Q&A: Frank Lynn – Boston Scientific

We spoke with Frank Lynn, Director of Commercial Capabilities and Customer-Centricity at Boston Scientific about his experience leading customer transformation.

Can you give me some perspective on the environment and customer personas that you’re selling into?

We work in the Medical Device industry – the environment and customer profiles are changing quite dramatically. If you take a look back 15-20 years ago, predominately we talked about customers as those inside the MedTech industry, such as healthcare practitioners and nurses. Today, the expanse of our customers have gone beyond the clinical setting and very much toward procurement due to their involvement in decision making and influence on portfolio choices, contract awards and how they now want to partner with companies like Boston Scientific.

We hear a lot about the rise of digital and some of the trends from the consumer landscape coming into the B2B environment, can you share any colour around what you’re seeing around the way your customers choose to engage with you?

We’re starting to see that customers are wanting to be engaged with differently. Traditionally, in the Medical Device environment, the reference point for our customers would have been congresses and the ‘feet on the street’ salespeople calling on them. That’s now changed, they’re evolving more towards a multi-channel environment. We're starting to see the rise of inside sales or what you might refer to as telesales across other industries. Consumers are starting to look for digital communication; searching for content online much more prolifically than they might have in the past. If you look into the channels they use to learn about technologies, they’re definitely going beyond the traditional model – of course the traditional congresses and educational forums still exist, but we’re absolutely seeing the rise of virtual learning in the MedTech space.

What is your definition of customer-centricity?

It’s definitely a word that we've been using a lot within our own company recently, we really like to look at it as making a meaningful change for our customers, that differentiates us from our competitors. It means contributing value to our customers and ultimately in doing that, generating increased customer preference and loyalty towards our brand. If we do those things well, hopefully we will start to surpass the customers’ expectations, which will in turn help us and equally help them as well – it’s a win-win situation for both parties.

What is the difference between customer-centricity and a ‘we put our customers first’ aspiration?

In my perspective and experience working in the MedTech industry, the ‘customer first’ mindset would have very much been related to product development; how we’re involving customers with helping us bring new technologies to the marketplace. I would say that customer-centricity is going beyond the product and really thinking more holistically about the various customer touchpoints and understanding their specific needs in those moments; from the very starting point of becoming aware of the company, right through to the end of the buying cycle and the various points in between. It then comes down to evaluating what we do well throughout this process and where we need to improve as an organisation to meet their expectations at each point.

Where does customer-centricity currently sit in terms of business priorities at Boston?

We’re still on the journey – certainly at the executive level within the EMEA organisation it’s very high on the agenda as it’s the overarching umbrella in driving our strategy to become a more customer-centric organisation. It’s definitely a broad change effort and trying to mobilise an entire organisation to move in unison towards that vision takes time. In saying that, we’re moving in a good direction, we’ve got strong leadership commitment to the journey, but we’re only 2-3 years into a journey that might take us 8-9 years to become a truly customer-centric organisation.

Talk me through the approach, how do you actually start the journey?

We started by looking at what’s changing in the environment for our customer, there are lots of macro changes happening. Patients are becoming more aware of their needs, which brings heightened expectations for our customers, and how they deliver to their patients. With consolidation of procurement, you also get increased price pressure in the marketplace. There are also regulatory changes happening and our customers are facing right into that, so all of these changes mean that we, as a company, need to consider how we show up and partner with them.

Using the voice of customer has been instrumental in motivating people internally toward this change. Subsequently, we’ve been listening to our customers more proactively through customer research and really focusing beyond the product to understand what is really important to them and where their expectations lie.

What initiatives or actions have come up within your organisation in line with the customer needs that you’re talking about?

Some of the initiatives are fundamental basics, for example, what our customers are looking for is not necessarily having a salesperson there with them, but whether that salesperson is actually delivering value while they’re there. That’s something that, as an organisation, we’ve always said we’ve done well but we still see opportunity for improvement. If we look at the way we’re interacting with our customers, we’ve started to look beyond the traditional model, and understand how digital can help us deliver a better experience for our customers. When I talk about our customers, again I’m talking about those that are beyond the traditional healthcare practitioners, to an even broader spectrum and really considering how we can use digital to enable this elevated experience. They’re just two examples but there are several things that we’re doing internally which are challenging how we might have done things previously.

What have you found in terms of the challenges and lessons learnt around making these shifts in the way you go to market?

The first thing is really understanding the goal and trying to mobilise your organisation around that common objective. Customer-centricity for lots of people is a very nebulous term and not very concrete for many. There’s an expectation to have hard facts and figures and not everybody sees the link between customer-centricity and how that helps grow your business. The other part is the people perspective. Of course, change is always challenging, so as with any change initiative – it requires a lot of communication and engagement with our leadership team, along with those across every level within the organisation. People want to see the value of the effort, so we’re constantly focusing on how this is showing up within the organisation and focusing in on the pockets of success.

The other part is about being generally open in sharing some of the challenges across the organisation and explaining why things might not be moving as quickly as we would like to see them. Certain activities might start off being perceived as easy, but sometimes the issue isn’t as well understood as expected – simply because it isn’t until you start digging a little deeper into it that you really get to uncover what needs to happen.

On the positive side, three years into the journey and most of the organisation now understand much more clearly what customer-centricity is about, and why it’s of value to be working on. And more importantly, our customers are starting to recognise that we are evolving as an organisation, and that we’re paying attention to some of the needs that we might not have looked into as closely in the past.

What are the three key takeaways for other people who are in the middle or trying to start getting behind the customer?

Number one is an obvious piece when you talk about a broad change platform; having strong leadership support is absolutely fundamental – without that, very little is going to move for you. Secondly, getting the voice of customer sooner, rather than later is a good thing for both the customer but also to share it internally, in ways that is easy to understand across various levels of the organisation. And finally, just be persistent. Don’t give up because it takes a lot of effort and energy to start the journey, it really pays off over time.

– Interviewed by Mark Taylor, Executive Director EMEA at Blackdot

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