The Intralase Story, Part III: The Relentless Pursuit of Customer Satisfaction

Intralase Part III

Read ‘The Intralase Story – Part I’ here.
Read ‘The Intralase Story – Part II’ here.

The Relentless Pursuit of Customer Satisfaction

In Part II of this story, I wrote about how we used structured problem solving to develop and launch a team process that ensured high levels of procedure adoption by new customers.

In today’s [blog or video], I will share our “voice of customer” process, a foundational element of our high-performance management system (HPMS), and the key impact it had on decision making and our ultimate success in the marketplace.

The first generation Intralase laser launched in 2002 operated at 10kHz and, depending on your preferred spot/line separation, could take up to 2 minutes to complete a corneal dissection or LASIK “flap”. This compared unfavorably with the ~10 seconds it took with a traditional microkeratome.

Through our voice of customer process, we understood this to be the #1 opportunity for improvement. In response, we launched the second generation in 2004 at 15kHz enabling procedure times of ~ 1 minute, and the third generation in 2005 at 30kHz and ~30 second procedure times.

At Intralase we refreshed the strategy or “Vital Few” priorities on a 6-month cycle. Voice of the customer, employee and shareholder are all critical inputs to these sessions and, as we like to say, the quality of the output is dependent on the quality of the input.

Regards customer, we measure satisfaction with the journey from “the greeting to the farewell” as well as overall willingness to recommend. We also ask the following open-ended question: “If Intralase could improve one or two important things, what would you recommend?”. In this sense we are asking the customer to help us Pareto* their needs.
In the analysis step we measure satisfaction scores as well as correlations to overall satisfaction. Correlation is absolutely critical to identifying the “right things” as score alone can be misleading.

As we prepared for our early 2005 strategy session, or “HPMS Offsite”, our customer data and this analysis pointed to an inconvenient truth: the speed of the system remained the lowest score/highest correlation to satisfaction item – trumping, once again, improvements in ease-of-use, reliability and consumables. The survey results, at first, were not well received, creating a sense of discomfort and tension among the leadership team, particularly in R&D. After a great deal of discussion about market segmentation, resources and feasibility, however, we reached consensus on a plan to double the speed of the laser – to 60kHz – in less than one year.

Eleven months later, in early 2006, we launched the 60kHz system touting ~15 second procedures times. This breakthrough, which came at the expense of many other projects, allowed us to penetrate the high-volume surgeon segment and continue our march to become the standard-of-care. I can still recall specific surgeons who switched from the blade to the laser on the release of the 60kHz system.

While an obvious concept, we find that many businesses struggle to truly listen and respond to their customers. Many focus solely on the financial drivers– pushing for more systems in the market by competing on price or features, rather than finding what the customer wants, improving it, and building loyalists who will market your product for you.

If you have an interest in implementing our high-performance system or simply would like to improve the rigor of your survey science, please reach out to us.

Choosing your organization’s “Vital Few” and achieving breakthrough performance

Read ‘The Intralase Story – Part IV here.