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BW Businessworld

Analysis: Be Aware, Be Very Aware

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This case clearly is a manifestation of  some serious maladies in the manner some of the equipment makers function. Whereas a large part of the problems encountered by Dr Tara Chaitanya in the case study has been due to certain deficiencies in Company A’s outlook and focus on its after-sales service coupled with poor customer relationship management, there is also a problem of the doctors’ lack of understanding of different aspects of purchasing any equipment.

Company A, a Fortune 500 company, clearly has a very good product in its stable in terms of technical superiority but is plagued by highly inefficient, uninterested, untrained and unmotivated after-sales workforce as evident throughout; which is at cross-purposes with an aggressive sales force. Such a contradiction in its customer relationship management will most likely backfire in not-too-distant future to spell doom for the company.

It appears that Company A just wants to makes sales at any cost, a very short-term approach. Despite the fact that it enjoys a good market position today, it clearly lacks a strategy for efficient after sales or for technical and behavioural training of its employees.

The technical workforce of the company (barring a few) is not only limited in its knowledge of the products but seems to also suffer from a ‘laisse faire’ attitude. These pose a serious threat to the company’s market positioning since trained a workforce is as much an asset of the company as its products are and they compliment the technically superior product. Servicing of clients by professional employees is the key to retaining loyal customers.

The word-of-mouth publicity, which a satisfied client can give, is one thing, but the word of mouth of an angry Tara can destroy the reputation of the company in the very exclusive and elite client base of specialist doctors.

Each equipment in healthcare is critical and any equipment posing the risk of inaccuracies related to diagnosis is unlikely to remain popular with doctors. It is imperative on the part of Company A to ensure that whether by way of technical nature or by effective servicing of complaints, this continuum of patient safety is maintained.

Accuracy, rapid response, and patient safety features are also the cornerstones of the confidence of the doctor which translate into patient satisfaction and successful practice of a clinician.

Given that Tara was already an aggrieved customer of SW13, one would have thought that Company A would have ensured its systems had the mechanism to identify Tara as a special client to be ‘handled with greatest care’ and spent extra effort on increasing her faith in the brand. None of this was evident in this case.

In fact, the same team in the field continued to dispense very shabby treatment to a client who was already a dissatisfied customer. This, for any company, is a serious error, bordering on indifference. Company A really needs to do some soul searching and institute mechanisms to upgrade skills of the technical staff in addition to its gender sensitisation and behavioural/ attitudinal training. It must also look at changing the appraisal mechanisms so as to incorporate customer satisfaction as an important key result area than cost savings on spares!

On the other side, doctors also need to educate themselves about purchase agreements and conditions of after-sales service and payments. It is important that the initial agreement must clearly define and include criteria for satisfactory installation, user training on the equipment and payment should be pegged to performance — both installation and satisfactory working of the machine.

This clause ensures that the finance department of her outfit follows up the payment and identifies failures and pins it to the performance clause. Clinics and hospitals will certainly benefit by insisting on a penalty clause.

Additionally, at the time of making a second purchase (or upgradation) was the best time to correct this mistake. Tara had an opportunity to insist on a performance clause and include downtime of equipment, loss of patient confidence and subsequent potential loss of clientele.   

The writer is special advisor to the Minister of Health, Djibouti. She has worked in India in diverse capacities across the industry as neurosurgeon and senior healthcare administrator

(This story was published in BW | Businessworld Issue Dated 02-06-2014)