START FREE TRIAL
Login
Blog Home

Episode #184: How to Gather Real Customer Insights, with Sonia Sahney

Grad Conn

March 22, 202229 min read

Share this Article

The key to being customer centric is understanding your customers. And the best way for you, as a marketer, to understand your customer is to leave the friendly confines of your office or Zoom call and actually engage with the people you’re trying to market to.

Sonia Sahney of GE Healthcare joins me for a discussion about customer insight, and ways to help your customers better understand their customers.

Sonia is the CMO of Molecular Imaging at GE Healthcare. You can find her on LinkedIn.

All podcast episodes


PODCAST TRANSCRIPT

Grad 
So welcome to the Unified-CXM Experience. And as always, I’m your host, Grad Conn, CXO at Sprinklr, and this is always one of my favorite shows. We’re doing an interview show today with a CMO. Today we’re introducing Sonia Sahney. And she is the CMO for molecular imaging and CT scanners at GE Healthcare, which sounds like just an awesome job. And as some of you know, I did work in health care many years ago, and Microsoft research so I had the chance to actually work pretty closely with GE, which is one of the great health care companies out there. And, you know, just generally one of the great companies in general. So, Sonia, welcome to the show.

Sonia Sahney 
Thank you so much Grad, so excited to be here.

Grad 
Yeah, I’m really, really, really, really, really happy that you’re here. I know, it’s a Friday afternoon, and there was a lot going on. It’s super busy. The world is crazy right now. But I do appreciate the time you’re taking to just connect with us. We’ll talk about marketing a bit. I think we’ll start though, by talking about Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, Canada, which we share in common. So what year did you graduate? And what was your degree?

Sonia Sahney 
I graduated Queens in 2003. And I graduated biomechanical engineering. So we were the purple jacket, people.

Grad 
So you’re, you’re a plumber.

Sonia Sahney 
Exactly, exactly. And you?

Grad 
Was your jacket…it was gold, initially. Did you just like get it purpled? Or do you have any gold left on your jacket? Or how purple did it get?

Sonia Sahney 
So my jacket was not the best example of a jacket, because you’re supposed to duct tape all the zippers and whatever buttons are on there, so that when you dye it purple, you don’t mess up tha. And then you’re supposed to remove that duct tape and then fix what didn’t get dyed. I never ended up fixing what didn’t get dyed. And you’re supposed to also kind of rough it up in the first few days. And so I threw mine on the road. And then a bus came and took it down the street. So mine got up really roughed up very quickly. It doesn’t even zip up, and I don’t know, it’s in my parent’s house somewhere.

Grad  
Wow, I like that spirit, though. You really went for it.

Sonia Sahney 
I tried.

Grad 
Yeah, my jacket actually still looks pretty new. So I was a commie, 85. And my purple jacket… commerce jacket. But you know, actually all my friends are engineers. One year at homecoming, I was completely purple, like face and hands. And you know, it took a long time for that to come off. But my jacket has flecks of it all over it but actually didn’t get completely purple like the engineering jackets. That’s pretty cool. So, avid reader of Golden Words? What was your favorite part of your Queens experience?

Sonia Sahney 
Yes, avid reader. Actually, one of my friends from school was a writer there and still one of the funniest writers I know. Yeah, that was definitely a good part. Clark Hall pub was a good part. We had, you know, a nice spot at Queens. Where was it? Johnson and near the church, that giant St. Mary’s Cathedral. Beautiful place there. So we really enjoyed our experience. Yeah.

Grad 
Well, you know, I actually worked on the commerce newspaper, the Commerce Chronicle. But, you know, huge amount of respect for Golden Words, I just thought that was… I still think is one of the great campus newspapers. I think it’s not as recognized as it should be. I think it’s one of the great campus newspapers anywhere. But there’s one thing I really miss from Queens, and this is something you would not have known about, but there was the engineering pub. For some reason commerce society never had a pub. Which doesn’t really make a lot of sense. But Alfie’s was actually run by a bunch of comms people. So I guess we kind of sort of thought of Alfie’s as where we were kind of getting… but it would have been nice to just generate the revenue. But there was a pub that I loved that was called the Quiet Pub. And that was the arts and science pub. And it’s been gone for a while. It’s been gone since sort of the mid to late 90s. But it was literally a quiet pub. It was… you go in there’s no screaming or shouting or bands. It was just a place to have a nice drink and they served cocktails. It was actually quite nice. I spent a lot of time in the Quiet Pub and had some really great memories there. But, but let’s go on to marketing for a second. So, let’s talk a little bit about your job. It sounds like a pretty interesting job, obviously, with some pretty serious technical hardware involved. Molecular Imaging is just a great, great set of words. You must be like just hilarious at family get togethers. So tell me about molecular imaging and what’s all that about? And what kind of key things that you have to worry about on a day to day basis?

Sonia Sahney 
Yeah, so, you know, I’m essentially a product marketer, which means we are the marketing team for specific products, as opposed to kind of the corporate or central marketing team at GE Healthcare. And with molecular imaging, it comprises things people have probably heard of, maybe a PET CT scanner, or a SPECT CT scanner, or radio pharmacy, which generates the stuff that we inject into patients for a PET CT scanner. So there’s a lot of scanning going on there, a lot of imaging, and then as well CT scanners, which I think most people have heard of. So that’s pretty much the big iron equipment that we deal with. And mainly we work closely with hospitals, clinics… radiologists are probably our biggest buying persona. And technologists who are the users of the actual equipment, so radiologists read the images, technologists use the equipment, more or less. And then administrator, so radiology administrators or hospital administrators. So that’s kind of who we’re trying to sell our equipment to.

Grad 
Do you consider yourself like a pure B2B play? Or is there any part of what you’re doing that’s got a B2C component? Are you trying to reassure patients in any way or create any kind of patient preference or are you just straight focused on radiologists and the other folks that you mentioned a minute ago?

Sonia Sahney 
Yeah, I mean, good question. I think that well, there’s two aspects to it. One is that I think in marketing, if you can tell your customer something about their customer, you are providing a lot of insight to them.

Grad 
I like that. Let’s stay there for a second. That’s super profound. No, actually, we have a lot of guests on the show. I’ve never heard anyone say that before. So let’s say that again, I just want to make sure we double click on that for a second, I love that. If you can tell your customer something about their customer and finish the sentence for me, what did you say after that?

Sonia Sahney 
Then you’re more insightful to them. Then you’re acting as a consultant to them. So the patient is the hospital’s customer, especially in the US where it’s, you know, private health care. And so their customer is the patient, so if I can tell them something about their customer, the patient, then I provide value to them.

Grad 
Can you give me examples. Like I don’t want to, like tread into anything that’s secret, but if there’s any way of bringing that to life for a second, like how would I… And then maybe just walk through, like you tell this thing, and then what reaction do you get from your B2B customer with the information you share?

Sonia Sahney 
Sure, so you know, there’s lots of different aspects to this, one of the things that I would say we tried to do is get a better patient experience. And of course, that sounds like the right thing to do. And people would do that. But if we, when we do a study with patients, and we find out that they get really anxious inside the bore of the CT scanner, because it’s this enclosed area, if we can talk to them, and see what would make them feel more comfortable in there, or what we did with pediatrics… you know, pediatric patients, of course, harder to have them sit still. And when you’re trying to take a picture, it’s really important to have patients being still lying down in the gantry. And we had them color these little designs in the waiting room. And then when they go into the CT scanner, they see the same designs when they’re looking up at the bore. And then that kind of calms them down because there’s a familiarity there. And so, you know, we did a little bit of work with patients to understand what would make them feel more comfortable and familiarity was one of them. So that’s how we kind of connected that all together.

Grad 
I think I’m going to the wrong hospitals because they usually just strap me down and shove me in and tell me to shut up and stop moving and they don’t get this kind of… this is really cool. So when someone does the drawing, is it the drawing itself that’s put in there or is it’s actually projected?

Sonia Sahney 
No, it’s just the same print. It’s a complicated paisley looking design. And so they see that and then they go inside and they see that again and it also feels less sterile as a hospital room. The other thing is for patient safety, I mean, radiation dose is a big concern.

Grad 
Especially the CT, radiation dose is huge.

Sonia Sahney 
Right, absolutely. A huge topic, but I wouldn’t say it’s a huge radiation dose, itself is getting quite low.

Grad 
Is it really? Okay. Fill me in on that, because I must be operating on old knowledge there.

Sonia Sahney 
Yeah, no, we’ve I mean, I think there’s been some huge strides I’d say from… the CT was introduced in the late 70s. And then I’d say in the 2000s, radiation dose went down significantly. And then again, it’s gone down every decade, it goes down quite a bit.

Grad 
Okay. So like, how many chest X rays would a CT scan be equivalent to say?

Sonia Sahney 
So I like to actually compare it to a flight. So because people take flights all the time. Or I would actually also compare it to… so if you lived in Denver, which is maybe a little closer to the sun, then some of the other places you might live. You’re up in the mountains. If you live there live and breathe there for a year, that’s probably equivalent to a chest CT.

Grad 
Hmm. What a great way to do that, I like that.

Sonia Sahney 
Yeah. So something like an x ray, you’re getting much different information, you know, so it’s, it’s kind of apples and oranges because you get such a different amount of information with a CT scan than you do with an X ray. So I don’t like comparing those two. I like comparing it to something people kind of live and breathe and do every day.

Grad 
That’s excellent contextualization. What about a plane flight? How many plane flights are in a CT scan, or vice versa?

Sonia Sahney 
It also depends on size, right? So each person would have a different amount of radiation dose, dependent on their size and what we’re scanning. And so a flight from New York to London is about half a unit that we use of radiation dose, half a unit.

Grad 
So round trip, New York to London is kind of the same as getting a CT scan.

Sonia Sahney 
Um, no, it depends on what part of the body. So if you did a head CT scan, then yes, probably a flight round trip is the same as one head CT scan.

Grad 
Well, most people say that my head needs to be scanned on a regular basis. So maybe I’ll just intersperse it. Next time I’m planning going on vacation to Europe, I’ll just get a CT scan instead.

Sonia Sahney 
Rotate. Right,

Grad 
Yeah, rotate it. Okay. That’s cool. That’s awesome. Well, you know, by the way, I think that’s brilliant. Doing it that way. Because I don’t think a lot of people think of getting in an airplane as being radiation or getting a radiation dose.

Sonia Sahney 
Right, exactly. Or just living and breathing or, you know, eating a banana is actually radiation dose.

Grad 
Eating a banana? I’m not going to let you get away with that easily. What do you mean eating a banana is a radiation dose? I think inquiring minds want to know,

Sonia Sahney 
I know there is radiation in bananas, I would have to Google how much radiation in eating a banana. I mean, obviously, the measurement is very different. But there is a small amount of potassium that’s considered radioactive. And so there’s, it’s very small, comparatively, you’d have to eat bunches of bananas. Yes. You’d have to eat a lot of bunches of bananas to be anywhere close to a scan of any sort. But radiation sources are all around us basically.

Grad 
Fascinating. That is awesome. I’m gonna look at bananas in a completely different way now. All right. Okay. What happens if I eat a banana while I’m flying to London for a CT scan? Like how do you like… no, just kidding.

Sonia Sahney 
It’s exponential. It just triplicates.

Grad 
Wow, okay, that is great. Okay, so how did we get on this topic? Okay, so we were…

Sonia Sahney 
talking about patient safety. And telling your customers something about their customers.

Grad 
Thank you for staying on track. I appreciate that. Okay, yeah. So the thing that I was really jumping on there was this idea of being a trusted advisor, as you’re saying, by providing and I thought the example you used of creating a familiar environment, is that the way you phrased it, I thought that was really cool. Are there any other examples like that? Or like what other kinds of things do you do you try to tell radiologists that helped them think about what they’re doing in a different way?

Sonia Sahney 
You know, I think there’s a lot of things we kind of guide them on. It really depends on, what they’re doing. We try to create one touch type automation for the systems so that the technologist, the person who’s using the system, is spending more time with their patient instead of spending more time pressing buttons, setting things up, taking things down. So that’s, I think, another pretty deliberate thing that we do… build in as much automation into the system. So that, you know, they’re doing the thing they’re supposed to do, which is make the patient feel comfortable and make them sit still, lie still do all of that. So yeah, it’s pretty cool.

Grad 
How do you get this patient insight? What’s your source of insight? Maybe help us understand a little bit about how you find it. And then how do you determine whether it is an insight or not? You know, sometimes one person will say something… I’ll give you a quick example. And then how do you distill that into something that you can… it sounds like you’re distilling it into things that influence the product team itself, and the product itself, which is very cool, actually, on this. That’s real marketing, right? And then also, how do you explain things to your customers. But I have this one funny story, as you know, pretty old story now. But we used to do focus groups at Procter and Gamble every Friday, and Nielsen ran them for us. And it was just one of many ways that P&G always helped us stay really close to our customers. We would do in home visits. My gosh, I had some of the biggest insights we had, and some of the biggest things we did in the detergent category came from going and just watching people do their laundry. And it was amazing what you can learn when you do that.

Grad 
That’s a good story for another day, Randy. Let’s make a make a note to talk about in-home laundry visits. But one of my favorite stories I was doing… it was a focus group. And focus groups are typically not superduper honest. So that’s where I’m kind of going with you on this one. And I jokingly say focus groups are a place where you pay people to lie to you. And we had this one focus group where everyone was trying to be like, you know, trying to present themselves the way they want others to see them, right? That’s kind of part of the human condition. And part of what happens in focus groups, I want to be seen as whatever I want people to think of me, and that’s usually a better version of myself. But there was this one woman, I don’t remember her name, but she was just wonderful. She was super tired. And she had like four kids or something like that. And she was clearly burning the candle at like all 12 ends. You know, just a lot going on in her life. And everyone was talking about how they do their laundry and all this like wonderful laundry habits and stuff like that. And she sort of was just, I don’t know. She kind of shook her head, she said, Don’t you hate it when you put in a load of laundry, and then you don’t get back to it for like three or four days, because you’re so busy. And then when you open the washing machine, it’s all covered in mold, and you have to wash it again. Silence. Silence. Like pin drop silence. And the room… like everyone in the room, they slowly rotated their heads toward her in, like horrified looks in everyone’s faces and one person said, mold? And then she was like, Yeah. And then you could just see her go, I should not have said that. And it was like this brief moment. We could never drill in to understand if that was a common thing or not. It was very, very hard to ever figure out if that’s something that people dealt with on a regular basis, because people were horrified to admit that this happened to them. And I suspect it is actually more common. Well, we just we couldn’t get there. So that’s the framing of it. So help me understand how you… so you know where I’m going with this right, which is how do you really distill what people are really saying and what they really… And how do you go through that? And then how do you bake that into something that you can use?

Sonia Sahney 
So funny you should ask that. I mean, I think it’s a journey, I think we need to continue improving on how we get customer insight. And that changes. And you know, as you said in things like focus groups or, you know, even these third party interviews that happen and they don’t know, we’re listening, double blinded studies, all of that, you know, there’s always a question on that. It sounds like the in home laundry visits that you reference or something similar that we’re also being more deliberate about. So we are going into sites and just watching them for the day and seeing how they operate. I actually gave my team a challenge this year that every I said 5% of your time, which means every quarter three days, you go into a site. And to be honest, these are marketers, and they definitely have customer connections. So there’s no big deal to really go into a site, make a connection and go talk to a site that has our equipment, or maybe even a site that doesn’t have our equipment when that’d be an interesting amount of information. you can gather there. And then we have them come back with that information. The other thing that’s interesting, which may be unique in our field is, when we have our equipment installed somewhere, we have people who go in, we call them the application specialists, they go in and teach them how to use the system for five days. And they come back every so often for follow up visits, they are a wealth of knowledge. We have field engineers who go in to service the equipment annually. And they’re a wealth of knowledge. And if anything breaks, they go in. So you know, gathering all those insights from all the various people in GE Healthcare, but also the people who are, you know, the customers, the people who are already getting that information, and then us ourselves going and sitting and watching them do stuff. And then we’re, once we get our rhythm going of us going into watch the sites, I would love to drag a few engineers with me, so that they will watch this and see, and they’re excited, they’d love to go and see that the problems that they’re solving in the office are the problems that our customers actually have. So it’s a journey. We’re not in an ideal state yet, but I think the intention is right.

Grad 
Well, yeah, I love that discipline, you’re putting in place. You know, people talk about being customer centric. But until you’re really spending time, you’re just pretending if you’re not really doing what you just talked about. Another thing I heard the other day, and it was… Ardath Albee was a guest on the show a couple weeks ago. And she made this great comment that’s been really sticking in my brain, let me give it to you. And we can talk about it. What she said, she does a lot of B2B. She’s a B2B marketing strategist. And she had she written an article that I had kind of randomly ran across. And I thought the article was brilliant, and I did a whole show on it. And then we brought her on the show, we interviewed her and that was like, even more brilliant. She’s like genius. But she made this comment, which is a lot of companies say they’re customer centric, but they express their business goals through the lens of their own company… that we want to grow 30% or we want to sell 100,000 units, or we want to make a million dollars or whatever, like, you know, metrics that are about their company. And she said, she posed this as a challenge, because she said she hadn’t seen anyone do this. And the challenge that she posed was, if you’re truly customer centric, wouldn’t your mission, vision, and KPIs be expressed in terms of your customers outcomes? Like just think about that for a second, right? So you think, instead of the mission being to be the world’s leading software company, just making something generic, would it be to be for our customers to double customer satisfaction scores, that’d be your mission. Or that instead of your goal to be grow the business 30% It would be to allow customers to save 25% on every, say, in your case scan that they do or whatever. And I’ve been sort of tossing this in my brain for the last couple of weeks ever since we talked about it, because it got pretty far reaching and publications for how you think about a business. But just because we’re like chatting here and having a good time. What do you think, like, how does that… I mean, what I love about the way you’re talking about what you do, is you’re very customer centric, like you’re digging right in, getting on site, talking to people, like that’s not as common, as one would think. Right? But if you were to reframe what you’re doing in customer terms, could you, would you, how would you do that?

Sonia Sahney 
So we try to, I would say. What she’s saying, I think customer outcomes would be… I wouldn’t say we do customer business outcomes, but we do to a certain extent. So let me give you an example. We have some customers with some really old equipment, and they haven’t updated this equipment in, I don’t know 15 years. And to be honest, there’s no technology I have, that’s 15 years old anymore. You know, it’s not such a great technology anymore. If you think about all this stuff that you have it’s considered technology or high end technology, you don’t have anything that’s… your phone, your TV, most of it’s not 15 years. So what we tell them or what we measure before we go to them as why you should replace this is we do kind of a what you can consider like a time motion study. And we say okay, today, what you’re doing, you’re getting 10 patients through in a day. You have four half hour time slots for your patients call it half hour time slots for an eight hour day, you get 16 patients through a day. With our system, you can go faster, there’s less clicks, it’s more automated, you know, whatever that reason might be that we think you can get three patients through per hour and three times 8… 24 patients through a day. So you can get eight more patients through a day. And what does that mean for them eight more patients times, however much a CT scan costs based on, you know, whatever they’re scanning, you know, that’s a very, like, that’s more revenue for them. Without opening up the eight hour slot to a 10 hour slot, they’re still paying their staff for an eight hour day, they’re getting eight more patients a day, over the course of a year that can translate to a lot of extra revenue. So we do try to financially quantify the benefits of our equipment.

Grad 
Do you ever talk patient safety? Is that a compelling argument? Or is that the financial argument that’s more compelling?

Sonia Sahney 
Well, what we do also try to do is for equipment that’s older, we try to provide upgrade paths for things like patient safety. So, you know, we might not be able to fully automate it and make it go faster. But we do provide some of the radiation dose reduction software that we’ve come up with or things like that, that they can kind of make it backward compatible. So I think from that standpoint, we do try to protect it in other ways. And it is very variable in terms of patient radiation dose. So radiation dose is pretty much the topic when it comes to patient safety. And it gets so hard to quantify because every size patient, every part of the body, every preference, I mean, more radiation dose means a prettier picture, also. So if the radiologist wants to see a prettier picture, they might be okay with doing a little bit more radiation dose. So, you know, there’s a lot of variability in how to quantify that.

Grad 
Very cool. Wow, this, this has been so interesting. I have really enjoyed this. Alright, so let me let me ask one last question, because we’re kind of on time. And I, by the way, really appreciate the time you’ve given us today. It’s, it’s been awesome. So I always like to ask people, and we can reframe this, if you’re like, I don’t know if I can go there, or I don’t have I think there. But I always like to ask people what they consider their greatest marketing challenge. And, and this is like, sometimes people ask the question as what keeps you up at night? And sometimes people say, what are you most worried about? I don’t love those ones. Because, you know, no matter what’s going on in my life, nothing keeps me up at night. So I’m not sure like, so people ask me that question. I go nothing. But I do think there’s always a greatest challenge, you know, the thing that is taking the most amount of time, or maybe the thing that we’re spending more time on as a team, or the thing that we’re working on more, so help me understand what’s your greatest challenge? Where do you Where are you investing most of your or a lot of your mental bandwidth and team effort?

Sonia Sahney 
It’s a good question. I think, right now the greatest challenge, especially in the environment, we’re in… masks on, masks off, travel, and don’t travel, red countries, blue countries, you know, all of that. You know, we were in a world where we used to have giant trade shows, and people would just show up, everybody would know about our products, because there were balloons and streamers and marching bands. And now we’re in a world…

Grad 
I’ve been to HIMSS many, many, many times. And the GE booth was always the best. Like you always had an incredible booth. We did okay at Microsoft. But boy, the GE booth always was just like, I was so jealous. Keep going. So yeah, so that day is over. You’re right,

Sonia Sahney 
I think those days are kind of getting past us. The other thing is, you know, even as part of our regular sales process, site visits, where people would go to another site, similar size, and go watch how those people scanned. And what they did get a chance to talk to them. So think of it like a test drive almost of you know, such a big equipment, you don’t really test drive it in your own house, you go to another site, see how they do it. And people are like, I don’t want to travel anymore. You know, for two years I did it without traveling. Why do I have to travel now to go see it? So how do we bring the experience to them? How do we make sure that they know when we launch a new product? Because they may not have come to that big giant trade show, which isn’t so big and giant anymore? How do we get that awareness out there? And so for the 40-50,000 GE systems floating around, how do we make sure they know what’s out there know what the next thing is? really drive that awareness?

Grad 
Wow, that is a big challenge.

Sonia Sahney 
Yes, we’re working on it.

Grad 
Well, it is a huge challenge. Because, you know, in many of these industries, we became very comfortable and reliant on these big shows. They just, they were there and they were amazing because everybody went to them. It’s a completely different world. And GE was big enough and important enough that no matter, you may not have been able to visit every single booth at HIMSS. In fact, no one could possibly visit every single booth at HIMSS. At one point it was the largest trade show period in the world. But I think everyone went to the GE booth. Yeah, like, you wouldn’t miss that booth. Right. So anyway, well, this has been amazing. Sonia, thank you for the time. I really appreciate it. I’m going to close in a second. But any last thoughts or anything else you want to get the people think about in the audience or anything you want to close with?

Sonia Sahney 
I don’t think so. I think we had a good conversation about customer centric. And, you know, I think that’s a very big deal. I think making sure that you’re doing something that you’re telling your customer something about their customer is really what we’re trying to get towards big ideal, some quite a bit. You have more of a consultant than as a, you know, trying to sell them equipment.

Grad 
No, that’s my key takeaway from today’s conversation is amazing. Well, thank you very much. So I’m just gonna close down. So we’ve been talking with Sonia Sahney. She is the CMO of molecular imaging and CT scanners at GE Healthcare. Very generous with her time with us today, and we had a really great conversation. Sonia, thank you very much. For the Unified-CXM Experience, I’m Grad Conn, and I’ll see you next time.


Unified-CXM Experience
Share this Article

Products

Modern CareModern ResearchModern Marketing & AdvertisingSocial Engagement & SalesUnified-CXM PlatformEducation ExperienceCitizen Experience

Services

Our ServicesTrainingPartnersAgencyDeveloper Portal
PrivacyCookie PreferencesModern Slavery StatementIndex EgalitéTerms