What’s it like building a tech product for dentists? Fun, exciting, scary, or the biggest learning adventure you will be on?
The answer: all of the above.
Working on SamsoSmile has been one of the hardest yet most joyful things I’ve done in my professional career. The learning curve has been steep and I am grateful for it. I didn’t know going in, how hard it was going to be. In retrospect, that is probably a good thing!
There is some wisdom that I’d like to share about the journey thus far. If you’re interested in becoming similarly involved in a tech product, keep reading.
You are a work in progress
One of the biggest lessons in this journey is that product development is never complete. I thought our work on SamsoSmile was complete back in December 2022. Oh, how wrong I was!
When we began demonstrating our service to other offices, particularly those with 10-15 clinics under an umbrella partnership, they asked us about, what I think now as, crucial elements to our product. These elements never came up in our beta tests, which were run in single doctor offices.
We had to improvise quickly and implement these features within a matter of days, in order to, meet our customers’ basic expectations. This was not easy because engineers need timelines to work with. They take a few days to build a feature and a few days after that to test before rolling it into production. By then, you may have lost an interested customer.
Is the market ready?
Launching a new product in any market is difficult. There were lots of offices where we demonstrated SamsoSmile in the first few weeks that said ‘but my office manager (OM) already does that manually’ or ‘my OM thinks it’ll disrupt her workflow.’ Since we all have a capable, credible OM/insurance coordinator to do insurance verification on our behalf, we are afraid of implementing a new product that will change things around the office. Even if the new product will save us $$$$ and time in the long run.
Many of us in healthcare, don’t realize what will happen if our OM were to suddenly retire or quit. Training a new person to understand insurances is costly and takes time. In all of this, the people that suffer the most is often our patients. They are left confused about their insurance coverage and are upset when they get an unexplained bill in the mail.
Insurance verification when done manually, takes far too long, is expensive and inefficient. Relying on technology can save offices 2 hours daily! Watching offices knowingly struggle with this is hard, because many of these dentists are my friends!
Trying to find answers to every problem a customer has, with no background in tech, has been tough. I must often rely on the expertise of my mentors in the tech world, to help solve these problems. Luckily, I live in the Silicon Valley and don’t have to look too far for advice.
Taking courses to close these gaps in our knowledge is key. Realizing that there is a gap is only the first step. Fortunately, the tech world is full of great people and good ideas. There’s always a way to solve problems and when you do, it is the most exhilarating feeling in the world. In my husband’s words, ‘when there’s a problem to fix, that is the most exciting moment in the product timeline. Because, now you have real work to do!’
Celebrating the big moments like getting our first paying customer and appreciating our team for their hard work is a must. SamsoSmile would be nothing if there were not a team of hard-working engineers behind the scenes. It’s their hard work that has gotten us this far and their motivation that will keep us going.
Most of my development team is based out of Dubai, and it’s in those early morning meetings (for me, evenings for them), that I find the most joy. Without a doubt, it’s in those meetings that I often feel the most motivation because I have the opportunity to hear from our engineers. I also feel accountable towards them after a meeting because I don’t want their hard work to have all gone to waste. This fuels me further.
Just like I can’t forget the day we got our first customer, I also can’t forget the day a competitor adopted a feature very similar to that of SamsoSmile’s. I am usually very focused on my own game, and would have never even found out about this, had it not been for a diligent customer who reached out to us immediately. Later, a mentor told me to cheer up because ‘it is validation that you are doing something right!’ He also mentioned that ‘software is dynamic and what’s today is very different from what’s tomorrow, so keep improving so fast and swiftly that competitors are left far, far behind.’
It’s a good life lesson too.
Probably the most important thing I have learned in this journey is to listen. Listening to what customers are saying is only possible when we stop talking and give them space. Sometimes, in demonstrations it’s hard because we are in a rush to tell them everything about the product so that customers can make an informed decision. The truth is however, most customers are interested in a few aspects of our product only. And our job is to find that out at the beginning and deliver on those. Once we have delivered on those, we must rigorously ensure we have matched their expectations and surpass them!
‘Customer obsession’ is what this is called by Amazon. I find that a little creepy/intense so I am calling it ‘customer devotion’. Care about the customer as you would a friend, family or colleague. Our SamsoSmile customers just happen to be all three!
If you are interested in learning more about SamsoSmile, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org