The direct sales model makes our thousands of consultants the leading players in the company’s growth. Using personal contact, they are the ones who add value to our products and ensure that consumers receive them, together with our Values, our Beliefs, and Vision. By the end of 2008, Natura had 849,600 consultants, an increase of 18.23% from 2007. In Latin America, we recorded an annual growth of around 38.6% to 119,500 consultants.
We have one of the lowest turnover rates among companies using direct sales, which is a good indicator of the quality of our relationship with the sales force. Our consultants identify more with the value proposal and establish stronger and more lasting ties with us, being loyal to the brand.
The implementation of the Natura Consultant Advisers (NCAs) in Brazil allowed us to move even closer to our consultants. Our relationship managers (RMs) support a group of NCAs that work with the Natura consultants (NCs) and their role is to attract potential candidates to the consulting activity and advise them on their daily activities.
In addition to the relationship initiatives, the NCA model encourages the growth of the sales force, bringing in a significant number of new NCs. Above all, it also takes advantage of the micro-regions, maximizing our regional operation model. The NCA breathes new life into the job of the relationship managers, with a total management cost equivalent to the previous model. Over time it should encourage a gradual growth in productivity.
To increase the business of our consultants in 2008, we lowered the minimum order amount to allow for more frequent order placements, reducing the waiting time of the final consumer, and we also reward those consultants who have the best performance with magazines and samples.
We are investing more and better in training. In 2008, we focused heavily on the training of our sales force, with an investment of R$ 20 million. Within the Sales Force Education project, we implemented a new training course for the 112,721 NCs who are starting to work.
We train our consultants to work in accordance with our ethics standards. Accordingly, we seek to fully comply with the commitments we made when we subscribed to the Direct Sales Conduct Code before Direct Sellers and between Companies, of Brazilian Association of Direct Selling Companies. We did not record any legal case of child, slave, or dangerous labor in the consulting activity in 2008, as in previous years. Also, we did not record any legal or administrative case related to violation of privacy or loss of data of consultants.
In 2008, we experienced some problems with the quality of the services provided to our NCs, and, consequently, to our final consumers. We recorded a high rate of out-of-stock products for sale, and we failed to make progress in delivering ordered boxes, as we had committed to in 2007. We renew our commitment to recovering the quality that has always characterized our services.
Despite these facts, the annual satisfaction survey of our consultants remained at the historical level of 90% favorable responses, driven by the work of the NCAs. It mainly shows the success of our type of relationship, in which proximity is one of the main differences, in addition to the strength of our launches, the expansion of our presence in the media, and the strength and attractiveness of the Natura brand.
Our relationship practices affect consultants in many ways: more than 2,700 NCs who have been with Natura for more than 15 years were honored in 2008. Among launch events and reunions, we relate to over 120,000 consultants.
One of our priorities in 2009 will be the opening in São Paulo of Natura Houses: spaces totally integrated with the style of our brand. We want, more and more, to turn them into places where our consultants, Natura consultant advisers, sales promoters, and relationship managers can gather and try our products. In these spaces, meetings, courses, and training programs will also be held.
The first Natura House in Brazil was opened in 2007 in Campinas, state of São Paulo. Using the lessons learned from this experience, we plan to inaugurate five more Natura Houses in 2009, thus allowing more contact and proximity with the sales force. Another two Natura Houses were inaugurated in Colombia, in Cali and Medellín. We expect to inaugurate the units in Lima, Peru, Santiago, Chile, and Monterrey, Mexico in 2009.
Created in 2005, the Natura Movement mobilizes our consultants and promoters so that they can be local change agents. In 2008, topics such as recycling, self-esteem development, social inclusion, education, and civic awareness were emphasized. One of the main projects taken up by our consultants was the Natura Product Recycling program implemented in Recife in 2007 and in São Paulo in 2008. These initiatives encourage the NCs to collect, upon visiting customers, the used packaging of Natura’s products, which is then forwarded to transportation partners and sent to local recycling cooperatives. In 2008, 118 metric tons of post-consumption packaging was returned, providing an alternative destination for waste.
We also work with make-up workshops, given by volunteer consultants to physically and emotionally fragile women. Until 2007, the workshops only took place in hospitals that treated cancer patients but, from 2008, we included low-income communities in Rio de Janeiro at the cultural centers of the AfroReggae Group. Besides just teaching make-up techniques, the objective is to promote exchanges, self-knowledge, and interaction between people.
In São Paulo, our consultants were also encouraged to participate in a survey conceived by Natura, the Our São Paulo Movement, and the market research company Ibope to verify the existence and quality of public infrastructure in the city of São Paulo. We had more than 10,000 responses, which provided a wealth of information to the public authorities. As 2008 was an election year, we disseminated, through our communication media, the importance of the responsible vote and the active participation of all society in political matters.
In 2008 we completed the campaign whereby consultants encourage enrollment with the Education of Young people and Adults (EJA), a program of the Ministry of Education (MEC). Now that this program had achieved maturity and stability, encouraging people to return to school is already part of our consultants’ routine. Between 2006 and 2008, our team sent over 170,000 people back to school.
Our consultants already have many communication and dialogue channels with Natura. The main ones are the Natura website (www.natura.net
) and the Natura Service Center (CAN), which is a telephone service. CAN receives orders and deals with matters that are directly related to the NC’s business, such as information on promotions, the status of orders, payment agreements, complaints, criticisms, and suggestions. It is through this channel that they place their orders for Natura’s products, in addition to obtaining information on promotions, delivery, inventories, and payment matters, among other things.
We saw in 2008 a significant increase in the use of the web to place orders. This shows the effects of our campaigns to encourage the use of this medium, particularly the Connectivity Project, which as we had planned reduced the number of calls received by our services center without affecting the total volume of orders (CAN, Internet and relationship managers), which grew 11.7%.
Our website contains an online reference file to allow the easier registration of new consultants. In our manual process, the average period for registering consultants is five days. Via the Internet, this was reduced to one hour, easing the work of the Relationship Manager and allowing for more conversion of candidates into consultants. In 2008, 102,000 people became consultants via the online registration.