Don’t Talk about Top Customer Experience Culture if You Don’t Know MED


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Medtronic, the Human Experience & Innovation Giant

Recently, my insulin pump – which injects insulin in 24/7 mode – had a problem, after approximately 10 years of working perfectly. I believe the problem was related to the COVID-19 prevention procedures we adopted in our house and the constant cleaning of my pump with alcohol and disinfectant. The coil that injects the insulin pressed against the wall of the pump and opened it, as you can see in this photo. It could become a nightmare for any diabetic to have an issue like that with a pump, since your life depends on insulin.

The pump is made by Medtronic, a medical technology company headquartered in Minneapolis, Minnesota. It’s the largest medical device company in the world. I was initially worried about whether the company would meet their decades-long high standard of commitment and dedication toward their customers. From the top executives down,

Image source: Author Picture
Image source: Author Picture
since Medtronic was founded, they have delivered the best customer and employee experiences in the world. The founders of the company – Mr. Earl Bakken and Mr. Palmer Hermundslie (both now deceased) – started off with the right culture. All of the ensuing CEOs, including the new CEO, Geoffrey S. Martha, have kept all the fundamentals based on the founders’ defined mission.

That’s what makes Medtronic stand out from other brands. They have never failed me, and this holds true for many customers I know. In the U.S., it often happens that there are limitations due to the country’s complex and inefficient healthcare system, so people mistakenly attribute the U.S. system’s limitations to Medtronic. It is important to note that Medtronic is the same company that acted very altruistically to open-source its ventilator design during the pandemic, as written about here.

Customer Experience, Starting with a Mission

While many in the CX field like to talk about Amazon, Apple, and Starbucks, the company I am writing about is often overlooked because it is 100% focused on health and medical devices, which are less sexy. As a Type 1 (T1) diabetic, I am very familiar with the medical devices industry and its leaders. Below are some of the key clauses in Medtronic’s 6-part mission statement:

Part 1: “To contribute to human welfare by application of biomedical engineering in the research, design, manufacture, and sale of instruments or appliances that alleviate pain, restore health, and extend life.”
Part 3: “To strive without reserve for the greatest possible reliability and quality in our products; to be the unsurpassed standard of comparison and to be recognized as a company of dedication, honesty, integrity, and service.”
Part 5: “To recognize the personal worth of all employees by providing an employment framework that allows personal satisfaction in work accomplished, security, advancement opportunity, and means to share in the company’s success.”

The above-mentioned parts are the ones focused on Customer and Employee Experience. Additionally, as I learned from conversations I had with some of Medtronic’s executives (when writing the first version of my book that will be published next year), they do not prioritize revenue generation over customer needs. In C-suite board meetings, they always balance customer needs with company needs. Not everything is about revenue – although revenue is obviously the result of the company’s consistently great work, its customer centricity, and its focus on enhancements in their product lines. Medtronic also has something that very few companies have: a vision that was defined by the founders in the 1960s – called the “100-year plan” – which showed all the areas of the human body where electrical implants could enable healing from chronic disease. Sixty years later, with $30 billion in annual revenue, Medtronic remains focused on the original founders’ vision.

Medtronic and Me

As their customer for almost 20 years now, I must say that I have had the best experience among any brand in the world. Even when there is a problem, they prove themselves by consistently responding to customer issues, time after time. The company’s team delivers a great experience, but sometimes there are hurdles to jump to deliver that experience.

What Happened?

Below, you can see my damaged pump, which is an older model that is no longer produced by Medtronic. (Comparing my old pump to a more advanced Medtronic pump model, which looks alike but is already advanced, is like comparing a VW Beetle to an Audi.) I only realized it was malfunctioning because my sugar levels were rising

Image source: Author picture
inexplicably fast. I checked the pump and called the German Medtronic offices. Service at the company’s offices in Germany and Switzerland is typically consistent with the superb service in its U.S. headquarters.

Turning a Situation from Bad to Top-Notch

I called Medtronic in the early morning, and this time, I spoke in English since I was not very relaxed. Having a malfunctioning pump is bad for a T1 diabetic in terms of blood sugar levels. I was surprised that the Medtronic representative I spoke to was not friendly (or maybe was having a bad day); she said, “I don’t speak English” to me twice. Then I switched to speaking German, but the way the interaction went was atypical for Medtronic – usually, I’ve experienced well-designed interactions and customer centricity at its best.

What really disturbed me was the fact that I asked the agent to call a colleague to help me (in English), and she said no to this idea, as well. To make a long story short: this was not a nice conversation. I called again, and the same person answered. My prior experiences with Medtronic over the years were always very good to exceptional, so I knew this was abnormal. I also knew that all their agents are supposed to speak English – it’s part of the company requirements.

Out of frustration, but staying focused on solving the problem as fast I could, I dropped a LinkedIn InMail message to Mr. Sean Salmon, EVP and President of Medtronic’s Diabetes division. He and his team demonstrated their commitment to an amazing customer-first mindset. To my surprise, I got a call just a few hours later. (I had sent the message from Munich, Germany, in my early morning; he lives in California, which is nine hours behind.) He did not reply directly to my note, but he acted the way a real customer-centric leader would. Around 2:00-3:00 pm on the same day, a very nice and professional Medtronic manager-representative called, asking how she could help me. She said that Mr. Salmon told the team to check on what I needed and to understand what happened. This was less than 4-5 hours from when I first sent my message to him.

I understand that my InMail was likely the first issue he solved in his early morning in Santa Rosa, CA. I didn’t expect my problem to be solved on the same day, but he really impressed me. This is a perfect example of the commitment to consistency and the outstanding work culture Medtronic has had since they were established.

Medtronic loaned a replacement pump (of the next version of my model) to me until the COVID-19 crisis is resolved and the stress of quarantining is over. Here, you can see a picture of what will likely be my future new pump after this Pandemic. When you change a pump from the equivalent of a VW Beetle to a McLaren or Maserati, you need to learn how to use it all over again, since many features are very different, as well as the data and algorithms. So I will do the changeover after the pandemic period is over. Medtronic’s new 780G McLaren, will be waiting for me, as long as BfArM (the German equivalent of the American FDA) doesn’t take years to approve it.

Image source: Medtronic

Medtronic solved my problem in less than 24 hours. I received my replacement pump at my home, and it was packed in a way that would prevent any chance of getting infected by COVID-19.

What They Did after the Problem was Solved

Afterwards, they called me back three times with questions regarding my bad experience. They not only inquired about the details of the unpleasant conversation, they also checked phone log files and details about my conversation to ensure that this never will happen again. How many companies in the world would call you twice to obtain all the details, and then again later to give you feedback on the actions they adopted?

Medtronic is a large corporation that listens to feedback from its community, and they take this feedback extremely seriously. You may say, “Well, obviously! They are a medical device organization and must to do that.” That is right. But I’ve had experiences with some of their competitors, and I must say that Medtronic is the best in customer service, as well as in its overarching CX. The entire company has a terrific mindset and executes on what it has stood for since the company’s early days. Medtronic is a fine example of an amazing corporate culture delivering great experiences, and it would be my dream to have the opportunity to share my story with their customers and employees (when life returns to normal and we are all allowed to travel again). That is how strongly I believe in their corporate culture.

One Final Example

When Medtronic’s new pump models – the first being the 640, followed by the 670G two years later – arrived in Germany a few years back, I called the company to inquire about them. In some T1 diabetic communities, I had heard concerns about issues with the sensor’s accuracy. (It is crucial that diabetics trust the sensors connected with their devices, and many diabetics would migrate to another system if the other system’s sensors were more accurate.)

The customer service person I spoke with, who was a T1 diabetic using one of the new pumps (640) and sensors, told me it would be better to wait one or two more years to make sure they solve the sensor accuracy issues that she also experienced. How much more honest can a company be? This demonstrates a superior level of honesty and care for customers.

I could offer a long list of other amazing examples, but will leave it at that for today.

Stay safe!

Ricardo Saltz Gulko
Ricardo Saltz Gulko is the founder of Eglobalis and the European Customer Experience Organization. He is a global strategist specializing in B2B enterprises, with a focus on Customer Experience, Professional Services, Design and Innovation, as well as data-driven services. Ricardo empowers major global enterprises to generate new revenue and enhance market competitiveness through the delivery of exceptional global CX, and he employs design to drive adoption and growth. The end results of his work include high growth, increased retention, loyalty, innovation ignition, adoption and growth.


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