Bayer Animal Health of Shawnee, Kan., has created two new teams to bring its customers—veterinarians—to the forefront: an employee-driven Customer Focus Task Force and a Customer Advisory Board, both of which are under the direction of Christine Pierson, vice president of sales.
“We’re looking how we can differentiate ourselves in the animal health industry,” she says.
The task force, made up of Bayer Animal Health employees, is designed to improve internal cooperation throughout the company to ensure positive customer impact. It began with 18 people within the sales group and has grown to 30 employees from various company divisions, such as the product supply group and veterinary services group.
Four targeted sub-groups were created: improving customer feedback (getting feedback from customers and building on it), strengthening internal linkages (working together in a synergetic fashion), enhancing product support (based on the idea that supporting veterinarians in turn helps veterinarians support their customers, the pet owner) and increasing sales representative face time with customers.
The group is already looking into implementing new and creative strategies, Pierson says. For instance, creating a rewards system to recognize employees that demonstrate customer focus, hosting training sessions and beginning a job shadowing program where employees can meet their colleagues in other departments to gain a greater understanding of the company as a whole.
The advisory board, which is comprised of 15 Bayer Animal Health customers from around the U.S., discusses and analyzes customer feedback across all lines of business.
The board is made up of veterinarians in the companion and food animal industry, males and females, young and old. They wanted a good cross section, Pierson says.
To help remain objective, they not only looked at customers they knew well but also those from the competition.
The first meeting took place at the Western Veterinary Conference in February in Las Vegas. They found that the key to sustaining strong customer relationships is empowering the sales force and providing them with the tools they need to address customers’ varied concerns.
The board was asked what they thought about the total Bayer experience, such as from an advertising perspective, relationships with sales representatives in the field, products and the overall Bayer brand. The company has taken that feedback and is in the process of getting back to the customers to show them how they are going to incorporate it in the company.
"We are following up to show that we are truly listening to our customers," Pierson says.
The board plans on meeting once a year but may increase to several times a year, she says. This process, bringing the focus back to the customer, is something the company plans to enhance over a period of time, Pierson says.
“This isn’t a flavor of the month or flavor of the year, this is going to be a two-, three-, four-year journey for us and hopefully, if we truly get in the culture, then it is going to develop and be a part of who Bayer is,” she says.
“I don’t want to minimize that [Bayer Animal Health] isn’t already a customer centric company. There’s always been an interest in making sure our customers are happy, but it’s coming from a different approach.”