Core value #2: Be passionate

It's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog.
—Mark Twain

We’ve measured it. We’ve weighed it. We’ve counted and quantified it. And if the bumps and bruises weren’t proof enough, we’ve now settled it.

We’ve got fight.

It turns out, our fight is an old-school model—vintage. It’s larger than most you’ll see today. Solid and well-built, from a time before they started making them all plastic and compact. It runs a little loud. It runs a little rough. But it’ll plow over anything in its path.

Our fight will take us wherever we want to go. We just have to fuel it. Lucky for us, it runs on something cheaper than gasoline and in far greater supply: passion.

So let’s top off the tank and go for a ride. With a fight our size, no one can stop us.

Creating a league of extraordinary reps

Meet Marvin

Marvin is the not-so-mild mannered alter ego of one of our real-life account reps. Many of our doctors may recognize Marvin from the recent mailers we’ve been sending out to introduce him and the other superheroes we’ve added to our team of reps.

Marvin is service personified. He represents the months of work we’ve dedicated to completely transforming our customer service department from an inbound, reactive call center to a proactive league of extraordinary account reps, focused and driven by service.

It’s been a huge undertaking for us, and we’ve still got a ways to go (our heroes haven’t mastered all of their powers yet), but I thought before we announced our next value, this would be a perfect opportunity to share what we’ve been up to and to highlight just one way we’ve been injecting our first core value into one of the most important parts of our company.

Holy crappy service, Marvin!

Several months ago, we had one of the best realizations we’ve ever had: our customer service sucked. It hadn’t always sucked, but it sucked then. Phone calls were going unanswered. Messages weren’t being returned. And our doctors were having a harder time than they should have been.

Our initial response to this realization was MORE. More reps, more managers, more shifts, more phone lines, more computers, more technology, more, more, more. That helped for a little while, but just a little while.

The problem was in our customer service model. Something like a tier-based system, we had “specialists” dedicated to handling various parts of a doctor’s account: If you needed some shipping supplies, you’d call rep A; needed to check on a case, you’d call rep B; had some technical questions, you’d call rep C. The result for our doctors wasn’t a pleasant one. Callers would get bounced around and end up disgruntled, thinking the right hand didn’t know squat about the left. The model was broken, and what had only kind of worked with 1,000 doctors wasn’t scaling well at 10,000. Adding more of what wasn’t working wasn’t the solution.

After our legs stopped swinging from that initial knee jerk, we came up with a better response: CHANGE.

We looked back in our short history for the time we had serviced our doctors the best. It didn’t take long to find it; all the stats and feedback pointing to it made it easy to spot once we were willing to look.

It turns out, believe it or not, we delivered our best customer service when we had a single, solitary rep. Just one. She had no fancy technology, just a notepad for tracking stuff. When doctors called, they could easily reach her. She had no elevated tier to defer to; she had to learn everything so she could answer anything. We had considerably fewer doctors back then, numbers she could manage on her own and numbers that allowed her to forge lasting relationships, many of which continue today, years later. She was passionate about service, and she did whatever it took to make sure her doctors were happy.

She was our first superhero, the prototype. And if we were really going to make a change that worked, we’d need to get her back in a cape.

Splicing Marvin with the prototypical genome

Her name is Carrie. She used to be our one and only account rep, and now she’s back leading the project determined to mutate Marvin into a service-driven hero. Taking her successful actions from the past and scaling them up to work with more reps and more doctors, we’ve been making changes bit by bit. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Doctors have dedicated reps.
    There’s no more bouncing around. Just as it was with doctors who depended on Carrie, doctors now have just one person they can call, one person they can know by name, one person they can depend on for anything and everything.

  • Reps have dedicated teams for support.
    Carrie’s support team was just me, but she had one nonetheless. Now, once again, if a doctor’s rep is unavailable for any reason, a team member familiar with his or her account can step in and assist if needed.

  • Reps have fewer doctors.
    We’ve reduced the number of doctors per rep by nearly 80%, down to the range Carrie was handling. Reps are now free enough to give their doctors more time and attention.

  • Reps work when their doctors work.
    Back when Carrie was a rep, most of our doctors were based in Texas, so she was working when they were. With doctors now scattered across the US, having reps just work 9 – 5 CST doesn’t cut it. Reps are assigned doctors by time zone and they work 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (at least) for whatever time zone their doctors are working in.

  • Reps are trained better. 
    Carrie had been with ClearCorrect from the beginning. She had seen every version of our products and every iteration of our processes. That’s a lot of knowledge. New reps now receive the most comprehensive internal training we’ve ever had on our products or our processes. They may not be able to answer every question just yet, but we’re working on it.

  • Reps live and breathe service.
    Carrie was driven by a pure passion to serve. It’s the same for our reps now. They’re there to help their doctors, not push for sales. They’re free to take as much time as they need and do just about anything to ensure their doctors are happy and satisfied with our products.

So far, the changes are working well and the feedback from our doctors is positive. Carrie won’t be hanging up her cape just yet as there’s a bit more to do, but now Marvin and the other superheroes on our team are flying in the right direction, and they’re gaining speed.

We’ve learned a lot about what it really means to be service-driven over the course of this project, and we expect to learn quite a bit more. I hope this inside look at one way we've approached being service-driven has been helpful or at least interesting.

Feel free to share your thoughts, questions, or even your own service-driven experiences with us in the comments.

Core value #1: Be service-driven

We’re a service company that just happens to sell shoes.
—Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos.com

We’ve got a secret.  Despite popular belief, we’re not in the aligner business.  We deal in a rare and valuable commodity. It’s the one thing everyone wants, the one thing no one can get enough of.  It never fades or goes out of style; versions of it from the ’70s and ’80s still look good today.  And while it’s always in high demand, it’s often in short supply. 

We deal in service. 

Now, there are varieties of service:  There’s crappy service.  We don’t touch the stuff.  There’s so-so service.  The market’s saturated with it, so we don’t sell it.  There’s good service.  Most people looking for service expect to find at least this one, so we keep some on hand.  And then there’s exceptional service, the brand that excites and surprises.  We can’t stock it fast enough!

See, this secret means that no matter what else we sell—right now it just happens to be aligners—there will always be someone out there who wants what we’ve got. 

All we have to do is deliver it with service.

ClearCorrect core values

When we started ClearCorrect, there were just a handful of us.  We knew who we wanted to be and what we wanted to stand for.  It was simple. 

As we’ve grown, maintaining that sense of identity has become more and more challenging.  New employees, new opportunities, even new customers have all brought their own ideas and their own values to the table.  It’s gotten complicated.

Complicated isn’t good for anyone, so we’re simplifying things again.

We recently took pen to paper and defined the core values that make us who we are, the values we believed in when we started the company.  There are nine of them.  We haven’t always exemplified them, but now that we’ve defined them, all of us here at ClearCorrect—and there are a lot of us here these days—can embrace them with the same passion and commitment we had when it was just a few of us.

To celebrate this milestone, we’ll be rolling out our newly defined core values, one value at a time.  Every week or so, we’ll post the value itself and a slew of other posts related to the value, including some behind-the-scenes looks at exactly how we’re injecting that value into everything we do.

We’re kicking it off next week with the first of the nine, so be sure to check back then.  We've got some good stuff planned...

ClearCorrect countersues Align: 10 patents, 408 claims, all invalid

Yesterday, we filed our response to Align Technology’s patent infringement suit. In our response, we’re countersuing Align and asking the Court to declare all 408 claims in 10 of their patents invalid.

We’re posting the entirety of the 246-page response here, along with the text of Align’s original suit against us.

You’ll find in the response, among other things, much of the evidence raised in Align’s previous patent case against Ormco, which resulted in a federal court ruling that 11 of Align’s patent claims were invalid.

We want to hear what you think. Share your thoughts in the comments.

The free market

Seth Godin on the free market:

There's no question that an unfettered authoritarian corporate regime is more efficient and effective—in the short run. In the long run, though, the free market triumphs, as long as it isn't destroyed by those that get to play first.

The free market is a great idea, which is why we need to be careful when market incumbents lobby to make it un-free.

Amen.

No wonder they think we don’t charge enough…

Another thing we value here is economy, doing more with less. It’s a value consistent with our goal of making clear aligners more affordable. We apply it wherever we can: Economy in our thinking, in our treatment protocols, in the design of our products, in our manufacturing processes—in our payroll.

Case in point—the average total annual compensation of Align Technology’s CEO is more than we paid our entire executive structure last year:

The other guysvs.     ClearCorrect
President/CEO   President/CEO
    Chief Financial Officer
    Chief Administration Officer
    Chief Operations Officer
    Chief Public Officer
    Chief Clinical Officer
    Chief Technical Officer
    Chief Systems Officer
    Chief Information Officer
    VP Establishment
    VP Systems and Infrastructure
    VP Sales and Marketing
    VP Finance
    VP Production
    VP Quality Assurance
    VP Public Contact
    VP Public Sales
    HR Director
    IT Director
    Creative Director
    Account Services Director
    Disbursements Director
    Tech Services Director
    Diagnostics Director
    Manufacturing Director
    Personnel Enhancement Director
    Public Sales Director
    Public Services Director
    Public Relations Director
It’s no wonder our aligners are more affordable than theirs.

Align’s lawsuits against ClearCorrect

Here at ClearCorrect, we strongly value openness and transparency. It’s important to us that the people who work with us know what we’re all about. It keeps us focused. It keeps us motivated. And it keeps us honest. 

In that spirit of openness, I’m writing to let you know about some recent news. On February 28, 2011, we learned that Align Technology, Inc. (maker of Invisalign®) has filed two lawsuits against us, claiming that: 1) our prices are too low, and 2) we’re infringing their patents.

In their first filing, Align is suing us under California’s Unfair Practices Act, alleging that we sell our products for a price below our average production cost, with the purpose of "destroying competition in the market for clear aligner systems." Apparently, we’ve made aligners too affordable for Align to bear. 

The truth is, we’re profitable. Our lab fees are lower than Align’s because we’ve always made affordability a priority. We constantly refine our manufacturing processes to improve quality and drive down costs. Working with our providers, we’ve created a business model that works, fair and square. It’s that simple.

Align’s second filing alleges patent infringement. I assure you we respect all valid intellectual property—we always have. In fact, we’re so confident that we don’t infringe any of Align’s valid patents, we filed a declaratory judgment against Align back in 2009. We wanted a judge to resolve this matter up front, so we could build our business without distractions. After Align said that they had no intent to sue us for patent infringement and would not engage in any “scare the customer” tactics, we voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit and moved on. As you can imagine, we were quite surprised when we found out they’ve decided to sue us anyway.

We’re as prepared now as we were two years ago to defend our position. And since Align is giving us the opportunity, we’re also going on the offensive. In another recent lawsuit, Ormco (maker of Red, White and Blue®) invalidated several of Align’s patent claims. We believe that many of the claims in the patents we’re accused of infringing are just as invalid. We’re taking up the battle right where Ormco left off, and we’re ready to go for years if we have to—we have the resources and backing to take it all the way.

We plan to be as open and transparent about this process as we can. I’m pleased to announce that you can follow along and share your thoughts on our new blog, Clearly. In the weeks to come, we plan to share a lot of new information here, such as our philosophy and approach to business, behind-the-scenes looks at how we do things, updates on the lawsuits, and previews of exciting things in the works.

Thanks for your support as we fight to defend your right to an affordable, doctor-friendly choice in clear aligners. We’re in this for the long haul, and we intend to win.

Regards,

Jarrett Pumphrey
CEO, ClearCorrect