Interview with Uffe Bjerg, Vice President, North America, GN Otometrics & Michel Jurgens, General Manager, Audiology Systems, Inc.
CAROLYN SMAKA: Uffe and Michel, thanks for joining today. Uffe, Congratulations on your new position as Vice President at GN Otometrics North America. I see that you are re-joining Otometrics after serving as General Manager in 2003 – 2005, and then working in global R&D and operations for the company.
UFFE BJERG: Yes, I’m excited to be working again in the North American market. The audiological and vestibular instrumentation market here has changed significantly in the past couple of years, and we are looking at new ways of conducting our business that will benefit vestibular and hearing care professionals. The changing marketplace provides us with many new opportunities to leverage our expertise and better service today’s providers.
SMAKA: How has the audiological equipment market changed in the past few years?
BJERG: Just like on the hearing instrument side of the industry, there has been consolidation. For professionals, this means a lack of a choice when it comes to purchase decisions for audiological and vestibular equipment, as well as limited options for service and support. In addition, with smaller, independent distributors now folded under a large parent corporation, there is a risk that changes in product portfolios, and policies may hurt, rather than help, audiology, vestibular and hearing care practices.
SMAKA: What do these changes mean for GN Otometrics?
In addition to our mission of providing innovative, effective audiological and vestibular solutions for our customers’ practices, GN Otometrics has a longstanding reputation of sales and technical support – from installation to calibration to product assistance, repairs, upgrades and training and education. We know that trust can’t be bought, it must be earned. We work very closely with our customers to ensure that we provide an unmatched level of service throughout the whole customer experience so that they can implement our solutions with ease, and enjoy a more effective and efficient clinical practice as a result.
We are strategically leveraging our strengths along with the latest technologies in an entirely new business model that is completely customer-focused. We believe this is a turning point for the industry, and that this new model will transform the market as we know it.
SMAKA: Tell me about the new business model.
BJERG: The advantage of partnering with smaller, independent distributors and dedicated industry professionals is that they can be nimble, flexible and dedicated to customers’ needs. They can focus their offerings to the customers they serve, rather than implementing a top-down, one-size-fits-all approach across a wide variety of customers and practice settings. They can be extremely responsive in terms of supporting those customers, and serving as a resource and a partner instead of just a vendor.
Rather than a reactive approach to the changing marketplace whereby we would counter consolidation with more consolidation, we have decided to invest in a new company, Audiology Systems, founded on this innovative approach to customer care. Audiology Systems offers U.S. customers in more than 30 states a new choice for audiological and vestibular solutions.
SMAKA: Audiology Systems is not owned by GN Otometrics?
BJERG: No, Audiology Systems is an independent company and is not owned by GN Otometrics. Rather, GN Otometrics is one shareholder among many. That way, Audiology Systems can maintain its entrepreneurial spirit, and make decisions based on what is best for the customers it serves. Audiology Systems will carry the GN Otometrics product portfolio, and will partner with other leading manufacturers such as Intelligent Hearing Systems and Noise Barriers to provide complementary solutions.
SMAKA: When does this change officially take place?
BJERG: This became effective August 2012, meaning that Audiology Systems Inc. is the exclusive distributor for GN Otometrics in more than 30 states.
SMAKA: Thank you, Uffe. Michel, how will Audiology Systems transform the market as Uffe indicates?
JURGENS: At Audiology Systems, our vision for customer care is not one that has been realized in our industry to date. Our approach is three-fold: professional, consultative, and accessible. These aspects carry through the entire customer experience.
Being professional begins with intimately knowing our products. We are focusing on a full portfolio consisting of fewer product lines that deliver the best solutions, instead of trying to offer every product on the market. This way, we can achieve the kind of specialized support that sets the standard in customer care. If our customers look to us as the experts, it’s not enough that we simply know the general applications of a product; we must be comfortable with all of the functions and the customizations available for you and your practice.
Being consultative refers to being an extension of you and your practice. In addition to product sales and support, customers can look to us for training, guidance and resources. Our staff includes trusted names in the industry who have the experience and contacts to provide expert consultation on many aspects of your practice.
Finally, we cannot achieve our goals without being one-hundred percent accessible. There are many technologies available today that afford us whole new ways of serving and supporting our customers, and they are underutilized in our industry. This includes technology that provides remote access to help with an installation or troubleshooting, to providing remote product training to help customers get up and running with a new piece of equipment, and much more. We should expect the companies we do business with to be accessible, and you’ll see that Audiology Systems has a new definition of accessible that sets us apart.
We know that change can be difficult, but we want to assure our customers that our goal, first and foremost, is to improve the overall customer experience.
SMAKA: As General Manager of Audiology Systems, what expertise do you bring to the company and what will your primary role be?
JURGENS: I was with GN Otometrics, for eight years, both in the corporate headquarters in Denmark and at GN Otometrics North America. I joined the company in 2004 as a commercial product manager in Denmark and have since worked in sales and marketing in positions, such as international key accounts director/sales director and manager of the launch and marketing communication department. Most recently, I was the manager of the sales, audiology and marketing department in GN Otometrics North America, where I established a team to drive national market penetration and distributor involvement.
Presently, I will be responsible for overseeing all daily operations at Audiology Systems, including management of a sales/service team. I am excited that this new role at Audiology Systems enables me to use my expertise to help develop and implement a new transformative business model designed to benefit the audiology and vestibular markets. We believe that given the recent changes in the market that Uffe has described, that the timing is exactly right for Audiology Systems to not only succeed, but to set a new standard for customer care today. I’m privileged to be a part of it.
SMAKA: Michel, it’s great to speak with you as always. Wishing you much success with Audiology Systems.
For more information about Otometrics, please visit www.otometrics.com or the Otometrics Expo Page on AudiologyOnline. For more information about Audiology Systems, please visit www.audiologysystems.com