Using Customer Relations to Gain a Competitive Edge

Originally Published MDDI March 2006NewsTrends Sherrie Conroy

Sherrie Conroy

March 1, 2006

2 Min Read
Using Customer Relations to Gain a Competitive Edge


John Zimmer says improved customer relations also helped improve Toshiba's market share.

Customer relations can be as important as innovation or research and development. Although there are a few medical devices that don't face competition, most do, and consistently meeting the needs of the customer can give companies that competitive edge, said Dale Hagemeyer. He is research director for life science and consumer goods at Gartner Inc. (Ridgway, CO). Hagemeyer spoke at the Medical Products Customer Strategy Summit in Marina del Rey, CA, in January.

“It's important to think holistically as a business strategy,” said Hagemeyer. “The entire enterprise must have a single view of the customer.”

Other speakers agreed. Jeff Sopko, director of U.S. sales for BD Medical (Franklin Lakes, NJ), provided a real-life example. When BD launched a new product in the blood glucose monitoring market, the company expected exceptional financial performance, but it had a poorly prepared sales organization. “We had to build the infrastructure, deploy our resources, and deliver $98 million in a short time frame,” said Sopko.

BD implemented enterprise-planning software to get “information to the field organization in real time,” explained Sopko. Using a Web-based enterprise server, the company's sales force could access detailed information wirelessly.

John Zimmer, vice president of marketing for Toshiba America Medical Systems (Tustin, CA), had similar advice to share, but from a different perspective. Although the diagnostic imaging market was growing at about 11% per year in the late 1990s, Toshiba's business was flat. “With a customer retention rate of 50% over five years, we needed a new business strategy. We went back to square one and developed a new focus on customer satisfaction.”

“It was critical for us to tie our customer relations management (CRM) to financial compensation,” he said. The company surveyed each customer four to six weeks after installation of a Toshiba device to determine the level of satisfaction. “The benefit was a timely response to customer issues and improved market share,” said Zimmer.

“CRM is not a software purchase, yet it involves software, hardware, servers, etc.,” said Bill Kale, director of information technology for Sage Products (Cary, IL). “It's really a corporate strategy that affects a cross-section of the organization, and whoever touches the customer will benefit from a CRM strategy that delivers measurable results,” he said.

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