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Patterson Technology Center: Evolving to meet the needs of customers

Jan. 1, 2012
Patterson Companies, Inc. recently celebrated the opening of the new Patterson Technology Center (PTC), located in Effingham, Ill.

by Pam Hemmen

The 100,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility IS located in Effingham, Ill.

Patterson Companies, Inc. recently celebrated the opening of the new Patterson Technology Center (PTC), located in Effingham, Ill. The 100,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art facility provides comprehensive software development, digital technology, and call center support capabilities for businesses that comprise Patterson — Patterson Dental, Patterson Medical, and Webster Veterinary. The three-level facility, with a capacity for about 600 employees, is a far cry from its modest beginnings 18 years ago.

EagleSoft practice-management software

The PTC, which is part of the Patterson Companies IT department, started as a dental software development business called EagleSoft, Inc. in 1993. Scott and Sue Kabbes, principal owners of EagleSoft, believed there was an opportunity in the dental software marketplace for a Windows®-based practice-management system that integrated front office and operatory functions.

Working in a small basement office, Scott and Sue formed a team that included Scott’s brother, Craig Kabbes (current vice president of application development at the PTC), and Dave Sproat (current president of Patterson Medical). They interviewed dental practices to determine what features were most needed in a practice-management software system, took what they learned, and released EagleSoft Version 1.0 the following year.

When they first brought the product to market, the team widened its focus from a strictly developmental standpoint to include customer service, which became a key differentiator for the company.

In 1997, when Patterson Companies acquired EagleSoft, 25 employees served 1,000 customers. Patterson helped the business grow by forming partnerships with key industry leaders, such as Schick and Sirona, in order to provide integrated technology solutions for customers. In 2001, the company recognized the need to offer more value from a single source, and began providing computer hardware through local Patterson branches.

A partnership for growth

The goal of the PTC is to help Patterson customers grow their practices in an efficient and profitable manner through technology. More than 370 employees serve 80,000 customers nationwide from three locations — Effingham, Ill., Champaign, Ill., and Vancouver, Wash.

Members of the executive leadership team of Patterson Companies attending the Patterson Technology Center grand opening October 27 in Effingham, Ill., were, from left, Craig Kabbes, vice president, application development; Pam Hemmen, vice president, technology services; Steve Armstrong, executive vice president, chief financial officer, and treasurer; Scott Anderson, president and chief executive officer; Ranell Hamm, vice president and chief information officer; Paul Guggenheim, president, Patterson Dental; Dave Sproat, president, Patterson Medical; and George Henriques, president, Webster Veterinary.

Throughout the new facility, there are intentional stopping points for those taking a tour. These landing points illustrate the work performed at the PTC and showcase the award-winning results. In the Showcase exhibit area and Technology Showcase areas, visitors experience PTC products and technologies firsthand.

Employees in the software development department are responsible for the development of four software products and 30 digital X-ray integrations, while the inside sales group oversees data conversions and eServices.

Labs and resource rooms enable testing and training on technologies. The specially designed Usability Lab has a one-way mirror for employees to observe volunteers using a software product, while recording their keystrokes and facial expressions. Additional resource rooms include those for testing hardware, CEREC, conversions processes, and digital and practice management resources. However, the resource rooms are used primarily for employee product training in a hands-on environment, with the goal of an improved customer support experience. In nearby webinar rooms, PTC trainers conduct and record training sessions that are accessible online via Patterson Support.

Customer service continues to be valued as highly as technological innovations. When a customer contacts the PTC for support, the call is routed to the customer service support staff, which prides itself on answering customers’ questions in one phone call. They handle more than 5,000 calls a day and can also assist through live chat and remote control of a customer’s computer.

Ongoing technical support is available through webinars and access to a frequently asked questions online database. For dental customers, the PTC supports Eaglesoft practice management and digital software, CAESY patient education, digital panoramic X-ray and sensors, and Patterson-branded computer hardware and products by key partners such as CEREC and Schick. A redundant phone system ensures that critical data and applications are always secure and power-protected.

A culture of relationships

All of the employees at the PTC are instilled with a culture of relationship building and providing excellent service to customers, which leads to the development of better products and services.

Many of the employees who live in Effingham and the surrounding area receive extensive product training and customer service training. However, most already have a strong work ethic and are committed to taking care of the customer. For example, in the call center, more importance is placed on the quality of calls rather than the quantity of calls. The staff is keenly interested in developing a rapport with each customer and taking the time to answer their questions, contributing to a “wow” experience that customers appreciate.

Patterson also works at building successful customer relationships at the local branch level. This is done with dedicated Patterson Dental sales representatives who work with dentists in the community to help meet doctors’ practice goals. When a technology need enters the picture, the representative calls on a Patterson equipment specialist — also based at the branch — to meet with the doctor. Together, they discuss best practices and available technologies and resources to bring the doctor’s vision to life.

The PTC assists in this process by training technology advisors so they can provide hands-on training to the doctor and staff. The PTC also offers ongoing training for customers to develop their knowledge of a specific technology.

Providing support into the future

The PTC has come a long way from those early, formative days in a basement office. The new facility is a symbol of growth and a testament to the commitment that Patterson Companies makes to the future of technology. At the PTC, the staff is continually researching and upgrading software to help dental practices become more efficient and profitable, while forging relationships with customers, business partners, and employees, leading to the development of better products and services. Overall, the goal is to make the process of moving toward technology as simple as possible for the customer, and to provide excellent service and support throughout the life of the practice.

Pam Hemmen is vice president of technology services for Patterson Companies, Inc., and is responsible for operations of the Patterson Technology Center (PTC). She served as a director of the PTC from 2003 to 2011. Hemmen joined Patterson in 1997 through the acquisition of EagleSoft, Inc. While at EagleSoft, she held executive management positions in the areas of marketing,client services, and customer support. She began her career with EagleSoft in 1994 as a sales representative.

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