The Hearing-Aid Upgrade

Widex Canada’s Michelle Ummels is lending an ear to the hard-of-hearing, resulting in better-quality hearing aids and support

With baby boomers aging, the hearing-aid market is experiencing unprecedented growth. According to a study from business-consulting firm Grand View Research, the global market for hearing aids is expected to increase by 3.2 percent between 2014 and 2020. Michelle Ummels, general manager of the Canadian division of Widex, and her team plan to capitalize on the demand, and grow the global organization’s Canadian presence.

One of the first things Ummels tackled when she joined the company in 2014 was strengthening its culture. “We looked at the core goals we wanted to accomplish and who we wanted to be,” says Ummels, who notes that establishing an employee- and customer-focused culture is the first step to building a successful organization. “One of the things I learned working for large organizations is that it’s important to develop a culture of high performance that shares best practices and celebrates successes.” Organizations with this ethos are more focused on working with the practitioners directly, ensuring they have a satisfied, happy patient. This also results in a more engaged sales force that is able to win new business and regain lost customers.

“Widex embraces innovative technologies, and we truly try to incorporate them into existing and new products to further address hearing loss. We also partner with key people in the industry to keep abreast of current research. The end result is improved customer service and patient satisfaction.”

Ummels’s team also concentrates on identifying a targeted demographic for Widex’s hearing aids. “It’s a highly competitive marketplace, and you really have to zero in on the right clinician to support your product,” Ummels says. “We want to ensure we provide excellent customer service and support, so focus is very important.”

She also worked with the sales force to create a more structured and disciplined approach to working with customers. She ensured that the sales team had the necessary tools to talk about Widex’s products and be able to truly understand what practitioners needed to fit their patients. This enabled the team to provide the best service possible to clinicians. “The product, in part, is sold on the strong relationship between us and the practitioner—and primarily on the strength of the product and its potential to help individuals lead better lives,” Ummels says.

She firmly believes that Widex offers the best product in the marketplace, thanks to  such offerings as the Widex Dream line, which is specially designed to differentiate background noise from speech. “In a restaurant, for instance, our product will come out on top, because people who wear our devices can easily hear conversations over the background noise,” Ummels says. “Musicians really like our hearing devices, as they feel it offers a truer sound. It’s the closest thing to real-world hearing.”

The Widex team has a multipronged approach to getting the products into the hands—and ears—of the patients that need them. “Widex is not the biggest player in the market, and not all clinicians are familiar with our products,” she admits. But with a newly implemented, focused sales approach, Ummels expects that to change quickly. She knows that once a patient tries a product, Widex will have a customer for life. “If we get the patient to evaluate the product with our competitors’ head-to-head, we’re going to win,” she says.

For Ummels, the company’s impact goes back to when she first started at Widex. She visited practitioners to understand how a patient is diagnosed and treated for hearing loss. During one of these initial fittings, she witnessed firsthand a longtime hearing-loss sufferer regain his hearing. “The clinician fitted the patient with our Phone-DEX and immediately this man was brought to tears, as he was able to talk on the phone to his family for the first time in 20 years,” she says. “Our product can really impact people’s lives and the lives of their families.”