Prior to his appointment as President and CEO of 4Life® Research in October 2017, Danny Lee held the positions of Chief Operations Officer and Chief Marketing Officer for the company. 4Life has a global presence with offices in twenty-five countries. Because of his international operations experience, Lee was asked to sit on the World Federation of Direct Selling Associations (WFDSA) Ethics Committee. In addition to serving on the DSA Executive Committee, he has been nominated to serve as Vice Chairman of the DSA Board of Directors. DSJ caught up with Lee to get his perspective on global trends, the pandemic, and issues of customer centricity.
Q: What global trends do you see from a CEO perspective as well as from your time as part of WFDSA leadership?
A: One word: e-commerce. Now, more than ever, our ability to offer a solid online customer-friendly, customer-first approach will determine our ability to compete. In the old days, our primary concerns were those of our sales leaders. Nowadays, corporate must not only understand, meet, and exceed customer expectations, but we must also educate our field leaders on how to do this. Additionally, online platforms need to be simple and seamless, loyalty programs need to be easy and appealing, and branding needs to speak to the modern person.
Q: Let’s dig into customer engagement. Unpackage it for us?
A: Sure. First and foremost, I presume that we each have an excellent product or service to share. Having said this, we once relied heavily on our salesforce to create a customer experience, right? We communicated to our customers through our field leaders. Now, social media and mobile apps empower us to engage end-users.
By churning out fresh and creative social media content, we’re able to stay relevant and connected. By innovating in the app space and creating simple ways for consumers to share products, we’re able to grow. Not only do we want to showcase what we have to offer, we also want customers to showcase what we have to offer. Your customer base is your greatest network and marketing tool.
Moving forward, we must empower our customers to execute everything on our mobile apps—placing orders, executing returns, tracking shipments, accessing and sharing discounts, finding product information, and interacting with customer service representatives."
Q: How did 4Life fare during the pandemic?
A: Like many friends and colleagues throughout our channel, 4Life contended with myriad supply chain issues. Each hiccup was a “mini-crisis” that required its own resolution. Being “The
Immune System Company,” our products have been in great demand. Back-orders are disruptive for everyone, especially customers, so the supply chain kept us scrambling. For instance, the pandemic forced a temporary shutdown of our New York-based lid manufacturer. At the same time, we see a spike in sales due to product demand. The lid in question is a 4Life blue brand Pantone for our top-tier products. To avert a potential disaster, we had to transition to a generic white lid. They’re completely off-brand, but they fit! The year 2020 presented us with these kinds of challenges on an ongoing basis.
One thing I feel we did well was our expedient transition to technologies that allowed our employees and field to work from home. We set programs in place that rewarded the field for online sales to customers and put energy into bolstering our own e-commerce platforms. Due to the nature of the pandemic, these efforts were prioritized; however, they will greatly benefit 4Life for years to come.
Q: Can you give us one specific example of an issue of international significance that might not hit your radar here in the US?
A: Global e-commerce proficiencies. I emphasize global because many parts of the world are still transitioning from cash-and-carry marketplaces. It wasn’t long ago that a central part of our international strategy was to provide customer product pickup locations for markets that are still coming online. The pandemic has done a lot to fast-track issues surrounding customer connectivity, but it isn’t anything we take for granted like we tend to do here in the US.
Q: What actions do direct selling companies need to take in light of new and changing customer expectations brought on by the global pandemic?
A: Speed and excellence in service is an expectation that others in the gig economy are prepared to fulfill if we don’t. Customer expectations are faster shipping, more affordable deliveries, and streamlined checkouts. Just recently, I traveled to Louisville, Kentucky, with 4Life colleagues for a ribbon-cutting ceremony to commemorate a new 4Life distribution center. The pandemic made it clear that our East Coast ship times couldn’t remain competitive without this strategic footprint.
Moving forward, we must empower our customers to execute everything on our mobile apps—placing orders, executing returns, tracking shipments, accessing and sharing discounts, finding product information, and interacting with customer service representatives. All of it needs to be at their fingertips.
Our industry needs to embrace what the current mode of transacting is in the world, which is e-commerce—even if that means abandoning the ways in which we have always done things in the past. We need to latch on to this ever-changing world and adapt.