Interview with Maarten Barmentlo, Group Vice President Marketing, Phonak
Carolyn Smaka: Maarten, it’s been about six months since Phonak introduced the Quest platform. What has been the feedback from the market?
Maarten Barmentlo: In one word, excellent. We just completed a survey here in the U.S. of hearing care professionals and we got very positive feedback. Nine out of ten professionals would recommend Quest products to their peers, and our customers are continuing to refit and repurchase Quest once they tried it. Another feature that we’re very proud of is first fit acceptance, where we are seeing a 60% improvement with Quest. We know that first fit acceptance is a very important driver of whether people keep hearing aids after the trial period.
We were already seeing improvements with first fit acceptance with the Spice+ platform, but with Quest we introduced a new low-level noise cancellation approach, which is a little different than the traditional approach. Quest focuses on filtering out soft steady noises, which provides three important benefits. First, it requires less finetuning for professionals. From a consumer point of view it combines high speech intelligibility with comfort, which is always the challenge. Typically professionals have had to compromise one for the other, and now we've been able to improve performance so that we can deliver good speech intelligibility and comfort at the first fit, while reducing the need for finetuning.
In addition, Quest gets high marks for aesthetics with the new housings, new colors and designs. The aesthetics combined with the performance provides a complete package in terms of being able to significantly improve consumer satisfaction, and why this technology is considered to be a breakthrough.
Carolyn: According to Kochkin, we can move the needle on consumer satisfaction when we can satisfy the consumer in more listening situations.
Maarten: Exactly, and this was our inspiration in the development of Quest and what drove our innovation. It may seem obvious, but user satisfaction can only be achieved if the technology performs in many relevant listening situations, and that's a challenge. Obviously, there are many solutions available that cover the basic needs, however one needs to leverage sophisticated technology to tackle a few more situations. If you want to get satisfaction level up to 80%, which, I think, is the minimum, you need to cover about 70% of their relevant listening situations.
With the Quest platform we've been able to build upon an already strong technological foundation. We of course have had very good hearing aids already for many years that serve well in a lot of listening situations. With Quest, we've been able to add two important ones. One is a very noisy environment. The Quest platform features the new auto StereoZoom feature that improves the signal-to-noise ratio in high-noise situations. The other one is Speech in Wind. The best way to convince anyone of the benefit of this feature is to demonstrate it – hearing is believing.
This is another listening situation where we truly use Binaural VoiceStream Technology™ to our advantage. This feature analyzes which ear has the best signal in terms of which is least affected by the wind noise, and then we basically transmit the better signal to the other ear. This is a simplified explanation - we also do some processing of the low frequencies and the high frequencies such that the listener gets the optimum performance, and it's an amazing difference.
Carolyn: What else came out of the survey of professionals?
Maarten: With Quest, the DuoPhone feature, also enabled by the same Binaural VoiceStream Technology™, gets very good ratings too.
Two-thirds of the hearing care professionals that we sampled considered StereoZoom and Binaural VoiceStream Technology™ as breakthrough innovation, so that tells us that we're definitely on the right track. Sixty percent of hearing care professionals consider our RemoteMic to be the preferred remote microphone solution. The portfolio is now perfectly complemented by Roger, the new wireless standard, and so we have very competitive solutions for each and every listening situation and hearing loss.
Carolyn: Have there been any new product additions on the Quest platform, since its launch back in October?
Maarten: Yes, there have been several exciting additions. With Audéo Q, we just added the RICs to the Quest platform. As you know, RICs are the biggest and fastest growing segment. We're very happy to now also add a RIC device with telecoil to the Audéo family. And, we have also added Phonak Naída Q, which is the power product line to the Quest platform. The power segment is an important part of our business, and we're very happy to bring the Quest innovation to this segment.
In just six months, the Quest platform now serves about 90% of our market. With a full offering of BTEs, custom devices, and now RIC and power devices, we can offer the same platform, with the core features to everyone.
We've also added another important solution with the balanced tinnitus portfolio. We know tinnitus is a complicated issue and that is not solved by technology alone. It is addressed by a combination of counseling and technology, and so the approach we've taken is to try to make it as easy and as flexible for hearing care professionals who currently treat tinnitus in their practices to work with our portfolio.
Our Phonak Audéo Q hearing instruments now include a noise generator and we have launched a unique App that is based on Progressive Tinnitus Management. We know that in many cases amplification alone is already offering sufficient relief. In those cases where it is not enough and any kind of sound therapy has to be introduced as part of the treatment, the patient can continue to use the best hearing technology on the market with Phonak Audéo Q hearing aids and the hearing care professional is not forced to switch brands. With the tinnitus balance portfolio, we support the most common tinnitus philosophies as Tinnitus Masking, Tinnitus Retraining Therapy and Progressive Tinnitus Management.
We've also developed an App that the user can use to stream relevant sounds that they would like to be part of their treatment. Using the app, they can also easily log the specific experiences they have with those sounds to provide detailed feedback to the professional as part of their treatment process. For the App we have already received excellent customer feedbacks as it seamlessly integrates in the tinnitus counseling process.
With the currently introduced tinnitus solutions, we are starting a journey where we’ll need to continue to work very closely with hearing care professionals to be able to help more and more people with their tinnitus.
Carolyn: Thank you, Maarten. We appreciate the update on Quest and the new products.