The problem is, was, and has been for Ernie, that of getting a mold to fit his left ear, comfortably, without falling out. You see, not only does Ernie have a severe hearing loss, the bony structure surrounding his left ear canal has been excavated during mastoid surgery from previous bouts of severe ear infection, leaving a huge area of canal volume. Most definitely not, your average ear. Given Ernie also has a severe loss in his right ear, without proper amplification, Ernie’s lost.
Basically, Ernie doesn't hear squat with out his hearing aids. The folks at Unitron know this. Yet have failed totally, to act like they care one bit about Ernie, or his fitting.
But, like all dual microphone systems, the front, and back microphones need to be as close to level on the horizontal plane, as possible to work properly. The further they deviate from horizontal, the less effective. It’s that simple.
Yet, on the very first mold Unitron made for Ernie, (if you click and scroll down to the bottom of the page of the original fitting.) the wires from his custom molded receivers, and the processing units were way too long, resulting in the units hanging off the back of Ernie’s ears. Though we could fix the problem with retention comfortably, by adding a fabricated concha lock in our lab, we can't fix wire length on one of their custom molds.
Instead of being level, as you can clearly see in the photo the wires are too long from the very start. When stretched snug, and flat, Ernie’s microphones were pointing up, at close to a sixty degree angle, reducing their effectiveness in separating front to back sounds to basically nil. They were delivered this way from the very start, over a year ago.
One of the most important features of Ernie’s system was rendered useless, by the manufacturer themselves, simply because the wires from the mold to the processing units were too long.
Now, were this not a completely custom made mold set, I would have simply changed the length in our lab, and sent Ernie on his way. But, due to the design of Unitron’s custom power receiver molds, changing wire length is something that can only be accomplished at their shell lab in Minnesota, where they were made.
Problem is, Ernie’s a snowbird. He lives half the year ‘back home’ in St. Louis. So we got a Unitron dispenser in the area for Ernie to get service back home, pointed out the problem and sent Ernie home for the season last year confident that we’d see him next year with such a simple problem fixed. After all, excepting the wire length, we had a great fit when he left.
Well, you may have guessed it, when Ernie returned to us this winter, not only were his processing units hanging off the back of his ears, with the microphones still facing up, at an inappropriate angle, basically useless, for their task of front to back separation of sounds in those noisy environments because of it. Not only this, but the small comfortably fitting little canal mold he’d left with, had been replaced by a huge mass of clear mold material taking up his whole outer ear, as can be seen in the photo above.
Ernie explained that he’d returned home, called the folks they had referred him to, and been to see them several times. The net results were that he’d been fit repeatedly without success since leaving, and what he was presently uncomfortably wearing, and having to get by with, was the result of all those failed efforts.
That was just after Christmas of last year. We filled out the appropriate forms, called to see if they still had a scan of Ernie's ear and began a wait, that as of this writing, has resulted in Unitron sending the same problem back to us four times since then. Ernie’s wires are still so long that the units hang off the back of his ears.
This, despite written directions, photos, pictures on the web to refer to, and several calls by my office administrator, Ms. Tomlin. Even though we were charged, and paid for these remakes, the results were the same each time. Two, to three weeks of wasted wait, for the return of the same, or almost the same problem that was sent in for correction originally. In our case back at the end of December, and in Ernie’s case since he returned home last year, and went to the folks Unitron had recommended for care.
Well, last Thursday, the 20th of March, with Ernie sitting in my lab chair, and Ms. Tomlin listening from her desk, I called the folks at Unitron, and asked to speak to whomever was in charge of their shell lab.
I honestly, and sincerely asked some very uncomfortable questions regarding the number of times we’d sent these in, their inability to read, and follow simple directions, or even look at the photos that had been supplied.
Now, I very rarely have to intervene in any service matter with any of our vendors. Most take a great deal of pride in servicing their customers, and patients. And, I must admit that any company lab who got one of these calls would be made very uncomfortable, that was after all the whole point, to make some one wake up, pay attention and fix their problem.
However, on the other rare, and odd times in my thirty-three year career when I’ve had to make such a call, it was always followed by a rapid return of the gear in question, fixed to specifications.
However, when faced with a complaint of their own absolutely atrocious customer service in this case, Unitron, or rather their CFO, Mr. Nick Stephan, chose to attack me personally for, in his words, “abusing Unitron employees.” His notice letter came complete with a threat of legal action for having the audacity of complaining about their atrocious handling of this case.
Well folks, that’s the state of affairs at Unitron today. Fail to deliver the customer service needed to make a simple mold properly for over a year, then attack, and threaten the dispenser for abusing the help when you complain about it.
As I have already explained, both our patient, Mr. Arnsberg, and my office manager were witness to this alleged abuse, and both had very different takes on the situation than Unitron. Not once during our conversation did I raise my voice, or use anything like profanity, or any language that wouldn’t be perfectly acceptable here, or on NPR.
As promised, I gave the crew at Unitron till the end of last week to get Ernie’s gear back to us, and this matter would have been kept strictly between Unitron, and us.
However, instead of performing the simple service tasks requested for over a year, Unitron has chosen to initiate a lame, spurious attempt at character assassination, complete with threats of legal action.
We have yet to receive anything but lame promises, and spurious threats, in response from Unitron's management, regarding our patient, Ernie’s mold system.
When taken with the recent revelations of Phonak’s dealings with Costco, their, and Unitron’s web sales outlet, Planet Hearing, and the constant bait, and switch advertising from their local pocket pirate subsidiaries, and Sonova/Unitron/Phonak are not only on a path to the alienation of every thinking dispenser, they are now setting the standards for absolutely atrocious customer care, within our entire industry.
I’ve just got a couple of questions for those lost folks at Unitron; just how’s that working out for you, and your market expansion plans?
Do you really think delivering such atrociously poor service, then attacking folks when they complain about it, is good for your business, your label’s reputation, or your chances of growing market share?
This should serve to put any manufacturer on notice. We put our patients first. It is what we mean by being patient centered and results oriented. We simply will not tolerate the type of service being exemplified in this case by Unitron.
This patient's entire fitting has been compromised for over a year, because this company simply won't read, and follow the directions on their own remake forms. But, worse, when confronted with their non-performance, instead of responding quickly, and in a manner that would have served our patient, they chose instead to delay further, and attack me for 'abusing' their help.
Folks, I would put forward that it is Mr. Amberg who has been abused, and sorely so, and that by the folks at Unitron.
Further, I would challenge anyone from Unitron, or their legal representatives, to respond otherwise, either officially, so that I might address them in a legal forum, or here, in this blog, where the world may read all about why it is that the folks at Untron think an articulate complaint about them letting down a really great guy, repeatedly, for over a year, is abuse, rather than their failure to perform?