Inside the Vitamix kitchen, Holly Hacker, Director of Direct Sales and Customer Experience at Vitamix, shares how the company harnesses a community of loyal customers to continue a legacy of personalized CX for future generations.
Holly Hacker is interviewed by CX Factor host and CEO of Fanatics Media, Mark Fidelman, with additional questions from CX influencers Stan Phelps, Keynote Speaker and Workshop Facilitator at Purple Goldfish, and Ted Rubin, Acting CMO at Brand Innovators and Co-Founder of Prevailing Path.
Mark Fidelman: Welcome to CX Factor, the Oracle sponsored series that features executives from top brands delivering insights on creating the most engaging, effective customer experiences.
I’m Mark Fidelman, and on this week’s CX Factor, I visit the Vitamix kitchen to see what kind of customer experiences, Holly Hacker, Director of Direct Sales and Customer Experience, is creating at the corporate headquarters.
Joining me from Vitamix today is Holly Hacker, who is responsible for creating, defining, and implementing customer experience guidelines and standards across all customer touch points. Welcome to the show.
Holly Hacker: Thank you.
Mark Fidelman: My first question for you is, how do you define customer experience at Vitamix?
Holly Hacker: Well, it’s really a part of everything that we do. Customer experience is something that we take very seriously, as it relates to serving our customers, and making sure that once they get a Vitamix, it’s going to be part of their family for potentially more than a generation, and that they have everything that they need to be successful while blending.
Mark Fidelman: A few years ago, Vitamix commissioned a study and found that of your super fans within the Vitamix community, they refer, on average, Vitamix blenders to 13.4 people. Tony Robbins would call that a raving fan. What do you do here at Vitamix for those raving fans?
Holly Hacker: We are very grateful, obviously, to have such raving fans, and it’s because they’re so passionate about what the Vitamix does for them that they really want other people to know. We do a lot with these raving fans. Some of them are part of our social media network. We’ll send them blenders and different things to test for us, to give us feedback. We have a very special group that are like ambassadors for us. They are our affiliates, and they have websites, blogs, and some of them write books. They are really passionate about what Vitamix does for their lifestyle, so when they refer someone to purchase, we offer them a commission. We work with them very closely to find out: What can we do better? What is their fan base asking them for? And what can we help them with?
Mark Fidelman: What are some of the things that you’re doing behind the scenes that really enhances the customer experience through a relationship with you guys? And I really see it as a relationship, based on what I know.
Holly Hacker: Absolutely, it is. I love this, because one thing people don’t realize, and I think makes us the best, is every single Vitamix employee is an owner. Every single person here gets a Vitamix when they join the company. We teach them how to blend. We help them learn new tips, tricks, and skills, but also we want them to be healthy. It’s actually part of our wellness program here, and I think it really is a huge differentiator. Any person you come in contact with – if you talk to one of our customer champions on the phone – they can walk you through how to troubleshoot your blending, and give you tips and ideas for recipes. When everyone you work with is a passionate owner of the product, it makes you behave a little differently, and engage with your customers a little differently.
Mark Fidelman: You probably have hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of customers. How are you managing these relationships? What tools and technology are you using to manage that?
Holly Hacker: We’re very high touch, so I’d say for us, the technology is going to be dictated by what the customers actually need us to do. Unlike other customer care technologies that are around – get it done fast, get it done quick, get to the next customer – we’re much more involved than that. I’d love to have our champions Skyping while blending, showing them visually. Maybe video sharing. Those will be some things that will be explored in the future.
Mark Fidelman: Do you have a CRM system or a marketing automation system that you’re using to nurture these customers?
Holly Hacker: We could be better at that. I think we have a great Oracle platform as our backbone, and it’s created a nice foundation. The next piece is to layer on that sales and marketing automation.
Mark Fidelman: Let’s move to what you’re most proud of with customer experience. Does anything stand out?
Holly Hacker: I think the thing I’m most proud of that we’ve accomplished is making the customer the center of what we do, and really focusing on our culture. This is one of the greatest, nicest places to work. We have five core values that the family has had at the center of doing business, for generations, and in our time of very explosive growth, we thought, we need a call center. So, we went and we built a call center, and we lost the culture in that process. We had people who were from other backgrounds who were like, “Your job is to get to the next customer, get to the next customer very quickly.” And we lost some of that passion. There was a little bit of a disconnect of why we were doing this, so we went through a very focused process to transform from contact center to customer care in the last couple of years, and it’s made a huge difference.
Mark Fidelman: Every company has a pretty bad experience every once in a while. Do you remember if you’ve had one recently? Maybe a customer experience issue with a customer? How did you solve it?
Holly Hacker: We get very, very busy at the holiday time period. We have a seasonal business, and there’s high demand in all of our channels. I suppose some people say this is a good problem to have, but I don’t like this problem, is we oversold. We ran out of certain models. Again, people would say, “Oh, what a good problem to have.” Well, there were over 700 customers that we needed to–
Mark Fidelman: That want Christmas or holiday gifts, right?
Holly Hacker: Yeah, I mean this is, for us, a very important decision that they’ve made. For them, it’s a present. It’s a gift. So, we actually took the time and made outbound calls to all 700 customers and either upgraded them into a nicer model, or if they really needed to have it, we put them on an escalated list. We took a very high touch approach to make sure that it was also proactive so everybody got something, and they were satisfied. But I think that’s an area where I’d love to see us do a better job of just keeping up with what our customers need from us.
Mark Fidelman: Now we’re going take questions from some of our influencers that are out there, and the first one is from Stan Phelps.
Stan Phelps: A great customer experience starts in awareness through consideration, ultimately to buying, using the product, and ultimately sharing. Tell me a little bit more about the Wall of Fame and other things you do at Vitamix to get people sharing the message and the experience.
Holly Hacker: One of the great ways we keep customers engaged, and get them to share their stories with us, is by being very engaged in our social media. Facebook is a really great tool where we talk with our customers. We have our customer care champions actually helping them troubleshoot recipes. We use it to share videos to encourage people to share their tips and tricks. Every customer who happens to call in or write in, we also take those stories and those thank you notes and great letters that we receive, and share them throughout our company so that everyone within Vitamix remembers that what they do each day influences our customers’ experience.
Mark Fidelman: Our next question is from Ted Rubin, who’s very famous for something called Return on Relationship.
Ted Rubin: Brands and companies that use social successfully will reap the rewards of customer satisfaction, deeper employee loyalty, more effective knowledge sharing, improved brand reputation, lowered cost, and most importantly, increased revenues. I’d like to know how you are integrating social into the whole omnichannel customer experience at Vitamix to empower this to happen.
Holly Hacker: We use social as an integrated part of all our experiences. We know that customers need to learn a lot about our products, so they go to not just our social media avenues, but online ratings and reviews, which we aggregate and share with everyone who sells Vitamix. We also are really using social to be engaged with education, teaching people how to use the Vitamix. How does that tie back to revenues, making everything a win-win? When customers are using our product successfully, and they’re feeling great about what they’ve achieved and what they’ve learned, they tell others. Our job is to encourage that, but also to facilitate it by helping them learn how to blend new things.
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