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Interview with Christi Pedra, President and CEO of Siemens Hearing

Christi Pedra

April 23, 2007
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Topic: Focusing on customers, pediatrics, patients and the new CENTRA Active™
Paul Dybala: Hello everybody, this is Dr. Paul Dybala with Audiology Online, and today we're talking with the new President and CEO of Siemens Hearing Instruments, Christi Pedra. Christi, thank you for taking the time to speak with us today.

Christi Pedra: Oh, you're most welcome, Paul. I'm excited to have this opportunity.

Dybala: Just to start, could you outline your history with Siemens and tell us how you've come to be where you are today?

Pedra: Sure, I'd love to. I have just celebrated my 22nd year with Siemens. I joined the organization through the acquisition of ROLM, which is a telecommunications company. For the first 17 years of my career with Siemens, I was in Information and Communication Systems. It was quite a challenging and lively time in that industry. My career spanned assignments primarily in sales and marketing as well as general management.


Christi Pedra, President and CEO of Siemens Hearing Instruments

Then, about five years ago, I moved into a corporate initiative called Siemens One, where we collectively worked with all of the different Siemens operating companies, combining the portfolio of products and solutions, and taking them in a very customized and integrated approach to some of the Fortune 100 customers and select industries like healthcare and airports in the US.

Dybala: Very impressive. It sounds like you bring a wealth of experience and a broader perspective to the hearing health care industry. I'm sure that's one of the main reasons why they tapped you for this new position.

Pedra: Yes. One of the things that's really great about the career that I've enjoyed at Siemens is that I've been able to span different industries and different assignments. We are doing more of that at Siemens by cross-training all of our executives and identifying talent early in their careers. This way we can bring them in and groom them for key management assignments in the United States, as well as around the world.

Dybala: When Siemens announced your new appointment back on January 4, they mentioned several of your main goals. One of the things that stood out to me as possibly your biggest responsibility was that they wanted you to strengthen relationships with customers. Could you give us an overview of what your tasks are and how have you been moving forward with that initiative?

Pedra: Well, there are three major initiatives that we're working with to strengthen customer relationships, and I feel very strongly that customer focus is really the key to growing our business over the long term.

Some people are familiar with the Siemens Business Partner Program from their past interactions with Siemens, but we recently expanded it. Now we offer customized marketing initiatives that will really support and help our Siemens Business Partner members connect with more hearing-impaired individuals.

We're looking at educational seminars for our audiologists, helping them to look at their practices with maybe a fresh perspective. No matter the size of the practice, Siemens has a support program to fit its needs. I think in any customer relationship you really have to try to understand what they are attempting to accomplish in their business, and then bring the materials and resources to help them accomplish those goals.

The second program that we're expanding in terms of customer relationships is the pediatric area. We are on the verge of a new branding partnership that will greatly increase our recognition in the pediatric offering.

Dybala: Tell me more!

Pedra: We're really excited about it, and we'll be launching that program shortly. Through our kid g-ear™ program, Siemens is providing audiologists with the knowledge and experience of a team of internal audiologists, who have specific pediatric experience, including products for the pediatric market.

These people are helping us shape the hearing care delivered in that marketplace, as well as providing input about products and product support. We're looking at really putting a lot of effort into increasing our product line in this specialized area, and making sure that we have the pediatric staff to meet the customers' needs.

The final area in terms of customer intimacy has to do with expanding our consumer marketing program. A lot of things we designed in the past were to help the audiologists push the products through their practices.

What we're hoping to do - and these are marketing terms that I hope people aren't offended that I use - but we're trying to create material that helps pull the product through the channel. So, if we do more with creating brand awareness and strengthening our consumer marketing programs, this will also strengthen the audiologists' practices.

We're going to expand our consumer marketing program through advertising and also through hearing health public relations activities. I think every opportunity that we have to educate people about hearing loss and better hearing health is a good thing for the industry.

We are also working with the consumers to help them understand what kind of information or services they can receive from audiologists. It's a two-pronged approach, where we're helping them understand the fundamentals of hearing loss and then what they can do about it. How do they connect with a hearing care professional, with the audiologist, to help improve their residual hearing and address the challenges that they're having?

Dybala: That sounds great, the more education for patients, the better. It sounds like you're producing some great tools, and at the same time you're also creating great support for your customers to be able to use them.

Pedra: That's a goal of ours. Providing the resources, as well as the education on how to best use those resources, and really listening to the customers. Once again, I have a very strong conviction to focus on our customers in every aspect of the business, in every process that we undertake within our company.

Dybala: You mentioned advertising to the consumer. Could you go into the specifics of the type of things that you're looking to do?

Pedra: We are currently in production with some TV commercials, which could be used within audiology practices, as well as in trade show venues. So, we are moving ahead in that area. There are some branding campaigns that we will tag along with at the corporate level, because Siemens is putting forth tremendous effort in trying to create brand awareness in the United States.

Siemens is also, at the corporate level, addressing the mega-trends of the aging demographics - the fact that people are living longer and they're demanding a higher quality of life. We're very much linked to that story because we see the importance of hearing care firsthand. Preventing hearing loss and promoting hearing health as part of the quality of life as people are getting older is very important.

Dybala: Speaking of the demands of the consumer/patients - let me shift gears, and ask you about the new INTUIS™ hearing instrument line. Siemens went out and directly surveyed consumers/patients about what features they may want as part of a hearing aid, what's most important to them, and then Siemens built a value priced set of devices based on that input. Tell us about the survey and the INTUIS line.

Pedra: The survey was conducted via the Internet this past December, so it's very recent in terms of data. It was based on the findings of a sample of about 700 online consumer web panelists who reported hearing loss, and the age range was between 42 and 65 years. What we found was that the majority of hearing instrument wearers are really looking at affordability as a major factor in their decision-making process.

Another one of the things that we also determined through the survey besides affordability was that feature functionality that comes along with the hearing aid is important to consumers. The survey confirmed a lot of the things we felt we needed to do in order to bring the right product to market, and our INTUIS family of products was designed with the value- and feature-conscious consumers in mind.



INTUIS hearing instrument line from Siemens.


INTUIS offers directional microphone systems, feedback cancellation, noise reduction at a really affordable price, which is what consumers were saying they were wanting. It's a great line with a lot of features. This is pretty uncommon for this price class.

Dybala: That's a great range of features for the price class. Siemens has been busy this year, as INTUIS was released in January and you just released another product. Tell us about it.

Pedra: Glad you asked! We announced in March 2007, the extension of our CENTRA line, CENTRA Active™, which is a top-of-the-line product. We believe it's really the first hearing instrument truly designed to fit active lifestyles, because it was designed with a special technology called Siemens AquaProtect™ that resists wetness, moisture, and humidity.

We know that moisture is an issue that plagues the performance of the aid, so it's great in that the nanocoating repels the water. In addition, there's a GORE™ clip-on microphone, a microphone cover that helps prevent damage from perspiration, water, and other liquids; there's a C-Guard™ barrier that protects the dome tip. There's all these features, and yet, it was designed for easy operation and comfort. It's easy for the wearer to operate and also has rechargeable batteries.



Dybala: You mentioned that this is targeted for active lifestyles, but I'd say this could be for any patient who wants a moisture resistant device, especially for those of us who live in the more humid parts of the world!

Rechargeable batteries in hearing aids seem to be an emerging trend in the industry. What have you heard from consumers/patients in regard to rechargeable batteries? Was this something you addressed in your consumer survey in December?

Pedra: Not that particular survey, but we've spoken to consumers and have been training audiologists on this product as well. They're very excited about it, and they tell us their customers, their patients, are asking for this. On top of all that, CENTRA Active is also a receiver-in-the-canal product.

Dybala: Whoa, you've got a lot going on there. [laughter]

Pedra: [laughter] Yeah, that's right. This is totally different and new!

Dybala: OK, so you've got a receiver in the canal technology, built in moisture protection for the device and it's a rechargeable device. This is in addition to all the "standard" things you would expect in a high-end hearing Siemens aid such as multiple channels of compression and noise reduction, multiple programs and microphones, logging, feedback cancellation, etc.

Pedra: Right.

Dybala: Excellent. Well, that's an exciting product, obviously. Christi, I want to end on a high note as I am about out of time. I do want to say thank you so much for taking time to meet with me and the Audiology Online readers. I appreciate it. Where can we go for additional information about Siemens, INTUIS and CENTRA Active?

Pedra: Please visit the Siemens website at www.usa.siemens.com/hearing and Paul, thank you, it was a pleasure.

About Siemens Hearing Instruments

Siemens Hearing Instruments, part of Siemens Medical Solutions, is one of the leading manufacturers of hearing instruments in the United States. Headquartered in Piscataway, New Jersey, the Company offers a range of innovative products, solutions and services to Hearing Care Professionals across the United States. Among its innovative products, the Company designs and manufactures a variety of digital hearing instruments in all styles to improve the quality of life for individuals with hearing loss. Visit www.usa.siemens.com/hearing for more information.

Additional information about Siemens can also be found on the Audiology Online web channel at www.audiologyonline.com/channels/siemens.asp
Hearing Health CE Series


christi pedra

Christi Pedra

CEO of Siemens Hearing



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