…here it is:

  1. Overpriced products

  2. A faulty and misrepresented opportunity

  3. A lack of technical innovation that has resulted in a system that doesn’t meet the needs of today’s consumers or home-based entrepreneurs.

The FTC, in effect, said that Herbalife was a pyramid operation, even though they refrained from using those exact words. This was probably because they didn’t want to rock too severely an already fragile US economy but it’s clear that ‘pyramid’ was exactly what they were describing.

So, what’s the fallout going to be?

Here at Markethive, we think that Herbalife is probably ‘toast, dead meat, Big Casino, swimming with the fishes’ for all intents and purposes. Their brand will linger for a while longer but probably will never fully recover.

The sad fact is that Herbalife, and the countless other companies which operate in a similar manner, are too entrenched in the ‘old school’ MLM methodology to make the necessary changes in time to move into the new age of the home-based entrepreneur. And a lot of distributors who needed the opportunity these companies promised are going to be left with nothing but an I.O.U. for the time and money they spent.

>More and more of the public is too savvy now to fall for the ‘hopes and dreams’ MLM pitch now. That’s why the vast majority of MLM companies are losing approximately 50% of their distributors every year.  In fact, MLM companies have little if any political or social ‘capital’ left to spend not only with the public but also with regulators.

Up until now, the MLM industry has always had it’s detractors and its promoters but MLM companies, leaders, and so-called interest groups like the Direct Selling Association have been able to maintain a charade of propriety by various means. Obviously there was rot ‘below the decks’ that was never properly addressed.

But, with this latest FTC decision, the cat is officially out of the bag now and the MLM industry traditionalists need some new thinking.

In trying to learn from the past (and especially these recent events) and move into the future, the present question is: Where does the MLM and Direct Selling Industry go now and where can aspiring home-based entrepreneurs find the opportunity they seek in today’s promising but uncertain digital age?

In Markethive, we think we’ve got some answers. Here are our 9 Survival Essentials For The MLM Industry:

  1. Companies must have superlative products or services. In fact, truly next-generation MLM must be characterized by superlative products and services that have no competition in their respective market. That market supremacy will not rely strictly on price but rather on superior value. And… companies will not expect everybody to want to be ‘in the business’ but rather will have a clear retail-only distribution channel for people who have no interest in their business opportunity. Indeed, these customers might not even be aware of an opportunity. This will give stability to those who do choose the business-builder route within their respective MLM company. Example: Just because I want to drive a Chevy truck doesn’t mean I want to be pitched on buying a dealership.

    Question – How can you tell if an MLM company’s products are competitively priced?

    Answer – If their products won’t sell in the public marketplace, e.g. on eBay, for more than you, the Distributor, pays the company for them, then they are not good products and you are being ripped off. And you’re ripping off your friends who buy those products.

  2. Companies must have virtual warehouses for their distributors in order to relieve them of the burden of stockpiling inventory in their homes or garages as has often been the traditional MLM model. In fact many MLM companies still load their distributors with inventory that will never be sold. Amazon has proven that the ‘virtual warehouse’ concept works. MLM companies need to adopt the same idea. This one innovation alone will likely at least double product sales, increase distributor retention, and finally make home based MLM and Direct Selling businesses competitive with local retailers.

  3. Companies must engage in cooperative advertising and marketing with their distributors, wherein companies match advertising funds from distributors and also run ads which drive prospects and/or customers to a distributor’s 800 phone number or to the top of some other type of sales funnel. Other industries have been doing this for years. One MLM company did this in the past and was extremely successful as a result however they ceased this practice and reverted to the old-fashioned ‘hopes and dreams’ model… a move which they probably regret now as their business continues to decline. However,  MLM companies which do this correctly will enable distributors to build very successful businesses.

  4. Companies must enable their distributors to E-retail. Once the virtual warehouse function is set up a distributor, companies must give them an online interface whereby they can log into their ‘business center’ and perform any desired marketing or business management function, i.e. send samples, fill and ship product orders, and reorder inventory…all while simultaneously carrying on a live text or voice conversation with a customer or prospect. This contributes tremendously towards removing the unprofitable burden of back-office paper pushing from the distributor and enables him/her to focus on bonding with the client or prospect.

  5. Companies must provide a robust 800 phone number telemarketing platform. This is an affordable and very effective marketing tool which starts with distributor getting an ID# from the company. The ID# resides on company servers and is used for all manner of tracking. The operator talking to the customer or prospect may or may not be the distributor but the operator interface displays the source of the call. The stimulus for the call could be any type of media ad, event, or call to action. Operators receive and handle the calls and have the ability to make notes on the account, forward the call, or 3-way the call as appropriate.

  6. Companies must use API’s (Application Programming Interface) to enable their distributors to establish a smooth presence on online stores. This is where they can ´meet’ the customer when they shop on eBay, Amazon, Alibaba, or any of the large number of ecommerce sites that are popping up today. In the past, MLM companies have ignored the advice of qualified experts and have resisted authorization of API use by their distributors, claiming they (the companies) would lose control of prices and selling policy. In fact, properly constructed API’s do allow the company the control they are unnecessarily worried about.

  7. Companies must develop, allow, and encourage a robust retail presence, in the form of retail-only websites for distributors. One of the FTC’s specific complaints concerning Herbalife was that Herbalife did not actively encourage retail sales by their distributors. Thus contributing to the fact that Herbalife had almost no retail sales. Instead, Herbalife and other MLM companies have insisted on cramming ‘Hopes and Dreams’ propaganda about their worthless opportunities onto distributor sites. And they wonder why they don’t have many retail sales. This is a huge ‘turn-off’ to many retail customers. To reiterate, legitimate business retail product irrespective of ‘ownership’ (or pseudo-ownership) opportunities. And they don’t distract buyers with money in their hands with ‘a great opportunity’.

    NB: here is it also noteworthy that no current MLM company encourages their distributors to build their own database of customers… which any smart distributor should do. Some companies even expressly prohibit it.

  8. MLM companies need to provide the marketing systems for their distributors to win in today’s modern digital marketplace. This includes such items as autoresponders, social broadcasters, social media tools, conference rooms, blogs and other publishing platforms, brandable and replicable PDF’s, video marketing platforms and tools, co-op advertising support and software, and (of course) high-quality training. No MLM company, other than the emerging joint venture between Valentus and Markethive, have even attempted to do this.

  9. Because business is competitive and technology is rapidly evolving, MLM’s need to provide constant, quality, live and archived video training. A few MLM companies have attempted to do this but the overwhelming majority of that training has been mostly motivational ‘hopes and dreams BS’ rather than information which actually enables a distributor to win in the marketplace.

Final Thoughts and Summary

A look across the MLM and Direct Sales landscape today reveals a dismal scene of the majority of companies hooked, like an addict, into Old School methodology and philosophy which did work briefly in the early days of the industry but in fact no longer does. It’s clear that the reputation of the MLM industry has gotten worse and not better.

Even worse, the landscape is littered with battered and broken dreams and self-images…interspersed with the crafty, grinning, minority who have made huge fortunes in MLM at the expense of not just the aforementioned X-distributors but also millions of consumers who did not get the product and/or service they deserved.

There are two companies, Valentus and Markethive, who believe this situation needs to change and are doing something about it. Valentus has a great tasting, weight-loss coffee that’s very reasonably priced, a strong retail reorder rate of 80%, and an excellent compensation program. Matter of fact, experts agree that Valentus is currently entering momentum.

The other half of this unique equation is Markethive, an innovative inbound marketing platform, free for all. Markethive is supported by advertising…similar to Facebook or YouTube and is actually better than similar platforms from better known and longer established companies like Hubspot and Pardot which start at $200 and rapidly escalate into thousands of dollars per month.

Markethive’s platform is rapidly becoming the new ‘Platinum Standard’ automated marketing system of choice for home-based entrepreneurs and is perfect for almost any business.

Just coincidentally, (some would say, ‘by fate’) the principals of these two companies (Dave Jordan, CEO of Valentus and Tom Prendergast, CEO of Markethive), share a common vision for a New Age of The Entrepreneur and the contribution that their respective companies can bring to the MLM industry.

For more information on anything discussed in this article, or to get involved in the discussion yourself, you are encouraged to register for a free Markethive membership, here. If you are an aspiring or disgruntled home-based entrepreneur looking for a great opportunity, click here. Or….if you just love great coffee and/or want to lose some weight, click here.

 

Art Williams
Markethive Developer and Case Study Writer

 

 

MarketHive

10 Steps to World-Class Customer Service

Because the business world is presently entrenched in a too-many-suppliers-chasing-too-few-spending-customers death spiral, there has been a renaissance in Business Media about Customer Service. This proves, in one fell swoop that every cloud does indeed have a silver lining. However, what is often overlooked (and what is certainly being overlooked at present) is that great customer service, like charity, begins at home.

word class customer service

The critical component in any Customer-centric strategy is your people, they are the point of delivery, where ‘the rubber meets the road’ as it were. So in order to make customers happy, we must first ensure our people are happy, demotivated employees make lousy brand ambassadors, highly motivated and enthused employees will provide a sustainable strategic edge (no mean feat in a world where differentials are eroded hourly). Consequently, leaders should make it their business to ensure that the troops are fed, watered and enthused.

So, assuming that we have good systems and processes in place for firing up our people, what about the customers themselves? Who are they, where are they? what do they like? what are they like? Do you have internal as well as external ones (we have written about the internal supply chain before, often hugely overlooked and a must-have component in any customer service strategy).

Much has been written about ‘under-promise and over-deliver’ and, whilst it has merits, it can be dangerous because it can lead companies to assume they know what the customer wants and assume the customer will be delighted when we exceed that expectation – this is not always the case. As a default, keep your promises, do what you said you would do, when you said you would do it and do it with the minimum of fuss and hassle to the customer – that will be enough.

So how to provide world-class customer service? Follow the 10 steps below and you will not be far off;

1. Take the customer seriously. He is always right, especially when he’s wrong! He is right about how he feels and he is right in that he can leave your premises and tell the world and his wife that you and your company suck, so – take the customer very seriously!

2. Communicate, communicate, communicate. If things have gone wrong say so. Do not lie (this is insulting and sends a message you do not want to send). It insults your customer’s intelligence. Customers understand that people make mistakes, they do not expect you to be perfect, they expect you to care when you screw up..

3. When things go wrong, do not despair, complaints are gifts. Customers are so used to flawless service now it is taken as standard. When things go wrong your responses may be the only chance you will get to show just how special you are. I will say again, A complaint is a gift – treat it as such.

4. Be available, if you cannot deal with someone immediately at least acknowledge them immediately. People do not mind waiting, what frustrates them is feeling ignored.

5. Respect – should be a given, often (in a depressingly large number of cases) isn’t.

6. Listen don’t talk. Do not assume you know what the customer wants and do not answer them from your own perspective. The solution that will work in the long-term is the solution the customer wants, not the one you do.

7. Know your stuff. It is not acceptable to be ignorant in front of a customer. All staff who are customer facing (and that includes those on telephones) must know their products and services and where and how to route a call and when (and this is so much better) to ‘own’ the problem themselves.

8. Quality and value – Both are very important, both are hugely subjective and both are determined in the customer’s brain. Taking the time and trouble to know the customer and to listen to him really pays off here. The world is full of companies giving ‘added-value-solutions’, many of them are giving added-cost-non-solutions since their interventions cost them money and if they haven’t taken the time to listen to the authentic voice of the customer, will almost always not be perceived as either quality or value because they do not address the specific problem the customer has in mind.

9. Treat as you would be treated. Courtesy, respect and appreciation are the bare minimum. Many customer service staff complain that customers do not respect them. Remember that respect, like love, has to be given away before it can be received. No customer will ever respect us until and unless we respect them first.

10. My word is my bond. Give staff the power and authority to deal with a customer’s problem. The ownership belongs with the person taking the call, they should be allowed to provide a fix. If the staff member always says “I’ll have to ask my boss” the customer will get frustrated and want to deal just with the boss. Have the faith and confidence in your staff and your products & services that you can trust them both and that you will stand behind them and back them. THEN you will have the basics for world-class customer-service and world class customers.

If you believe that my message is worth spreading, please use the share buttons if they show at the top of the page.

Stephen Hodgkiss
Chief Engineer at MarketHive

markethive.com


 

MarketHive

25 Creative Ways To Improve Internet Customer Service

Consider the competitive advantages of an online retailer. Customer service is usually not the first thing that comes to mind, right?. Many eCommerce websites, even the large well-known store, are infamous for impersonal, mediocre customer service practices. And yet, the few internet retailers that differentiate themselves on service become well-known case studies in client care. In this article, I’ll share some of the best-practices I’ve seen over the years that serve to differentiate companies on customer service.

Upgrade Your CRM Tools: Proper technology can go a long way to improving customer care. At the very least, ensure that your staff has the ability to view the history of previous interactions with a customer. It’s very frustrating when you have to repeatedly explain the situation to a representative.

Hand-written thank you on Packing Slip: Most packing slips are dull, impersonal, and useful only if you need to return the merchandise. On rare occasions, I’ve received orders where the packing list featured a hand-written, personalized thank you from a staff member. While this may not be practical for every order, it is a great way to impress select customers. Another idea might be to include the business card with contact info for a manager.

Assign Personal Customer Service Reps: Along with the order confirmation receipt that you send to your customers, also automatically assign each customer a personal representative that will field their questions. Send the email from this representative’s name, and include their contact info. Customers will be impressed that they have a “personal” representative assign specifically to them.

Call Customers Who Abandon Orders: When a customer starts an order but doesn’t finish it, follow up with a phone call to find out if there were any problems. Customers appreciate the gesture, and you will likely save many sales in the process.

Follow Up Surveys: Consider sending a survey email out with every order confirmation. While not every customer will complete it, your customers will know you care enough to ask their opinion.
Extensive FAQ Knowledge Base: Surprisingly, one of the easiest ways to improve your customer satisfaction may be to prevent needless customer interactions in the first place. No matter how friendly your call center representative, no customer will be pleased if they have to call you in order to answer a simple question like “how do I return a product?” Prevent situations like this by maintaining a searchable FAQ knowledge base that answers every reasonable question.

Live Chat: Many customers dislike the thought of sitting on hold for even a few minutes. Offering a live chat option can be an inexpensive way of answering questions for your visitors, and reducing the call volume for your call center.  Improve

After Hour Call Center: If your business employs a 3rd party after hour call center that is off-site, make sure you frequently monitor the quality of care they are rendering. Make sure they are empowered to serve your customers as effectively as possible. If your primary call center is 3rd party, seriously consider bringing it in house. While this is not always the most affordable option, it’s necessary if you desire to give your clients your absolute best.

Free Upgraded Shipping: Surprise select customers by upgrading their shipping to 1 or 2 express. If you do this, be sure to send them an email letting them know they have been upgraded. This strategy was pioneered by Zappos.

Same Day Shipping: Most websites have a policy of shipping orders 1 or 2 business days after they are placed. If possible, selectively ship some orders the same day. The speedy delivery will be appreciated, though not expected by your customers.

Prominent Customer Testimonials: Place customer testimonials on more than just the “testimonial” page. Zappos features them right on their main customer service page. A word of caution applies here though. If you’re going to “brag” so to speak about your service, make sure you follow through!

Human Touch: Many online shoppers struggle with trusting an online merchant due to the lack of face to face interaction. Mitigate this weakness by showing pictures of your customer service staff.  Christian retailer C28 shows the picture of their customer service manager on the Help page as well as on every order confirmation email. In addition, below the picture is the manager’s direct contact info. Something like this can go a long way to instill trust in your company.

Detailed Product Pages: Answer questions before they are asked by always having thoroughly detailed product pages. Include all the relevant info a customer would want to know about your products. For more ideas on this topic, checkout my previous post on 25 ways to improve your product page.

Automatic Price Protection: Always honor sale prices of items that were previously purchased by customers. They need to be able to shop with this confidence. Better yet, automatically notify customers when items they have purchased in the past go on sale. Offer to apply the price difference toward a future purchase or just refund the amount. Sound crazy? Maybe, but it’s small cost that can win a customer for life.

Lenient Return Policy: Make sure your return policy is not unnecessarily complicated or rigid. How many times have you shopped at a certain retailer because their lenient return policy gave you the confidence you needed to buy? (Think Costco vs. Walmart!)

Thank You Calls: Call select customers and thank them for ordering. This personalized gesture will blow them away.

Thank You Emails: Email certain customers and thank them for their business. Be sure to include something personalized in the email that will convince them it’s not just something generic sent to everyone.

Do More than Fix Your Mistakes: When your business makes a mistake, be sure that you exceed your customer’s expectations when fixing it. If an item was mistakenly left out of a shipment, don’t just a apologize, offer that item for free. Many businesses find their most loyal customers result from a highly satisfying resolution to a problem.

Fix Other’s Mistakes: If a shipment is delayed or lost due to the fault of the shipping carrier, don’t just blame UPS, offer a solution. Offer to promptly re-ship the item, or at the very least, offer to take care of the problem with the carrier so the customer doesn’t have to.

Guaranteed Email Response Time: Most customers expect an email inquiry to be answered within at most 24 hours. If you can, guarantee a response time faster than this. Also, acknowledge the receipt of an email inquiry by employing an auto responder.

Secret Shopping: Used extensively by brick-and-mortar retailers, secret shopping is a great way to identify problems and keep your customer service staff on their toes.

Customer Centric Slogan: Show your dedication to customer care by prominently featuring a customer centered slogan that summarizes your company’s practices. A great example of this would be Zappos’ famous slogan on their home page: “We are a service company that happens to sell shoes.”

Free Return Shipping: One of the greatest stumbling blocks to online ordering is the thought of having to return the product. Consider sending customers a pre-paid return shipping label in the case of a product needing to be returned. Because this is rarely done by e-commerce stores, you will certainly set yourself apart in the mind of your customer.

Personalize Everything: Always great customers by name on the home page, and offer them personalized product recommendations based on previous orders.

Increase Number of Service Reps: It goes without saying that if you have a higher representative to customer ratio, you will have the time to better serve your clients. While not every business can afford this, if you want to differentiate yourself with outstanding customer service, it’s a must.

I once heard it said that “the enemy of good is not bad, it’s mediocre.” Too many online retailers struggle with mediocre customer service. Many businesses fail to realize their customer base is also powerful marketing machine. If treated right, they can become to most effective viral marketing campaign imaginable. Treated poorly, and they can become a PR disaster.

If you believe that my message is worth spreading, please use the share buttons if they show at the top of the page.

Stephen Hodgkiss
Chief Engineer at MarketHive

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MarketHive

3 Benefits to Delivering a Good Customer Experience

Delivering a good Customer Experience is all the buzz lately. It’s discussed in all fields of business and is the topic of many a staff meeting and board of director’s meeting. But is there really a good understanding of what it is all about? The benefits of designing and crafting a good experience are vague to some teams. So, why, other than it seems to be the latest business “should do” are we striving for that good experience?

customer service and satisfaction

Increased Profits

Let’s face it, when you create an experience that your customer truly enjoys – they’ll pay you for it. Are you aware that 70% of your lost customers left ONLY because the experience provided by someone on your team was lacking? Someone treated them rudely, with indifference, or just merely pushed them through the system in your company? It has nothing to do with the product or service you provide or the price you charge.

Customers are willing to pay more for a product or service that they fully realize is not the best available simply because they know they will receive better treatment and customer service. Are you prepared to continue to lose customers and revenue dollars by continuing with business as normal?

Customer Engagement

Engaged customers are your best customers. These are the ones that view you and your business as partners and a resource for their needs. People do business with those that they know, like, and trust. By providing a good customer experience each and every time they do business with you, your customers will become more and more engaged with your business. They’ll know what to expect and be pleasantly impressed when they feel that you are actively working with them to solve their problems.

They’ll trust you. They’ll share their ideas with you and give you candid feedback as to what it will take to keep their business. They’ll share with you what they want to see you provide and what they really don’t care for in the way you do business. When you’ve gained the trust of your customers by working in their best interest, you’ve know taken the relationship to the next level.

Customer Loyalty

When you give your customers the memorable experience they are craving, they’ll return to you time and time again and you’ll become their sole resource for the product or service you provide. Today’s consumer wants to find a resource they can stay with over a long period of time. With the instant gratification gains in today’s fast moving world, they don’t want to waste time and energy shopping around. They want to find a business that values them, their business, and will do whatever it takes to gain their repeat business. As soon as today’s customer finds that, they will stay loyal for as long as that business is willing to create the experience that centers around them and works to earn their business time after time after time.

Customer loyalty is really another word for continued revenue stream. Suppose you are the owner of a local grocery store and I walk in your doors and spend $ 100 per week in your store. Do you see me as just a $100 customer, or the customer that could spend $ 400 per month, $ 5000 per year? Or, to take it to a reasonable long term loyalty example… If I live in the same neighborhood that is close to your store for 20 years, you stand to earn $ 5000 for each of those 20 years. Now I’m a $100,000 customer. If you treat me well, smile at me, show me where the products are that I need, engage in small talk while I’m making my purchase, and thank me for my business, chances are I’ll return to your store again.

It All Comes Full Circle

When you create that experience that is different than what your competition delivers, people notice. When you create that experience that is BETTER than what your competition delivers, customers will come back for more. They’ll pay you to treat them well and make them feel good. They’ll trust you and engage with your company and team. You won’t be viewed as a commodity provider, but as a partner with a relationship that is working to make the lives of your customers easier and better by solving their problems. They’ll reward you by not even thinking of going anywhere else and giving you their loyalty for as long as you are willing to work to keep it.

If you believe that my message is worth spreading, please use the share buttons if they show at the top of the page.

Stephen Hodgkiss
Chief Engineer at MarketHive

markethive.com


 

MarketHive