Why Have Diabetes Tech Companies Not Supported Customer Service?
Alicia: UnLeashed! March 2019 monthly article
Tech is not a hammer!
Customer Service is an important product!
Technology is changing rapidly! From our phones, to our cars, to our insulin pumps and CGMs. Massive amounts of money are poured into Research and development every year! Millions are then spend on marketing, and sales. But again and again we are seeing companies really missing the mark in the area of customer service.
The nations leading tech companies have figured out that when people buy technology, they are buying two things: tech, and customer service support. See, when you buy a hammer, you don’t need customer support you need a warrantee. We know how to use hammers, hammers don’t update, or change, it’s a hammer, it should last. Once you learn to use a hammer, you have now reached near expert proficiency in hammer use and maintenance. But technology is not a hammer. Technology constantly changes, updates, must be learned and relearned over and over. This means that technology needs support. Even the most experienced users will need ongoing support in the use of technology. When that technology makes a massive leap forward support levels spike as users need reeducation on tech use.
Apple is great at this! Behind every apple product is a support line, a genius bar, apple care, and a small army of in store employees ready to help! And when Apple prepares to release a new product, or when high sales are anticipated, that support staff swells in proportion to the sales staff. Apple is acutely aware that if they sell a product, but do not support it, they will lose their market share. It is no accident that Apple products are also much more expensive than their competition. The market has proven that, when it comes to technology, we are willing to pay for good service to back up reliable products.
So if computer companies, internet providers, and car makers have learned the importance of service, why have our diabetes technologies companies just NOT GOTTEN THE HINT?!
In 2017 we saw the release of Medtronic’s 670G system, the first FDA approved hybrid closed loop (HCL) system. Immediately following Medtronic’s customer support and clinical educators were completely overwhelmed! We saw patients who had pumps in hand but were waiting months for training. Other users were spending hours a week on hold waiting for customer support. Medtronic sales were the highest in years, but their customer support had not grown at the same pace. This lack of support and education left users frustrated with a system they were sold as a way to reduce the frustration of diabetes management. Now many customers feel betrayed and abandoned by a company that they are trusting with their health and well-being.
Fast forward to 2018 and now Dexcom is in the exact same mess. Record obliterating sales have lead to the highest profits that the CGM giant has ever seen. Surely Dexcom learned from Medtronic’s mistakes right? Unfortunately no, Dexcom users have been dealing with massive customer service wait times and supply shortages that have left them without a technology that they lean heavily on to provide for their safety and quality of life. We are now getting reports of corporate restructuring and outsourcing of customer support services in an attempt to stem the tide of customer outrage. It is unfortunate that many of these efforts have lead to lay offs and loss of American state side jobs to overseas call centers. Dexcom’s leadership admit that the company had been doing what was best for the company at that time rather than planning ahead sufficiently, and that they are now planning to expand customer support and manufacturing to allow for continued growth.
Are any diabetes tech companies learning from the mistakes of their peers? Are any of them learning form the successes of the retail market like Apple? This remains to be seen. We are hearing reports of increased hiring and training by Tandem in anticipation of growth with their coming release of their Control IQ Hybrid Closed Loop(HCL) system this summer, but we will see whether this pans out to provide both new and current users with the support needed.
We strongly recommend that anyone who transitions to a HCL system either as a pump upgrade or an upgrade to your current pump work with a trained and experienced diabetes educator on making this transition. We are hearing form users that most endocrinology offices just don’t have the training and experience to provide effective and timely education on using these systems and adjusting settings to optimize their use. Fortunately that is our specialty at Integrated Diabetes Services.
Looking forward we hope that technologies companies will put more of their record breaking profits into customer care and training. Selling technology is never about selling a set of circuit boards, displays, gears, and supplies. Selling technology is selling an experience, which requires easy access to customer support. Selling and distributing technology to patients without sufficient infrastructure to support users is, at best negligent. This leads to patients who are unable to effectively manage their disease. Patients who are put through the stress of changing therapy systems, and are then burdened by that technology without sufficient supports are at a far higher risk of suffering form diabetes burn out and diabetes distress, further putting their health and safety at risk. Improving in customer support and education is not only good business, it is an ethical requirement of providing services to people with diabetes.
Alicia’s diverse nursing career has given her experience with a broad range of clients and a variety of health conditions in addition to diabetes. One of her passions is advocating for the needs of her patients, whether it be in overcoming insurance restrictions, obtaining community resources, or coordinating with school systems and medical providers.