Dear Mr. Culp,
Beckman Coulter was considered the gold standard in clinical laboratory analyzers. Since I went to medical technology school 30+ years ago, I’ve had a lot of respect and admiration for the company and its products. It was an honor to have been first offered a position in the, quality department at the DSL division in Webster, Texas, then when that section closed to have the opportunity to work as a field service engineer. I have nothing but the highest regard for my manager, Bill Briere, and co-workers, Carl Walters, John Box, and Ruben Flores.
It is therefore with the best of intentions that I would like a moment to bring some disturbing practices to your attention. In your letter dated October 22, 2013, you note that service is an area for growth opportunity…as a differentiator for our company…aligning us with our customers. That is all more true than you can imagine.
During my first year as a FSE, my soft skills development plan was to ask customers what they liked most and least about BCI and our products and why they chose us. Across the board, they responded that most clinical analyzers do the same thing, but what they like about BCI is the service. They noted that we do our best to provide same day service and unless we need to order parts not on hand, we fix it that day. In the clinical laboratory where patient results are critical, having working instruments is paramount. A lot of that expertise in being able to repair these complex instruments is now compromised. Time and money is spent training each engineer on each instrument we are to service. To repair the instruments quickly and efficiently also requires experience.
As I understand one of our core value drivers is “the Best Team Wins” with one of the measurements being retention of talent. In the last year, in order to cover in areas that have lost critical numbers of FSE, I have worked in south Florida, North Dakota, Minnesota, Detroit, Austin, and East Texas (my home territory is Houston). We are clearly not retaining talent and are in fact losing valuable assets the company has invested quite a lot in.
This is particularly disturbing after having listened to Tom Joyce’s message explaining Danaher’s core values. One of those values is “customers talk, we listen” and to see this in action, our strategic planning is to make life easier for our customers. Based on my experience, this is not happening. One example is that we have customers who pay for 24/7 service, now one engineer is covering such a huge territory when we are on call, in effect we are not providing this service we promised. We are instead just talking to them on the phone and letting them know someone will be there first thing in the morning…how many of those customers do you think are going to renew a contract like that?
A few days after one particular team phone meeting with Andrew Hyndman, I contacted Bill, my manager, to let him know I had never been so insulted. During the phone meeting, Andrew stated that we were “walking our dog and having breakfast” after clocking in and that he expected us to clock in when we got in the car to go on our first call. After a long silent pause, another engineer, Brandon, responded that he (and as far as he knew every other FSE) clocked in at 7:30 when he got his calls, turned on his computer, logged onto VPN while calling the customer, discussed the issue with them and agreed upon a time to arrive, then got onto web-to-go to get the call details, then possibly onto ProService to look at the customers instrument errors while calling the coordinator to let him know the name of the client he spoke to as well as the time agreed for arrival and sometimes if possible, quickly checked e-mail to see if something critical needed to be responded to. That takes 30-40 minutes before getting in the car to leave. Andrew again said that he did not expect us to clock in until getting in the car. Brandon point blank asked him if we were supposed to work off the clock or not do those functions. Andrew responded that no, we were not supposed to work off the clock, but that yes, we were to get all the other work accomplished…. Bill responded I wasn’t the first to let him know how I felt about that “meeting”. In every team meeting we have had with Andrew or John Dion, I’ve come away with the same feeling that we are not respected or trusted. It’s really odd that I don’t know anyone who goes to work every morning thinking anything but they want to do their best that day…yet the two of them seem to believe otherwise.
To sum it up, when Danaher first bought BCI, it seemed like new energy moved in, energy to get rid of waste and energy to revitalize R&D in this complex ever changing business, I was excited. However due to decisions by my upper management (who are not using the Gemba model) resulting in both lack of retention of talent and lack of caring about our customers, I wonder how long it can be sustainable.
Theresa Tompkins, MT (ASCP)
Field Service Engineer