Mike Hoffman is the Head of Operations at popular women and children’s clothing brand, Rainbow. At fourteen years old, Mike convinced his mother to let him get a fake ID so he could start working. His hustle continued through college, where he studied computer science and business. After graduating, Mike became a real estate agent and shortly after started his first company helping real estate agents utilize technology.
When the opportunity for Mike to open an online book company came, he took it. He began buying books and selling them online through Amazon and eBay for three times the amount. During this time, Mike became one of Amazon’s first best sellers.
Mike fulfilled one of his dreams to travel through England for six months and after moving to New York City. He started to work as a strategist at the GAP, learning the inner workings of a massive public company. Quickly he found that his voice couldn’t be heard unless he was in the C-Suite and chose to leap, leaving his job in hopes of finding a better opportunity.
His next endeavor was at Paragon Sports, where Mike created the foundation of his expertise in customer service. After ten years, he moved on and took on the title as Head of Operations at Rainbow.
Your business doesn’t revolve around anyone or anything, but your customer.
Today’s guest is Mike Hoffman, the Head of Operations at Rainbow. Mike implemented and currently runs the operations and systems that drive Rainbow’s e-commerce and brick and mortar stores. His job boils down to one of the most important business practices, listening to his customers.
In this episode, Mike talks about how he built the Rainbow customer service team and the reason they rarely see a turnover of agents. He walks us through the wins and losses of his time as Head of Operations and showcases the blueprint of a successful product company.
This is the Lean Commerce Podcast.
How did you end up as the Head of Operations for Rainbow?
2:45 Mike graduated college and initially became a real estate agent. This is where he started his first company, helping agents utilize technology to grow their business.
4:34 Mike talks about his second entrepreneurial venture of selling books online, which lead him to become one of Amazon’s first best sellers.
13:53 Individuals who find success are the ones who are willing to take the first step and leap off of the bridge. If you’re not willing to jump, you miss the tremendous opportunity.
How important is customer service to e-commerce?
14:24 The voice of the customer is what is driving your e-commerce channel. Make sure all of the segments of your company (such as marketing, HR, engineers, etc.) work together so the customer voice is brought into every part of your company.
16:32 Mike built the Rainbow customer service team, creating a well-recognized brand with customers who have become brand ambassadors. He explains how he built a happy and thriving team that has only seen one customer service agent leave in the last thirteen years.
20:30 Mike talks about a technical issue Rainbow encountered with customers adding products to cart on tablets and how it was initially discovered because of their strong focus on customer service.
What other tactical wins have you experienced by talking with customers?
22:07 Working with the various versions of Android, and working through the bugs of each version so customers can access and properly use the website regardless of what device they are using.
Do you use paid acquisition campaigns or use organic traffic to sell product?
26:40 Most product sales are driven from brick and mortar stores, although Rainbow does using paid acquisition campaigns. They also practice SEO and other avenues. As Mike explains, it’s important to continue to grow the business by finding new customers using these different avenues.
What’s a practical way to keep your customers front and center, despite everything else you have to focus on?
28:27 You have to see your customer as number one, the reason you exist. It’s not keeping them front and center, it’s establishing your company and all of your operations around them being front and center.
What process do you have in place to create new products on a continuous basis?
31:13 We have hundreds of new products come out each week, and have established processes that allow for that to happen. Everything moves at a fast pace, including product development, product photos, etc.
What’s the largest problem you need to solve in the next 6-12 months?
35:48 Our biggest goal is to get in front of new people and convert them into customers, so we are continuously looking for avenues that can introduce our brand to new consumers.
What changes are you seeing in the e-commerce space?
37:30 Amazon drives the expectation of what online consumers are looking for. We have to keep up with Amazon and make sure we give the same experience when it comes to delivery. As a retailer, you have to provide an experience or a product to your customer that Amazon can’t provide in order to compete with them.
38:10 In general e-commerce will continue to build, and with new technologies like Voice Search, via Alexa or Siri, there is a new way to experience shopping.
How much do you utilize heat mapping and screen recording of customers using your website?
41:42 We use a lot of analytics, including heat mapping and screen recording and other data we have running in the background. You can’t only get your information from your customers. You want to get information from the data as well.
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