It’s not on the quote?!
The much-anticipated time is finally here: That wretched old monitoring system that seemed to consume all your time is finally being replaced. The new vendor is here and the system is being installed; it is hard to contain the joy you feel when your perceived nemesis is being replaced with modern, trouble-free equipment.
Then it happens: The users expected something and it did not ship, you call the salesperson and his response kills the euphoria that you were experiencing. “Sorry, that was not on the quote,” the salesperson says. “It will be an extra [insert exorbitant amount here].” You can’t believe what you are hearing.
New equipment installs have always been part of my job. As of late it seems no matter how much pre-work I do, there is always a surprise, especially quoting issues. Here is what I have learned, so maybe you can minimize your pain.
It has been my experience that biomedical engineering departments may or may not (it is about 50/50 based on the people I have spoken to) be involved with the quoting process for new equipment. After all, isn’t that what purchasing is supposed to do with assistance from the department head? However, for me, I learned the hard way a long time ago that knowing what’s on the quote will avoid problems for me. Since the biomedical department is “responsible” for the medical equipment, any and all issues end up on my lap. Although reviewing quotes is not my favorite task, it is a preventive measure I can take to keep unplanned issues from spoiling my day. In addition, it has become quite a valuable service for my customers too.
Reviewing a new equipment quote can be time consuming; I rarely have seen any two that are alike. Especially lately, quotes seem to be complicated build lists with terms and words that do not match easily to what a customer wants. This makes it very difficult to know if there are omissions or extra items. I find it much like looking at a new car quote, to get a certain feature, you must by package A, to get that feature you must by Package A and B, it almost seems purposefully complicated. A simple example I have is we recently purchased a telemetry system, and when we trialed the units, every telemetry pack had an ECG cable, an Spo2 cable, a bed clamp and a battery charger. To me this looks like five items; on the quote it was 10 lines because they piece out every part of the cable and charger, then they add software revisions etcetera. It is really kind of crazy.
The salesperson can alleviate a lot of the confusion. If the salesperson is knowledgeable and motivated, they typically are very helpful in understanding the quote. However, there are multiple obstacles that seem to get in the way of this solution. Since many salespeople are self-employed contractors for the OEM, they do not actually write the quote. It is written at the corporate office. This creates another opportunity for mistakes and problems. I have had salespeople admit they find the quote documents cumbersome and confusing too. Also, contracted salespeople usually sell multiple devices and are rarely an expert on any of them. That being said, I have had my issues with dedicated OEM salespeople too, as long as you are dealing with people there are going to be good ones and bad ones, you just have to work through that.
Now with all that said, what can a biomed do to ensure quotes are accurate and complete? The first thing I ask the salesperson for is a simplified quote or document that summarizes all the parts and systems. Then I meet with the salesperson to go over the quote line by line with the simplified document to ensure everything is included. This part can be the most challenging.
Do not be afraid to ask question about items that do not seem to belong. Recently we got a quote on an imaging suite, and the vendor included a complete hemodynamic monitoring system, even though there was another system in the room. When asked about the addition, hey told me they were asked to quote everything. After talking to users and telling them what was going to be in the room we were able to strike the system from the quote, saved us $124,000. In addition, another pitfall is once the quote is completed your purchasing department will likely go to work and try to negotiate the final price down. This can cause unexpected changes to the quote as the sales person feels the pressure of meeting his margin and making the sale. I once had a sales person convert half the equipment on a quote to a one-year warranty from the five-year warranty they were touting as an edge over the competition. I never knew the change was made until we needed a repair and was informed that it only had a one-year warranty and we were going to have to pay for the repair. When I questioned the salesperson, he said he did it because of purchasing and could not undo it. Nor at that point (a year and a half later) was he too motivated to help. Needless to say, we never bought another device from that salesperson again.
I would suggest every biomedical manager be actively involved with the front-end quoting process. I think your customers will find it very valuable to have another set of eyes looking over the quotes to ensure it is accurate. Also once you get good at reviewing them, it is fun to find those opportunities to save your facility money and avoid trouble for your department.