Earlier this year, Fresenius Medical Care North America (FMCNA) was recognized by J.D. Power for providing an outstanding customer service experience for phone support. The J.D. Power Certified Customer Service Program recognition is based on successfully completing an evaluation and exceeding a customer satisfaction benchmark through a survey of recent servicing interactions.
In this Q&A with Veronica Stephens, Vice President of Customer and Technical Services at FMCNA’s Renal Therapies Group, we learn what certified customer service means to providing customers a great experience.
Q: Tell me about what your group is, what they do, and why what they do is important.
VS: My group is responsible for handling all customer questions, complaints, or requests for our products, including 100% of U.S. orders for in-center dialysis products. Our group’s mission really is about creating an effortless experience for customers. Customer service is best when it’s out of sight and out of mind. We offer electronic transmission of orders, a touchless experience for most of our dialysis centers, as well as external clinics.
If a dialysis center has an urgent need, the team assists by pulling product from any one of 14 distribution centers from across the country and getting it to the center on the date they need it.
Q: How critical is prompt customer service?
VS: People’s lives depend on this. If we don’t fulfill our orders on time, a patient may go without treatment. When there are shortages in the market, we can help facilitate speedier product movement. We also provide after-hours services. We have published business hours, but we’re really never closed. We have experienced and trained representatives available on-call, so if a clinic has an urgent issue after hours, we’re there whenever they need us.
Q: How did it make you feel to earn a J.D. power certification for customer service?
VS: Honestly, I was surprised. You never think you’re as good as maybe you are. We always think about how we can improve and we’re always in a continuous improvement cycle. To be recognized was very gratifying. I know that my team is awesome and they’re all here to serve and seeing that validated was amazing. I’m so proud of my team! Our team is so clear on their mission, why they’re here, what their purpose is, and that they’re all highly engaged. That makes me feel very proud.
Q: Can you give an example of how strong customer service can make a difference for our patients? Your team also supports many home dialysis patients as well, right?
VS: Yes. Our service really allows people with kidney failure on home dialysis to live full lives and we are so proud of our role in the effort to support home dialysis use nationwide.
We are especially seeing an uptick in dialysis travel requests now that COVID-19 cases are beginning to ease. Patients who travel need vacation and travel orders to reach their destination — and our team makes sure their supplies meet them at their destination at the right time. For domestic travel, patients must give a two week notice so our customer service team can coordinate with the local distribution center close to their destination address to coordinate delivery of products. For home patients to travel successfully, the customer service team really needs to be on top of things.
Q: What were some of the biggest challenges from the last year?
VS: It was particularly tough during the pandemic with increased demand for personal protective equipment (PPE) from a wide range of providers. We became a one-stop shop for dialysis products, as well as any PPE required to continue treating patients at centers across the U.S. It was truly a group effort from our Procurement, Materials Management, Customer Service, and Supply Chain team.
Our intention is to take the effort out for our customers. You don’t have to worry about the complexity, we take care of that. You tell us what you need and when you need it by, and we’re going to take care of that. It was a challenge, but tremendously rewarding as we ensured nobody went without the PPE that was important to safely treat patients during the COVID-19 pandemic. We also supplied everything from thermometers to check temperatures to shoe covers for clinicians.
Q: How rewarding is it for your team to do the work you do?
VS: We don’t simply hire customer service representatives. Instead, I seek people who have a calling for this work because they understand they’re making a difference in patients’ lives. We absolutely get it and that’s why we work the hours that we do and that’s why we’re there for them whenever they call because it’s our way of making a difference for the patients, for their families, for the care teams treating patients. It’s truly our privilege.
J.D. Power 2020 Certified Customer Service ProgramSM recognition is based on successful completion of an evaluation and exceeding a customer satisfaction benchmark through a survey of recent servicing interactions. For more information, visit www.jdpower.com/ccc.