The number of companies willing and able to help us humans during the COVID-19 crisis is truly amazing.
The German City of Pfaffenhofen an der Ilm
Many more, the list is inspiring
Some are supporting with resources; others are developing solutions; still others are adapting to our most urgent needs, changing and adjusting supply chain, logistics, R&D and operations, in order to produce more masks, gloves, ventilators and other key components and products. They all deserve our appreciation and praise.
However one company is actually going above and beyond any expectation: Medtronic, the world’s number one medical device company and already a powerhouse of top human innovation. In this perilous time Medtronic is giving away their ventilator IP so that any manufacturer with the capability can now produce some of the best ventilators on the planet and help prevent more COVID-19 deaths. Everyone should know about this self-sacrificing heroism.
“…unprecedented human challenge requires unprecedented response…”
Omar Ishrak CEO, Medtronic
Medtronic ventilator design is now open source. CEO Omar Ishrak commented that “unprecedented human challenge requires unprecedented response.” His intention is simply to boost production and address what has become a global shortage to ensure more lives can be saved.
I am not personally surprised at all. Over the last 20 years I have interacted with Medtronic as a customer in their Diabetes division. A few years ago I worked with them on a deeper level to discover how their customer experience was such a standout. So if you are not familiar with this company and want to know how they could be in a position to be so charitable, successful, and loved by their customers and employees all at the same time, then let me share a few essentials about how they operate.
First I need to point out that when I see all the CX thought leadership from consultancies, publications, magazines, highlighting the Starbuckses, Apples, Zappos, Mercedes, BMWs, SalesForces, and Disneys of the world I get really bored, we need also new brands or to explore more experiences. Yes, I understand these companies are above average; some are really amazing. But why do we forget the Medical Device sector? Especially when their intent is so humanistic and much more important than any Apple, Zappos, SAP, or Salesforce. Medtronic Tech is solving so many human problems, from the first pacemaker, to ventilators, pumps, sensors, and so many other life-savers. These large portfolios were created with the direct intention to improve and extend human life. The medical device sector is not mentioned enough considering the amazing work they do, Medtronic and even Dexcom one of their smaller competitors. It’s because they relate to illness and disease, which no one likes to think about, but believe me we can all learn so much from this industry.
In 2005 when I was living in Cherry Hill, NJ and working for a tech company, it was difficult for me to find a doctor to help me with my diabetes, due to the overwhelming number of diabetics in the USA. I had been waiting for my Aetna Health Insurance card for 3 weeks. My pump supplies were running out. These connect the pump that injects insulin to my body 24/7, and they look like this.
With no card or plan of action to save myself, I called Medtronic headquarters in Minnesota.
Not their customer contact center, their headquarters. A kind of general secretary answered the phone and to my surprise took 2-3 minutes to find someone to help me. I was redirected to a SVP secretary, who listened to my urgent needs for 15–20 minutes, taking detailed notes the whole time.
Before she ended the conversation she asked, “Is there anything else I can help you with besides sending you your suppliers?”
I mentioned my frustrated search for an endocrinologist who was currently accepting new patients. She said, “Don’t worry, we will help you; expect a call back from us in the next 48 hours from our representative in your area.”
When I hung up the phone I was skeptical but still impressed. No other service in the USA had come close. The next early morning, the rep called me, and to my surprise I was not asked to repeat my story. She simply said, “First, we will send you your pump suppliers free of charge for a month until you receive your card from Aetna. Second, I will find 3 doctors for you close to your home.” I was quite impressed at that moment.
Next morning I received a package by FedEx express with all I needed for one month and approximately $250 cash value. I told her I was their customer forever and tried repeatedly to pay with my credit card. She said they could not accept payment and in that moment showed me the level of commitment and empathy for customers that B2C Medtronic has. (Their B2B is equally good!)
The next morning this happened.
Remember we are in 2005 now. No one talked about customer experience, services – or even social media. The rep called me in the morning, ‘’ I have 3 doctors for you.’’ She took the time to mention details about each one, even mentioning that one was Jewish.
From this you can conclude that even without hyper personalization, without any data analytics or business intelligence, Medtronic focused on the needs of their customers, all based on the company culture. I did not really care if my doctor was Jewish or not. But the company and their people were so thoughtful as to know the origins of my family name, it was very impressive.
To this day they still deliver a cut above any customer experience we know. Yet it remains less sexy to speak about this amazing multi-billion dollar company based in Minneapolis and Dublin? Well, what do you think I did after this amazing experience?
I remember driving the following Saturday to Barnes and Noble and buying an old great book by Shep Hyken, probably his first, The Loyal Customer: A Lesson From a Cab Driver, which helped to open my eyes to CX along with some stuff I’d read previously by Tom Peters. But that experience with Medtronic kept me ultra-focused on the customer while leading services in Oracle, Ericsson and many other organizations for years to come.
This latest act of humanity by Medtronic leadership demonstrates only what the company stands for and has always stood for. This company has struck the right balance between Board interest and the needs of the customer for years. Since the company was founded by Mr. Earl Bakken, decisions have been made in the interest of their patients. Amazing guy!
Placing value on the patient has led to deep understanding of their customers, their needs and journey, which continues to be seen in the outstanding preparation of their agents, services and executives.
Many kudos to CEO Omar Ishrak and future CEO Geoff Martha, as well as all Medtronic employees, managers and executives for your amazing focus on extending human life. I hope that Earl Bakken’s famous 100-year plan to replace all the body’s replaceable parts comes to fruition! Thank you for being an inspiration and support to diabetics and many other patients who put their lives in your hands.
Figure 1 CEO Omar Ishrak and the amazing Earl Bakken, who passed in 2018.
We hope you liked this short article, and more is coming with more actionable suggestions as our previous articles.
Ricardo Saltz Gulko is the Eglobalis managing director, a global strategist, thought leader, practitioner, and keynote speaker in the areas of simplification and change, customer experience, experience design, and global professional services. Ricardo has worked at numerous global technology companies, such as Oracle, Ericsson, Amdocs, Redknee, Inttra, Samsung among others as a global executive, focusing on enterprise technologies. He currently works with tech global companies aiming to transform themselves around simplification models, culture and digital transformation, customer and employee experience as professional services. He holds an MBA at J.L. Kellogg Graduate School of Management, Evanston, IL USA, and Undergraduate studies in Information Systems and Industrial Engineering. Ricardo is also a global citizen fluent in English, Portuguese, Spanish, Hebrew, and German. He is the co-founder of the European Customer Experience Organization and currently resides in Munich, Germany with his family.