We earned Client Loyalty by Delivering More than Requested…

How we took care of our customer’s product quality needs and earned client loyalty…

Executives reach out to Advantu because they run into unforeseen problems and we call in our experts to fix their problems. Over the years, we have earned the trust of our clients by looking for ways to increase the value of our services. We don’t wait to be asked. Value Add is something that every Solution Provider should be delivering to their clients – on every medical device project — but unfortunately, most do not. For us it’s all about earning client loyalty.

As a software quality engineer, I led software testing efforts all over corporate America. I performed my tour of duty as a contractor going wherever the project journey led me and found my sweet spot serving the intricate medical device industry. I am passionate about serving this highly specialized sector because software quality management directly affects human life.  I did this for almost 10 years and learned a lot about how projects should be executed successfully in a heavily regulated business – and winced when, more often, they were executed poorly around me.

I noticed the biggest impact was time constraints.  Corporate executives and project sponsors are competitive by nature and confidently promise to deliver more product features faster than their competitors, almost always before the project scope and timeline have been fully vetted.  From inception, almost every project launches with a time deficit.

This deficit meant that teams would move one step forward, and three steps backwards.

Many of the projects I worked on ran far short of time, due either to poor planning, hurried execution, or lack of ‘best practices’ being implemented from start to finish. This included sloppy project management, failing to monitor the team’s velocity of task completion and improper change management. Almost always, scope reduction, cost overruns, or worse, compromised product quality resulted in a disappointed client or end user.  In the medical device industry, improper time planning often resulted in regulatory compliance failures…particularly for tool validation projects.

From my lessons learned, I evolved my own software quality methodology, and when I launched Advantu, I instilled my principles in every team member with every client project we have executed.  It is our secret sauce.

Back to my value-add example.  Our client needed to have software tool validation – plus product validation – performed within a limited time frame…which is standard for most of our client engagements; however, they had not factored it into our scope.  Approximately 9 software applications required validation by a specific product delivery date because an FDA submittal deadline couldn’t be missed without major cost and schedule impacts.

With software tool validation, especially commercial off-the-shelf products, you can assign this task to a single quality engineer and complete it in a reasonable time frame.

At Advantu, we have multiple client projects running simultaneously, so managing our task velocity to ensure we do not impede our client’s project’s timeline is key to our success.

For this client, we brought in an engineer with vast embedded testing experience…but with no background in the medical device world. He met the technical criteria, but had no knowledge of FDA compliance or the associated (requisite) documentation. This presented a potential timeline challenge, due to the compliance learning curve involved – and we pride ourselves on overcoming these types of challenges and keeping our client’s schedule on time.

When I was a contractor at CareFusion, I was impressed with their processes for maintaining ‘best practice’ quality – one of which included conducting extensive peer reviews to ensure every potential ‘human error’ was caught early in the cycle.

One Example of Best Practices.

Here’s how peer reviews work in software test:

  1. Test Protocol Creation
    1. Software Quality Engineer #1:
      1. Review stable/approved requirements
      2. Craft a test protocol
        1. Perform a dry run in the process
        2. Confirm all test steps are accurate and are fully traceable
        3. Submit for technical review
  2. Technical Review
    1. Software Quality Engineer #2
      1. Conduct a technical review
      2. This means, repeating the dry run process that SQE #1 conducted to make sure:
        1. That ‘technically’ the test protocol fully validates the referenced requirement(s)
        2. All test steps are accurate to the feature/functionality/workflow
      3. Submit for approval
  3. Compliance Review
    1. Software Quality Engineer #3
      1. Conduct a compliance review
      2. Validate all parameters, references, QMS compliance, etc. are documented thoroughly and accurately for each test protocol
      3. If this passes review – Approved

For inexperienced test engineers, they may perceive this important process as unnecessary and time-consuming work. When executed properly however, this process is insurance against costly rework. Test plans and protocols that are crafted and thoroughly reviewed throughout a project, ensure few missed requirements late in the project lifecycle. Costly change requests (that can overwhelm a project) often occur when quality processes are minimized.  

We provided additional Value Added service for free.

For this project, we didn’t ask for permission to do what we knew was right. We provided it without fanfare at our sole expense. Even though the project lead was experienced and directly supporting the new test engineer, we wanted to provide an extra layer of oversight…at no cost to our client.  I tasked our SQE Manager with providing tech reviews of all the test protocols created by our new test engineer for his first tool validation, including the approval step. I instinctively knew this would be appreciated by our client when he later realized the extra effort we invested at no charge to his company.

What did our client think?

Our client reviewed all the documentation after our team approved the first batch of test protocols, and he was extremely impressed with the quality, accuracy and completeness of the Intended Use Validation (IUV) documentation, especially since it was delivered on time. During my next phone call with the client, he explained that he had never seen another Solution Provider go the extra mile like that. He was satisfied and appreciative. Not only was his gratitude sincere, but he proceeded to request additional support, ultimately increasing the contract value, and he said he was looking forward to a long-term relationship with us – as his engineering partner.

What did we learn?

This project support expansion only occurred because we wanted to provide best-in-class support for our clients for this vital product release and we did not cut corners by circumventing processes in order to trim our timeline.

We always do an internal review; our client has customers and their satisfaction is paramount to us…so how can we make sure those customers are going to bring us more business and refer us to their affiliates? By first helping our client get repeat business with THEIR customers….with high quality products delivered on time.

Maybe it is time to ask yourself – what is your Value Add? How does it contribute to your client’s success? What is the ultimate benefit they will experience when you go above & beyond the client’s expectations? 

How can you benefit from our approach?

To learn how our approach can (save you time and) improve customer satisfaction with your products – reach out to Kelly Powell in Sales.

Ask Kelly to schedule a call with one of our experts – ask how we can help you improve customer satisfaction:

kelly.powell@advantu.com

858.275.2106

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