The Customer Centric Model
It has been my agenda for nearly 20 years to reform an industry that is for the most part has been built upon a shifting and unreliable foundation that has always been broken and is heading for total annihilation. If you have attempted to build a business in MLM you will relate to what I am addressing.
For over a decade this vision has grown in urgency and definition to help direct a broken industry towards developing a customer based centered direct sales model. All of this was originally inspired by a maverick move towards customer acquisition by a company called Trivita. In 2001. I was introduced to this new direction in MLM by the simple statement, “just buy your customers”. I had already been engaged in the MLM industry for nearly 10 years at that time. My first exposure to MLM was in 1992 with the first to market consumer (customer) based ISP, nationwide dial up Internet access for $20 per month.
I have been an entrepreneur my whole adult life and a good portion of my teen years as well, with my first business started at the age of 14. Prior to my exposure to MLM, I was and still am a traditional business entrepreneur. Therefore to say, I found the MLM model of exclusive distribution to and consumption by distributors and only motivated to this action by pursuing profit; alien, illogical and disturbing. Let me explain:
My introduction and very successful sojourn to this day with Trivita helped me discover the stark contrast between the artificial economies of a distributor based sales company in contrast to a customer based sales company. I studied this comparison for many years and it became painfully clear, the reason traditional MLM fails, regardless of the compensation plan, regardless of the motivational speakers, regardless of the training to sell the “Hope and Dreams” as that is the only way to promote when the products and or services are frankly, always overpriced and usually underwhelmingly ineffective. There are very few exceptions. So the glaring difference I found in Trivita was the fact that for every distributor I recruited, I averaged 100 customers. Then the fact, I did not have to sell Hope and Dreams and instead, the pitch was just buy customers. The reaction from the potential distributor was always extremely positive and the close rate of a distributor was very high. When you factor in that every distributor usually meant 100 customers, the potential success was superior to anything else like it.
This was just a company that offered co-op acquisition of the leads and customers Trivita acquired via their infomercials and not much else. Even Trivita’s products lacked true demonstrability and the pricing was not very competitive. The only viable benefit regarding being customer centric was the fact you could just buy customers, that for the most part, only about 20% stayed a viable reorder over the years.
Because of this one aspect with Trivita, I have enjoyed a significant income for over 10 years with little attention, a true residual income. Over the years as a vendor to the MLM industry, occasionally getting involved with a few companies because I was promised they were going to offer customer centric solutions (all deception from short sighted pitch men). None of them ever did and in my opinion, the super majority of MLMs are run by handicapped captains, that understand the game and that being the 3 month rule. They build their businesses to inspire, motivate and separate their new distributors from as much money and contacts they can quickly. They know their business model only attracts distributors seeking some semblance of financial success therefore they lay their snares with grand claims of Hopes and Dreams. I consider it borderline criminal. Now we finally arrive to the meat of this article, that being what is a true Customer Centric direct sales company look like. Being that there really isn’t any yet, we have to go to the imagination and vision that to some part is guided by good business principles and look at some of the true customer centric businesses on the scene today.
Amazon could easily be the epitome of customer centric.
Wow. “Earth’s Most Customer-Centric Company.”
That is big, it’s bold, and it’s risky for a brand to make the promise to fulfill on that 24/7 every week of the year.
Service recovery design pays off
Of course the shopping and purchasing experience on Amazon has been exceptional for years. But what if a customer has a post-purchase problem? A big part of customer experience design is a focus on “service recovery,” or designing and refining the process when something goes wrong for the customer. Beloved brands like Zipcar know this is a critical opportunity for delivering moments of delight.
It is all about Customer Satisfaction.
The latest results from the American Customer Satisfaction Index reveals Amazon.com as the reigning and undisputed champ in both Internet retailing and across the entire department in overall customer satisfaction. Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos perhaps more than any business leader has taken the philosophy of truly caring for the customer and ushered it into the digital era. Bezos has built a company from the ground up purely based off of the unbending, unyielding philosophy of serving the customer across all departments. With a 164 million Amazon customers, few would argue Bezos as the key architect of building an authentic, customer-centric company.
Pointers from the article 7 Customer Service Lessons from Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos
1. Don’t Just Listen to Your Customers, Understand Them
Everyone has to be able to work in a call center.”
2. Serve the Needs of the Customer
“We’re not competitor obsessed, we’re customer obsessed. We start with what the customer needs and we work backwards.”
3. The Empty Chair: The Most Important Person in the Room
“Focusing on the customer makes a company more resilient.”
4. Never Settle for 99%
“We’re not satisfied until it’s 100%.”
5. Respect Today’s Customer
“If you make customers unhappy in the physical world, they might each tell six friends. If you make customers unhappy on the Internet, they can each tell 6,000.”
6. Strive to Create a Customer-Centric Company
“If we can arrange things in such a way that our interests are aligned with our customers, then in the long term that will work out really well for customers and it will work out really well for Amazon.”
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Apologize
“We will use the scar tissue from this painful mistake to help make better decisions going forward, ones that match our mission.”
Over the past nearly two decades, Amazon has held a steady pace of positive press due to their industry-altering company and great customer service. However back in 2009, the foundations of the online book mogul were shook when they remotely deleted copies of the books “1984” and “Animal Farm” from users’ Kindles. The incident prompted an outcry of Internet users to see the dark, “Big Brother” side of Amazon – one that Bezos had worked hard to steer clear of. Amazon quickly made an apology with the usual dry and inhuman statement from the press team. But what really turned people back towards Amazon, was an informal and heartfelt apology from Jeff Bezos:
From “MLM” (Network Marketing), to a sustainable Coop Customer based Marketing Platform!
Now the vision for a better kinder direct sale company
I have run MLM companies, built them, serviced them as a vendor and engaged with them as a distributor for more than 20 years. I have touched and serviced and influenced over 100 million associates over this period of time. The following is my agenda to change this industry to service the little guy and gal, offering a real solution to build a middle class sustainable income for everyone, not just millions for the elite few, we know as “leaders” in their respective company.
1. 1. A Viable and Competitive Product
First and foremost, the “company” must offer a viable product and or service that does what it says and better than any of their competitors and better yet, have a product or service that has no legitimate competition. I could go into great detail here about the MLM industry and their underwhelming and over priced products with many making spurious claims to eventually be shut down by the FDA, etc. but I won’t.
2. 2. The Virtual Warehouse
This may be putting cart before the horse. “Inspired by Amazon’s virtual warehousing” for their merchants selling in Amazon, it is time the MLM industry moves forward with a similar solution. Storing your monthly product commitment in your spare bedroom, garages or den has been the standard for decades. With today’s technology and database management abilities, there is no excuse to not move toward a virtual solution for distributors. This can be done in house by the company, or, use Amazon’s virtual warehousing that is available on a global scale.
This one upgrade to this industry will make reselling, shipping and distribution automated and easy for every distributor, regardless of location or available storage abilities. Bottom line is a doubling or greater movement of product.
3. 3. Customer and Lead coop acquisition
This is where the company marketing people run ads, campaigns, etc., driving vertically targeted prospects to an 800 number or website, acquiring quality pre enrolled prospects or customers who have purchased or at most have enrolled into an auto ship. The distributor’s contribution enhances the company’s budget and the “partnership” enhances the customer’s retention. The company also makes available to the distributor mailing lists to their “enrolled leads and customers” to assist in the continued purchases etc. It is a win win situation and is a proven technique as proven by Trivita.
4. 4. Becoming an E Retailer (automated back office shipping)
Now that the distributors have their inventory, products and samples (if applicable), online, in an offsite virtual warehouse, the process to send product or samples becomes effective and easy. As simple as logging into the back office of their respective MLM company, designating the product (pulling from existing inventory and/or auto purchasing additional inventory), quantity, and drop ship address, with a simple click, the product or sample is easily on the way, while the distributor is still talking to their prospective client, prospect or distributor on the phone. This seamless process makes the potential growth of the company and distributor 100 times greater than the typical cumbersome processes today.
5. 5. 800 telemarketing service platform
Today’s technologies not only make this proposed service affordable, but extremely effective. Typically, new distributors are assigned an ID# number. The number resides within the servers database to track sales, commissions, etc. of the distributor. Thus the hardest part is already done for an 800 sales number. [A little explanation of current tech] 800 number technology software interfaces display the originating number, or forwarded number. IE: If the distributor develops a radio commercial with a phone number (toll free or not) then forwards that number to the company 800 number, all he or she needs to do is register that number (via the back office) or calling it in. This way the telemarking operators receiving the incoming calls, know who originated the call and the orders are taken and assigned appropriately to the distributor.
It can be as simple as the distributor takes a call from an ad, the prospects decides to buy the product. The distributor can easily 3 way into the 800 platform and assist the sale. It can be as easy as an ad running offering a product with the company main toll free number offering free shipping and handling with the special pin number. It can be very easy to build.
Imagine the projected results with the distributors taking the initiative, no more need for mentors, no more lead for upline leadership, no more need for motivational events, because the motivation is found in the system and the results. Imagine!
6. 6. API (Application Programming Interface). Distributor selling on Amazon, Ebay, Alibaba, etc.
Basically, the MLM company has an API developed that interfaces with Amazon, Ebay, etc for the distributor. This allows the distributor to develop an online store on Ebay, Amazon, Alibaba, etc, driving and supporting the prospects and customers, but the sale interfaces through the company. Thereby the company controls the pricing, collects the money (connected to the distributor) and ships the product. All the collecting, shipping, tracking and commissions paid out is done by the company.
API: In computer programming, an application programming interface (API) is a set of routines, protocols, and tools for building software applications. An API expresses a software component in terms of its operations, inputs, outputs, and underlying types. Basically allows the company to remotely control pricing, merchant collection, shipping and communication via the distributors Ebay, Amazon, etc. account
More about Ebay API:
7. 7. Retail Sales Only Sites (Widgets and actuals)
Traditional MLM companies give a distributor a self-replicated web site that is upfront and focused on selling the Hopes and Dreams of the opportunity, the money, the comp plan, the hype and flash of it all, designed to recruit more distributors. This is death to a retail customer. Very few MLM companies even consider a dedicated self-replicated retail sales only site for their various products. I have yet to even hear of any companies making a simple widget that allows the distributor to have the retail site hosted via the widget on their own domains, much less the ability to add any customization to it. Below is one of the first and recent MLM retail sites I am aware of. It sells the coffee, offering one off sales or a discount and free shipping with an auto ship order.
More about widgets here:
8. 8.Social Marketing Aps and systems
Marketers, merchants, etc. need a portfolio of tools, to get the message out, to build awareness, to build a sphere of influence and to build a customer and distributor centered loyalty program. Very few people, even entrepreneurs have all the skill sets to achieve this. However, automated marketing, email auto responders, social broadcasters, coop advertising, blogging platforms, materials and videos are necessary tools for the entrepreneur. First these tools are expensive and the various costs ad up quickly. When you do not supply these types of tools in a controlled environment, the message being broadcasted may not meet the criteria of the company nor abide by regulations. There are solutions and Markethive is one of the best options. http://markethive.com Markethive supplies all of these tools and more, integrated and easily configured and controlled within the communities vertical structures built for DSA companies like yours. It is called the company Directories and within a company portal in Markethive, your distributors will find all they need; Broadcasting platforms, self-replicating personalized PDF documents, Coop advertising systems, blogging platforms, email auto responders, everything needed for marketing, in one place.
9. 9. Training and videos
I do not mean motivational speakers and cheer leading. I mean, real world training how to build the businesses. Daily classes offered by competent experienced teachers, so the distributors develop a strong understanding, expanding their customer territory and acquisition and operate like a real business.
With the accelerated market place awash in innovation and technology, technology that puts the human element right into the center of the equation, you can understand why you see the MLM industry sluggish and many companies dying on the vine and others falling flat on their faces with their much heralded launches. Entrepreneurs (distributors) that once upon a time, a flashy video, a charming pitch man, and a compelling comp plan, worked to explode the next greatest MLM launch.
It is only a matter of time a young bold, innovative entrepreneur launches the first true customer centric MLM similar to the framework I have discussed here. And when they do, the world will quake, the swamps will empty and the first multi trillion MLM enterprise will rise to stand head to toe with the great innovations today like Facebook Google, PayPal etc.
Alan Zibluk – Markethive Founding Member