Published - 2021/11/10
SHL: Long-lasting market research benefits!
“Our customer base is very happy with what we're doing and a lot of that is because we continue to anticipate and meet our customers’ needs and expectations. This understanding comes through our constant open dialogue with our customers and specific projects such as the Voice of Customer survey, performed in 2017”
Michael McGowan is Director of Market Intelligence at SHL Medical and based in Zug, Switzerland. The company is a world-leading designer, developer, and manufacturer of drug delivery solutions such as autoinjectors for the pharma industry.
Michael is responsible for generating primary market data and also using secondary data such as quantitative market information and says: “When I joined the company back in 2016, we had some gaps in our market knowledge and a number of open questions in terms of what customer expectations. Likewise, we felt it was an important point in time to better understand what our customers thought of how SHL was meeting their needs and performing on a daily basis”
With these objectives in mind, the company decided to conduct a worldwide Voice of Customer (VoC) survey to get SHL’s customers’ views on how their markets and business prospects were developing.
Having previously carried out appreciated market research projects for SHL, Opticom was warmly recommended to Michael by his new colleagues. Contacts and introductions made; the discussions lead to the two companies co-operating around a truly global project.
Describing the project, Michael explains that was a significant VoC project, asking the respondents about their daily business, what they saw as their major challenges and how they expected the market to evolve in the near-term future. The occasion was also used to gain valuable insights into the customer experience of working with SHL, about strengths and weaknesses and identifying opportunities to reinforce their leading market position: “With so many changes and developments going on in our environment, we felt it was important to see how our customers thought that the pharmaceutical market would evolve and how we best could meet their needs.”
Michael explains “SHL Medical develops and manufactures advanced drug delivery devices. These devices can contribute to the clinical performance of our customers’ drug products by making the user experience more convenient and practical. With a growing trend towards self-treatment of chronic diseases in the home setting, SHL Medical autoinjectors or self-injection devices can help our pharmaceutical customers to compete and create differentiation versus their competition”.
Even though the study was done some 4 years ago, Michael and his team still refer back to the survey as a source of information, initially using the result as an internal communication tool, the purpose being to galvanize the organization: “To understand and align behind the views and opinions of our customers” as he puts it.
Michael thinks that a lot that was highlighted in the survey was already known to them in the course of their daily work. However, being able to quote customers directly and refer back to their exact words is particularly useful and those ideas carry a lot more credibility.
The actual communication of the findings internally has been an important activity around which Michael and his team have organized several events, for example the workshop on site in Taiwan back in January 2018 that the Opticom project team helped to facilitate. One whole day was fully dedicated to the VoC findings during a senior management meeting with SHL staff from Asia, Europe and the US. Different elements of the results and feedback were discussed in detail in small breakout groups and used to create a sense of ownership and responsibility throughout the different functional areas of the SHL organization.
Asked to give examples of how this VoC project has affected their way of working, Michael says that they have used the results to identify “low hanging fruit” as in short term activities that could be to put into place relatively easily, for example the frequency and the way they communicate with customers.
Michael, however, acknowledges that other needs referred to by their clients were much more complex, with a variety of interrelated aspects to take into consideration. As a consequence, 3-4 years later SHL Medical is still rolling out and implementing strategies between their sites in Florida, Europe and Taiwan, making it truly global under the new headquarters in Switzerland.
He finds measuring ROI of the survey difficult to measure but refers to some recent quantitative web follow-up surveys, also conducted by Opticom, where the feedback has been very positive: “Our customer base is still very happy with what we're doing and a lot of that is because what started after the 2017 VoC survey.”
The survey has been used as a source of inspiration for identifying customer needs in terms of product development, for example meeting customer demands of having more standardized platform products that could be easily customized. The SHL product portfolio is evolving more towards this type of platform approach with different customization options. “While this trend was initiated by SHL prior to the VoC survey, the customer feedback received during the 2017 survey reinforced this product direction and enabled us to fine tune embodiment of the strategy” he explains.
Michael goes on to describes a recent meeting with a company that actually participated in the 2017 VoC survey. “Colleagues from the innovation department recently presented a newly designed product and I was able to refer directly to their feedback in the survey to show how their feedback was influencing our developments. It was nothing more than a 5- or 10-minute introduction to the product presentation that was about to follow, but it was just this little reminder that in 2017 this is what you asked for. The customer was very excited, and you could see how the products corresponded with their expectations – It may seem like a long time ago, but four years is a relatively short timeframe in our industry.”
Michael says that this was a major global survey and the international aspect of it was handled perfectly and that he is 100% sure he will rely on Opticom’s services in the future: “It’s always very easy and a pleasant experience to work with Opticom and the results we get out are summarised very well. You have a good understanding of our business, and you are very accommodating, so we will certainly work with you again!”