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How Toshiba stayed tops with customers

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Toshiba America Medical Systems, a Tustin, Calif.-based provider of diagnostic imaging systems, has long enjoyed strong customer satisfaction rankings for its flagship product, CT scanners.

In 2007, however, the company noticed that its ranking by MD Buyline, an independent third-party analyst of health care products, had begun to slip. After a few quarters, Toshiba found that though it still had the No. 1 spot in customer satisfaction for its CT scanners, it shared that spot with a competitor—a development that was very troubling, said Cathy Wolfe, director of marketing services for Toshiba.

“We were really concerned about what was going on with our performance with customers and what we could do to make changes,” Wolfe said.

So Toshiba conducted a customer audit and determined key changes that could help the company improve its performance. First, it created a “voice of the customer” committee to drive customer loyalty initiatives. The committee includes representatives from each of the company’s major functions—such as human resources, marketing, finance and IT—and reports to the general manager. “So if we were having any issues or problems in a particular area, we had senior-level management visibility into that,” Wolfe said.

Toshiba also changed the way it interacted with its customers. Previously, customers who had a problem that involved multiple Toshiba departments would get follow-up calls from each of those departments. To make the process more efficient and effective, Wolfe said, the company created a position, called customer support manager, to serve as a central figure to interact with the customer. As a result, if a customer has an issue that involves three or four departments, those departments will gather the necessary information and provide it to the customer support manager, who then contacts the customer.

“It made it much more streamlined and easier for everyone to understand and much less confusing for the customer when they were trying to get issues resolved,” Wolfe said.

Lastly, Toshiba made an investment to upgrade its software revision levels on its CT products. As a result, it’s much easier for Toshiba to troubleshoot with clients having issues because it knows all software has been updated, she said.

Toshiba’s efforts have paid off: The company reclaimed the No. 1 spot in customer satisfaction, and on a 10-point scale, its current rating is a 9.2, with the closest competitor at an 8.8.

Wolfe advises marketers facing similar challenges to be persistent. “Don’t give up,” she said. “It’s not easy to do, and lot of times you can get a lot of pushback in your organization, but don’t give up. The results are worth the effort.”

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