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A healthcare supplier with heart

Supplier: Surgical House
15 November, 2012

Medical consumables importer and distributor Surgical House extends its reach into the rapidly growing age-care market with a new showroom that further demonstrates its dedication to customer service.

These days, buying medical wares can present you with so many options as to make you feel quite light-headed. With rival healthcare brands all competing for your custom and products tending to bear more than a passing resemblance, it can be difficult to make the right choice.

Perth-based Surgical House works hard to take the stress out of choosing the right healthcare,surgical and medical supplies by talking to its customers, listening to their needs and using its expertise to provide the ideal solution. It is on this basis that Surgical House calls itself a 'service- based company", in which its customers – both medical professionals and the general public – are offered far more than products alone. 

Service oriented

Jaine Konarik, daughter of company founder Ted Culley and general manager of sales and development, explains: "In Australia we’re seeing two very distinct business models developing. One is the pure distribution model, where there are large international companies with warehouses that literally just buy in products and ship them out to somebody.

"The service-based model, typically offered by smaller distributors such as Surgical House, offers customers a range of additional services, including everything from training through to packages that allow customers to create discrete lists of products," she continues. "This enables us to discount them so that customers can save money, get better efficiencies and better clinical outcomes through the choice of their products.

"There is such a plethora of products available that it’s difficult for clinical managers in aged care, as well as the general public, to know what their choices are. So when they deal with Surgical House we can advise them on what products are available, for whatever condition they need it for, in addition to offering them budget and clinical choices," Jaine explains.

Qualified to care

Surgical House services wholesale and retail markets, offering products for hospitals, medical practices and individuals across Australia, but its largest market is Western Australia’s aged care sector. This covers traditional nursing homes, as well as home care packages where elderly people live in their own home and care providers come to them. To provide adequate support for both care providers and patients, Surgical House employs people with experience in these areas.

"Our aged-care account manager is a qualified nurse, with actual work experience in residential aged-care facilities," Jaine explains. "We also have a qualified continence advisor on staff, and appointments such as these grant us indepth knowledge and understanding of the sectors in which our customers work.

"Whether the client works in aged care, general practice or home health, our account managers and sales representatives are very familiar with the ins and outs of those particular sectors and the types of problems our customers might be facing, so know how to help them."

The aged-care-oriented products offered by Surgical House fall into three main categories: continence management, which includes continence pads, bedding protection and catheters; wound care, which provides for bed-ridden or diabetic patients in particular; and nutritional feeding supplements. These powders and premade drinks can provide a general nutritional supplement or target more specific nutritional needs, such as for disease-specific conditions or assistance in the wound-healing process.

Show and tell

To enhance its service offering for the fast-growing aged-care sector – it is currently the single largest growth market – Surgical House opened a showroom. Shop fitter CAEM Shelving Engineering did all of the shelving for the showroom, while a retail merchandiser designed its layout. Managing director and Jaine’s husband Murray Konarik explains how the showroom has enabled Surgical House to demonstrate the full breadth of its product range.

"Building the showroom has let our professional medical customers get a better idea of the range of products we offer," he says. "In addition to the medical consumable products on display, we also have demonstration models of key medical equipment so that customers can see and touch the products before they make a purchase. This is particularly important for medical practitioners buying equipment, as it allows them to see how the ECG machine operates, for example, or to play around with diagnostic equipment such as otoscopes or ophthalmoscopes, examination lights or couches, before they part with their money."

The showroom has also benefitted the retail side of the business, where Surgical House sells directly to people living in the community.

"When people come in, often referred by a doctor or medical practitioner, they like to be able to see and touch the product before they buy it," adds Murray.

"This is particularly important for continence and nutritional feeding products, as it’s a complex and personal decision-making process that customers need to go through."

While boosting Surgical House’s financial growth, the showroom has also enabled the company to test its product range before it’s rolled out as an online retail offering.

Family ties

The showroom marks 31 years of significant development since Ted founded Surgical House in 1980 as a medical consumables business. Jaine and Murray stepped in when Ted retired but he still plays a role today, contributing valuable knowledge and experience, and Jaine says that being a family-owned business impacts positively on staff as well.

"In a family-run business, there’s more intimacy in the relationships you have with your staff – they’re not just somebody who comes and sits at a desk and does a job for you," she explains.

"Some of the staff knew me already and that gave them reassurance during the changing of management. Also, I think they appreciate the fact that something my father built up and was so proud of was kept in the family." Perhaps it is this intimacy that makes their staff retention levels exceptionally high.

It is important to Murray and Jaine that this intimacy is extended to their client base.

"Customers can talk to us at any point. They don’t have to battle through layers of management to get hold of the people making the key decisions," Jaine says. Another facet to this personable attitude is the company’s inclination to use phone conversations with customers purely for consultation, rather than ordering – which can be done online.

Here to listen

Murray says that Surgical House tries to get involved with its customers as much as possible, to gain understanding of their businesses and needs in order to "provide a solution, not just a product". He continues: "We’re trying to achieve a consultative, value-add business – so we’re talking to customers and, in most cases, once they’re set up on templates they can go online to order, so that talk time is not dedicated to processing orders."

Jaine adds: "It makes customers feel more comfortable. Additionally, we want to make the ordering process and the distribution side of things as fast and as easy as possible, so that we have more time to engage the customers and talk to them about the important things."

Talking to customers allows Surgical House to offer customers tailor-made solutions – which is a vital advantage in today’s highly competitive medical consumables market. "Just because one customer is a GP, doesn’t mean they’re the same as the GP down the road – they don’t have the same budget or clinical goals," Jaine says.
"We understand that and because we’re smaller, we’ve got the flexibility to go into their business and learn about it, enabling us to create a unique solution that suits that particular customer."
As a proud family-owned business devoted to providing high-quality and personalised service to its customers, Surgical House aims to be a healthcare business with a heart.

Source: The Australian Business Journal