Follow Herbalife Nutrition’s Lead: How to Optimize the Consumer Experience with Evolving Tech

contact center graphic

Human connection is the driving force behind most business models, but even the most empathetic organization can fall short on nurturing consumer relationships. If the organization lacks the infrastructure to support growth to meet ever-changing expectations, there’s a disconnect. 

Herbalife Nutrition, a dietary supplement company in 95 markets with a network of 4.5 million independent distributors and members, realized it could no longer invest in siloed efforts. Instead, the company consolidated its disparate systems to benefit from global opportunities. 

How can CGs and retailers move the needle of their own business? Hear tried-and-true tactics for optimizing the consumer experience with evolving tech that allows brands to provide the best service for end-consumers, distributors and everyone in between — all while supporting rapid expansion. 

In this conversation with an Herbalife Nutrition executive, learn how a global cloud contact solution can help businesses scale their growth to elevate the consumer experience. Read the webinar transcript below.

Albert Guffanti: Hello, welcome to our webinar today, “How Herbalife Nutrition Improves the Consumer Experience Across Digital and Voice Channels.” I'm Albert Guffanti, the publisher of CGT and RIS. I'm thrilled to bring this discussion to you today because it's a discussion that many of you are trying to understand – how to move forward with getting closer to the consumer as you’re grappling with how to scale your strategy. 

Herbalife Nutrition is a fascinating company that develops and sells dietary supplements in 95 countries through a network of approximately 4.5 million independent distributors and members. They rely on, and have perfected over time, their direct-to-consumer strategy. Now, they're looking at, and have begun to, move the needle on how to optimize those networks into a cloud-based platform.

We have a fascinating story to tell today. Sure, we're talking about call centers as well as digital and voice channels, but ultimately, what we're discussing today is how to connect with customers and consumers in real-time. This is also a story about how to proactively serve customers, how to reduce the cost to serve and scale operations, and how to innovate very quickly. It's a technology story, but it's also a story about how to identify who your consumers are and how best to serve them.

Before I go any further, I'd like to introduce our expert panel, starting with Josh Haddock, director of contact center technology at Herbalife Nutrition. Also, we have Justin Honaman, head of worldwide consumer products at AWS. And we have Charlie Godfrey, senior director of strategic business consulting, intelligent CX journeys at Genesys. I want to start off by having each of you introduce yourself, give a bit about your background, and tell us how your role focuses on the topic at hand for today's webinar. Josh, you’re the star of today’s show, why don't we start with you? 

Webinar Slide: Speakers
Webinar Slide: Speakers

Josh Haddock: Happy to be here. I've been working in the contact center space for over 20 years now. It is a passion of mine, with consumer and customer experience being a key factor in that, as we know. I’m happy to join to talk about my experience, and what we're doing here at Herbalife Nutrition. 

Justin Honaman: Hey, Justin Honaman. I lead the worldwide food and beverage team here at AWS. I work day in and day out with brands such as Herbalife Nutrition to focus on the consumer and the experience they're having with that brand — whether it be in contact center, as we're talking about today, e-commerce, in-store with CPG brand retail partners or other. My job is to connect the dots between what my customers need, what their customers need, and then what we can bring from a broader Amazon perspective, even through our partners. You’re going to hear about our partners today too. 

Charlie Godfrey: My name is Charlie Godfrey, senior director at strategic business consulting at Genesys. My role at Genesys is to work with customers like Josh to frame up the customer experience, even the employee experience. Albert, I loved what you said in the beginning, it's about technology, but it's about the people. For us at Genesys, it's about working with our leaders and other companies across the world to tie those two things together. 

Guffanti: What I'd like to do is take a step back and look at things from a high level, then get to the meat of the story. Justin, can you walk us through some of the things that you're seeing in terms of industry trends that pertain to what we're discussing today?

Honaman: Everyone here is going to appreciate the story from Herbalife Nutrition around the contact center. Stepping back from it and looking across our portfolio of customers globally and the contact center, it’s not new, but there's more energy around it than there's been in years. Technology has evolved the need for it in a way that's different from how most CPG brands originally looked at contact centers. The e-commerce space has blown up, and so, if you put all these together, there's a reinvention and renewed energy around this solution space. Here's a couple key areas to highlight.

Webinar Slide: Digital Route to Market
Webinar Slide: Digital Route to Market

Let’s begin with e-commerce. There are consumers that want to call in to place an order, for issues with an order, or for product information on items actually being sold to those consumers. There’s a whole ecosystem now of serving that consumer, which includes contact centers like it never had in the past. 

Think about the end retailers for a moment, many mom-and-pop stores still call in orders today. In fact, some brands still take faxes. It sounds crazy, but it's true. Some of those individual retail stores still place orders through the phone and other mechanisms, such as email, fax, etc. The contact center is important there. 

Equipment placement or equipment outages — think about a broken cooler in a store, who do I call? I can't wait for my beverage person to walk in the door again, I need to call and get this fixed right away — what’s that use case? Think about the route driver doing direct store delivery with products to stores. If they've got issues with equipment, the retailer, or where they're delivering, that's another use case. You could keep going down the line, even to the point of manufacturing, distribution, and closing the loop back to corporate as was mentioned earlier with employees. 

Contact center technology is front-and-center again, it's a big part of the old concept of CRM and serving customers. Today, you're going to hear how Herbalife Nutrition has taken six contact centers and optimized those in a way that leverages new technology with a focus on the end customer. 

Webinar Slide: Contact Center Modernization
Webinar Slide: Contact Center Modernization

Guffanti: That was a great background on the broader issues behind call centers and so on, zeroing in on contact center modernization and all the things that it actually supports. Josh, can you share a bit of background on Herbalife Nutrition as a company, how you wound up with the distribution model that you have now, and how that led you to optimize your call center strategy?

Haddock: Herbalife Nutrition is a premier nutrition company, which makes high-quality, science-backed products. In addition to the products that we create, the main mission, and something that's very important about our business model, is our ability to connect with customers — that's what we use the distributor model for. As you mentioned, we have millions of distributors worldwide — they’re trained, educated, and the independent distributor model that we've deployed allows distributors to make connections to their customers.

It’s not about selling products, it's about coaching activities, challenges, and being a part of the community through nutrition clubs. All these things wrap into a bundle that puts customers in a position to be successful and meet their nutrition and wellness goals. That's why this is so important, and why it's so important with the contact centers as well — human connection is a driving factor in the business model and is key to our success. It's been proven over and over again, and we're always looking for ways to improve that.

Guffanti: For the audience, when you say customers, who are they? How do you define them?

Haddock: Our independent distributors meet and make sales to customers — usually through face-to-face human connection — we have small fitness clubs called Nutrition Clubs that they can run. It's a face-to-face selling model. A distributor may start out with some personal health and wellness goals, purchase some product for themselves or their family, and that might be good enough for them — they meet their goals and their focus. 

Those who want to make a business out of it will go ahead, go out and meet new customers, build groups and communities, and start at that path. That's why I talk about how they're trained and educated, because it's not just about understanding the ingredients on a product and what it can do, it's about helping them build a plan, coaching them, following up, working with them together on it.

Honaman: Can you talk about where this fits into your role? I'll call it a customer engagement strategy or CRM strategy. What do you think about customer engagement and how contact centers start to play in that?

Haddock: Let's say it’s two tiers. Our distributors or sales team, they're independent sales teams and they're worldwide. From a corporate standpoint, although we do have interactions with some customers, the majority of our interactions are with distributors. 

“We need to give distributors everything they need to be successful — tools, support, service, etc. — but also education and sometimes a pep talk.”
— Joshua Haddock, Direct, Global Contact Center Technology, Herbalife Nutrition

They're out there on the streets meeting customers, working with them, making sales, and we want to support them. That's why connection to distributors is so important. They're not placing an order for stock, they place a call or a chat to hear about the new flavor or product. What are you hearing from other distributors? Is this selling good? What are people thinking about it in my particular market? 

We're in 95 markets worldwide with agents spread out over the world as well. We want that human connection to the local markets, to hear them talking to an agent and hear what's going on in that area. That's where we try to build that connection.

Guffanti: The Consumer Goods Technology and Retail Information Systems audience base is quite broad. They're brands and retailers that manufacture and sell many different types of products, and are always looking for new ways to engage, new ways to scale and grow regional distribution. It's fascinating to hear your story and how it might apply in other kinds of products, services, and retail environments. 

Before we get into the actual nuts and bolts technology, I'm curious how you tie it all together. You have many different distributors and members all over the world, how do you keep control of it all, and how do you optimize the relationship with them all?

Haddock: It's quite a task and it's not just a contact center. We not only have services that we offer distributors, but we also have yearly events, quarterly events, where we bring distributorships together. We share with them what we're doing in the company and we listen. 

“The biggest part of our success with our distributorship is listening. We have distributors on panels that give us feedback, they tell us what's changing in the market, what they need, and what they are going to help make their businesses successful. In turn, we review that data and work to try to bring those services to market as quickly as possible.”
— Joshua Haddock, Direct, Global Contact Center Technology, Herbalife Nutrition

That could be something as simple as everyone in my area wants to use chat, a messenger service, or whatnot, and we don't want calls. They want to be able to send a messenger or WhatsApp message to place an order or ask a question. Other markets are more voice-centric. 

All over the world infrastructure is different and every community has different needs and wants. We try to tailor to all of them and get that out. Listening is a big part — you're going to hear it over and over again. It's back to connection whether at the contact center, distribution center, or even through events or meetings with our distributorships to understand what they're seeing in the market and what is going to be the most helpful to help customers meet their goals.

Honaman: It's helpful that you set some of the framework of the business so that we all understand that. Let’s pivot toward the main question, which is: with six contact centers serving these customers, what was the business problem you were solving, optimizing, and modernizing? What were the challenges you were facing or opportunities you saw in making an upgraded change?

Haddock: Doing business in 95 markets 10 years ago before solutions, such as a contact center-as-a-service was available, there were a lot of on-premise environments, hardware, and software releases. These are big challenges that we had to take on. 

The challenge with the different platforms around the world was that we were spending so much time focusing on release management, hardware upgrades, software upgrades — all this sort of thing that we were losing the opportunity to focus on new features, new services, and being agile to meet our distributors and customers needs. 

That was the biggest challenge that we were facing, and we were looking for a solution to that. That's where going to a single unified platform was one of many key reasons why it was important to us.

Guffanti: You discussed the importance of listening. We certainly see that in every conversation we have, such as how to develop an empathetic organization, which is not an easy thing. It takes the right culture, the right infrastructure, but it also takes the right technology. Charlie, how does technology play a role in helping companies like Herbalife Nutrition better listen to stakeholders?

Godfrey: One thing I always say is that delivering empathy into every interaction is part of our DNA, it's part of our R&D.

“The idea of centralizing data and AI channels to be able to orchestrate these empathetic experiences, gives us a new opportunity to bring this together and listen at scale through a federated data layer.”
— Charlie Godfrey, Director of Strategic Business Consulting, Genesys

We can listen to people all over the world, then use AI to turn that into understanding and prediction of the right action to take in order to fulfill their needs. It's great to think about how technology can bridge the gap and do what we do inherently as humans — those foundational elements of listening, understanding, and giving the right response.

Honaman: Josh, you have a partner here, Charlie, to talk about collecting and listening to business requirements. Can you share some of the technical requirements that talk about the process you went through to make an evaluation selection of a partner in this space?

Haddock: We talked a little bit about having disparate systems all over the world and the challenge with that. When we decided that the cloud contact center had matured to a point that could support us on a global level, we did an extensive RFP, which was 12 months and did a review on products. 

A lot of time was spent and there were a couple key deciding factors that helped us make the decision. The first being partnership. We knew we were not going to be an easy customer — we're complex, have data protection laws in some countries, privacy laws in other countries, telecom carriers lobbying unique laws in other countries — we knew we needed a partner to help us through. 

We didn't want to purchase a product that would only meet our needs on a technical level, we needed a partner that cared about our success as well. That was a big deciding factor. 

The second being that there are a lot of great products out there, but there's no glass slipper, no perfect fit. We're all evolving and maturing, but we wanted to find the best fit for us. This was one of the first true, unified platforms. When I say unified, I mean all of the applications are in a single platform. 

There was very little integration needed, it ran right out of the box — workforce, quality, voice, non-voice channels, the chat messenger, all unified in a single platform, single administration tools, and single engineering.

That was a huge win for us because when discussing the disparate systems and moving to cloud or unified, we care about speed of delivery.

“In our current model, it was taking too long to launch new features because we had all these different systems to work with between the hardware and software refreshes. We also had to have all these separate projects to deploy a feature — we needed to be able to deploy one feature to the whole world.”
— Joshua Haddock, Direct, Global Contact Center Technology, Herbalife Nutrition

Previously, we had to do multiple projects. Now, on a unified platform, we deploy one feature as a single project, which has seen a 60% decrease in the time it takes to deploy something new to the market. In about one-third of the time, we can deploy globally, which was a huge win.

Guffanti: Before we go further, there’s a question that has to do with the supply chain. Developing a call center, we hear throughout the industry about on-shelf availability, low inventory visibility, etc., especially over the last couple of years. How does your call center infrastructure tie to your supply chain and fulfillment operation? How does that all work together?

Haddock: It's pretty straightforward. Moving to a SaaS solution across contact centers, where it reduces the amount of hardware or equipment needed to purchase on site made it very easy. The supply chain challenges we face with today’s current conditions, haven't impacted the speed of deployment for this project. We've been able to focus on it a lot. 

There are a couple small countries around the world that have unique situations which require a bit of hardware, but it hasn't impacted our timeline or delivery dates. Whereas, other equipment that was purchased for other projects have had challenges. Things that used to be built in 30 days are now sometimes 90 days. Then, if a country has to unexpectedly shutdown the entire project, it’s put on hold until that shutdown is reopened. It’s definitely a big win, which made things easy and allowed us to stay on track.

Guffanti: Earlier, you reference privacy and having six contact centers all over the world. Then, just a moment ago, mentioned the large number of requirements that went into your RFP. How did you go about gathering those and coalescing those into the most important? Can you share two or three of the key things you had to have, whether it be flexibility and capability, or specific capability by country. Can you share a little bit about those nuances with us?

Haddock: There was a completely unified platform and all those modules within that platform already met most of our needs, then the second piece was the partnership. We knew we were going to have some “problem childs” around the world. We wanted a partner that was not selling a product and telling us we can do it on our own, but digging in and saying, “look into those laws now.” 

The last piece was around security.

“One of our main initiatives is PCI certification and proper protection of payments through our contact centers. A lot of platforms offer some solution or another, but what we loved about Genesys was it was all built-in and easy to turn on — it was literally a button.”
— Joshua Haddock, Direct, Global Contact Center Technology, Herbalife Nutrition

Then, you build applications in a PCI-certified environment. It took a lot of weight off of my shoulders because I was able to easily go to my auditor and show that this is fine, this is easy. The OC document attestation of certification was great, so we were able to fast-track a lot of the certification and annual auditing to ensure we're protecting our consumer's data. Being able to do that globally, quickly and easily was a big win for us.

Guffanti: We’re touching on a lot of buzz words that everyone in the industry is trying to figure out: agility, flexibility, scalability, scaling globally. The question on supply chain was about connecting all the enterprises. Charlie, from your perspective what are some of the best practices and wins that you saw as part of this project?

Godfrey: There's a few things. Josh has done a great job utilizing the platform, taking it in and internalizing it, making it his service. There were a couple things that Josh said that jumped out. Data security is very important to everyone, including us. 

Back to the supply chain, what is that balance between data security and data utilization? The one thing around the supply chain, especially direct-to-consumer relationships, is where's my order? Where's my stuff? Everybody's thinking about that, it’s an excellent use case for where is the status of the order? “Here comes Charlie calling in, he's probably calling about his order. Let me see if that's what he's calling about and give him the information automatically.”

 It’s actually a great experience for me and the lowest cost for a business. People are taking that customer-centric approach to meet the customer where they need to be met. 

“For the supply chain, a lot of things are delayed. People are elevating the, ‘where's my stuff and when can I get it,’ proactively setting expectations and then reactively giving them information is a great way to tie it all together.”
— Charlie Godfrey, Director of Strategic Business Consulting, Genesys

Honaman: So, where are you now, with the deployment, Josh? Talk a little bit about that. You made a selection based on different criteria, what would it look like those first couple of weeks and months post election?

Haddock: We're currently finishing up the first phase of deployment — 95 countries is a lot to take on, but we’ve done two of the larger markets in North and Central America. Just to give an example on the speed of delivery, the last time we did a major contact center transformation in those two markets, it was a two year project — one year for each of those countries. Those being our largest, most complex and difficult markets, this time we were able to do both in nine months. 

Now, moving into phase two, we're accelerating quickly. We're on target to do 15-20 markets this year, and the remaining in 2023. There's other things we’re doing as well, consolidating markets where it makes sense and things like that.

“We’re happy with the learning curve of the product. The engineering team and development teams went to get trained and certified. We were pleased with how quickly they were able to learn the platform and become subject matter experts, which is important. When it comes to key takeaways for RFP, that was something we looked at: each platform's knowledge portals.”
— Joshua Haddock, Direct, Global Contact Center Technology, Herbalife Nutrition

We asked for access to them early, even though we weren't customers yet because we wanted to understand post go-live: how difficult it would be for us to help ourselves, would everything be a support ticket or professional services discussion, etc. Those types of things made it better for us. 

Quickly, when Charlie talks about supply chain, that predictive engagement is important as well. We're in the process of piloting that now, so I can give a lot of personal experience on the success of it. We want to recognize if they were online and took an amount of time on an ordering page, on a portal, or researching a product. Then, they chat or call us. We want to recognize that and immediately help them for that reason. 

I can't stress how cool it is when that happens. I call a lot of contact centers and geek out on this stuff, but even people who aren't quite as into it as I am share how great of an experience that is, “I didn't have to press a bunch of menus or go through something, it just gets me to where I'm at.” That's important.

The last item is self-service. Some customers might be shy about self-service because they figure customer's will be upset or feel they’re being pushed away, and whatnot. We're looking at interesting ways for exposure to self-service without forcing them. One of those is called “NQ Flow,” where self-service is offered while waiting on hold. 

When they’re in a queue, we can figure out if they’re trying to talk to a customer service representative, then say, "Would you like to listen to your current volume points? Was it an account balance or would you like us to text you your tracking number for your last order?" 

We can offer those options while they wait, which eases the groups of demographics which aren't interested in self-service. There’s another group of demographics that are upset if they don't get self-service first, so we try to serve what our distributors want.

Godfrey: Josh, the fact that it's not one size fits all —it's personalized, tailored to the experience and what you know about that person. Everyone thinks about the project timeline and the work that goes into that as a deliverable. The guys on your team are moving from tasks — death by a thousand cuts kind of stuff — to innovation, transformational tasks. All of a sudden, the way they feel about their role has changed, even yourself.

“The way you think of what you can do for the company and how fast you can do it has changed. That's what I find exciting about people's move to the cloud.”
— Charlie Godfrey, Director of Strategic Business Consulting, Genesys

Honaman: Josh, what results have you seen thus far when you think about benefits? I'm sure when you put the business case together for this, there were some cost savings, maybe it moved faster, increased sales. Have you seen anything yet as you're deploying? What does that look like?

Haddock: We're just scratching the service. Two out of nearly 50 locations have been migrated and live for a couple months now. There’s been much more stability than we had before in the platforms. We’ve seen no loss in handle time or conventional metrics, which we were happy with. 

We're just starting to see efficiency improvements, but to learn a new platform, put your agents on a new platform — their learning curve puts you at the watermark line or just slightly below improved — but right out of the gate was great. 

The other items that we’re working with Genesys on to measure our success are empathy and customer experience. These are new metrics to the market and we all care about them, but how we measure them is important. Whether it's post-call surveys, better metrics from flow outcomes, using those NQ self-service, and if the call ends before getting to an agent because of a self-service action, rather than abandonment. That is how we're measuring success today. 

The big item is that we couldn't deploy omnichannel fast enough, it was very difficult. Markets that were smaller and may not have been able to get that type of feature set now have exposure to get that very quickly. We're looking forward to seeing results over the next 6-12 months, to see how we're launching these new features.

Guffanti: There are two questions. Justin and Charlie, as you look at the broader market, other people and other organizations that you work with, how can this be applied to their business and solve some of the problems that they're grappling with? How do you see the broad market? 

Honaman: What’s interesting is that Josh started with the business in mind and worked backward from their requirements and then evaluated partners. Some were there today and others were not. We're seeing more of that and the pace is picking up in terms of the ability to gather requirements, evaluate, and make decisions with partners — even try out, rather than doing a whole 18-month implementation. You're up and running with capability in weeks on platforms — servers, hardware, software, etc. — that can scale globally very quickly without having to give it to people to install in a data center. 

“All of that took weeks and months to do, and now it happens in literally minutes, seconds, and days to get things set up. It speeds up the ability to get to value. That's what we're seeing. In this space, renewed interest around this being a big component of meeting the needs of an end customer.”
— Justin Honaman, Worldwide Head of Consumer Products, Food & Beverage, AWS

Godfrey: If you think about the contact center the way it was perceived as a traditional cost center, what we're talking about on this call is positioning the contact center as a brand ambassador center. It’s a place that represents the brand well, does these things to provide the best service for end-user customers, distributors, and everybody in between. 

It doesn't matter what vertical we're talking about. If there are customers and journeys, you apply this. What I do encourage everybody to think of is people centricity. Before you get to business requirements, think about what the journey is, who the personas are, and how to get the outcomes that they want.

Back to Josh's comments about measurement. How do we try things then measure and figure out if they're successful to tune them and continuously learn? That's a big part of how it all fits together. When looking at people centricity, we're all people, doesn't matter what business we're in, we all want to be treated a certain way, be known and heard. If we took that theme and applied it across the world, that's where the contact center or the brand ambassador center would grow into.

Guffanti: Josh, if you were a company that didn't have a contact center or an underutilized one, what would be the first thing, first bit of advice you'd give to ramp up quickly?

Haddock: Look at what you need, don't bite off more than you can chew. It's easy to get caught up in all of the different features and channels that are available today. Try to look at your customers and what they need immediately, then deploy that. 

With the cloud contact center, it's easy to bring something up. We discussed the speed of bringing something up, especially a new contact center that might be smaller or just starting to build out. It's like turning a pilot on in a week, except for when you're in production. It's nice to be able to do that. If there is existing infrastructure, you don't have to turn it off. You can literally just turn it up and start playing with it, like it's a sandbox.

“First look at what your customers need. What is the primary channel they're contacting you on and start there. Be ready to dive in, ask questions, and learn — it will be a learning process. Contact centers can be very vanilla, one queue catchall, and everybody takes the call.”
— Joshua Haddock, Direct, Global Contact Center Technology, Herbalife Nutrition

As the business grows and needs grow, you'll want to start segmenting those calls or contacts into different groups of people. That's where you'll want to take a breather once you start building that out and go to your partner, your vendor, ask for best practices. What will happen is — I’ve seen this with smaller contact centers — you build a lot of things on the fly and then come back and realize you want to reorganize the whole thing.

Take a little bit of time to think, not just about what you need today, but where you think the business is going to be three years from now. I don't go five years, nothing goes five years or more in this market. This market is so disruptive and changing so fast, but try to imagine where you'll be in 2-3 years, and try to structure the environment based on those goals, not just today's goals.

Guffanti: Those are really wise parting words that you're leaving us with, Josh. Justin, Charlie, any parting words that you have for us?

Honaman: What you don't see is that there's a team of people — not here today — that did a ton of work in putting together content, connecting us all, and helping us shape the conversation as well as the partnership between our companies. I’d like to thank all of them for making this happen.

Godfrey: It's been a thrill to participate in this discussion. It's exciting where this space is going and what we can do. If folks are thinking about their transformation, don't get caught. Like Josh said: Don't go too far out, but go a little ways out. Don't necessarily get into the like-for-like where you're taking existing logic and applying it to a new platform. This is an opportunity to look at the experience you want to provide, then plot out the course with steps to get there. 

Guffanti: That’s all the time we have today. This is an important topic and we're going to hear a lot more about contact centers, and innovation spurred by contact centers. 

As we move forward as an industry, contact centers are going to be a key to that innovation. This is incredibly timely, and I appreciate your insights, all of you for sharing with our audience today. Gentlemen, thank you once again for participating in the webinar today, and thank you to our audience for taking your time to be with us. I hope you found it to be a productive discussion, and we look forward to speaking with you again, too. Have a great day.

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