Peter Cooke is the President of Wright Medical International, a global health care company that specializes in the manufacturing, supply and service of medical devices implanted for upper extremities – shoulders, elbows and hands – as well as foot and ankles. Its customers are health professionals, specialist surgeons and hospitals that provide the treatment and care needed by their patients for a healthy, active life.
Dr. Linden Brown interviews Peter Cooke, in this, the first in a series of interviews on Customer Culture.
Why is customer centricity important to business success?
It goes back to making the customer feel special. For example, what is the most important thing you bought over the last year and how did you feel buying it? If it’s a car there is always the feeling of how was the sales experience – there is something that hooks you in – that human contact. That’s the essence of customer engagement. For me, people buy from people and that’s what makes a difference.
How does this apply in your industry?
I’ve had the good fortune of working in medical devices with premium technologies that make a difference to people’s lives. These latest technologies are sought after by health systems and health professionals to help patients improve their quality of life. It’s like a luxury brand, it’s finite, it has to work. There can be no risk of it not working because a patient’s life or quality of life is at the end of that. I think that really focuses on what customer engagement and the need for a customer-centric business is about.
How do you retain a customer-centric approach when there are shareholder pressures for short-term results?
To do this we need a depth of competence at the top with leaders that have a high willingness to collaborate. We continually communicate the 3 or 4 key themes – we call them the vital few – to all employees in the business. The leadership team stands behind these themes and cascades them throughout the company and infuses them at every level. There needs to be a consistency of each leader standing behind the “vital few” themes of which one can be customer engagement in which the whole management team is aligned.
How do you get buy-in across the business?
We have a process we call HPMS (High Performance Management System). It involves researching the key indicators for shareholders, customers and employees and we score their “willingness to recommend” and get verbatim comments from all three groups as to where we sit in the performance of our company. We use this good data to help align people to where we need to go and what the strategy needs to be to get there. This process involving research, data, insight and communication leads to buy-in across the business.
How do you see your role as President of Wright Medical International?
I need to be a champion and cheerleader for the direction of the business. So I must deliver as an imperative those vital few initiatives. That’s what I’m measured on. Anywhere in the world, in any function, I can come back to those vital few initiatives.
How important is it for you to visit customers?
It is the most important thing. Recently I spent time with some of out opinion leaders from around the world. These are people who have led with research and technology as surgeons and they are as passionate as I am about customer satisfaction – for them patient satisfaction. We feed off each other by making the best possible device for them to deliver a patient solution for exactly what they need. So we align our business strategy to our direct line customers.
How do you develop this passionate customer mindset in the business?
First, there must be an appreciation and understanding of all the different facets around the customer – there may be multiple functions and considerations. People who reflect on all these facets and engage with internal as well as external customers in each part of the customer value chain work at a much higher level of customer insight and engagement.
Second, there is raw enthusiasm that comes with human interaction. You have those people in an organization that smile when they think about their products. They exude a passion for what they do and that conveys an infectious energy when interacting with a customer – and customers feed off that.
Third, there must be empathy – that ability to put yourself in another person’s shoes. This requires a marked transition in natural behavior. It highlights the importance of listening skills and asking questions that uncover the undercurrent of what they actually want and need.
How are you doing this at Wright Medical International?
For the last eighteen months we have been following a systematic process that involves an evidence-based tool and methodology to benchmark our level of customer-centric practices against the best in the world. We have a level of confidence in this as hundreds of corporations make up the database.
It opened up new dimensions for me as to what you must consider in customer engagement. It also taught me that where I stood was quite blinkered. It uncovered some blind-spots that I hadn’t seriously considered in the past. I think I had a pre-conceived idea that we would be better than we actually were. It was a healthy and constructive process that identified where we needed to focus to change our business.
I really like the fact-based data driven evidence that creates alignment for what is going on in each of our businesses around the world. And that is a very powerful tool you can take to your leaders and have a very objective and constructive discussion about how to improve their businesses. By involving all the employees in these countries it creates engagement and focus.
It has enabled us to focus on the vital few priorities that will shift the needle on customer engagement and the best practices to implement to make it happen.
In an industry in which the quality of the product and the ability to create a great customer experience for surgeons and their patients is both life-saving and life – changing, the importance of a customer-centric culture through customer engagement is central to success. Also the use of evidence-based tools that provide data and insight on customer needs and employee engagement on their requirements for success create alignment on the “vital few’ priorities that will move the needle towards achievement of company goals.
Dr. Linden Brown and his team at MarketCulture in Silicon Valley conducts research on the concept of customer-obsession with the world’s top organizations – Amazon, Google, Apple, Starbucks and many others. He is a renowned Professor who has taught at universities around the world including INSEAD (France), Cranfield (England) and the University of NSW (Australian Graduate School of Management). He has also conducted leadership and skills development programs at many of the world’s great corporations.