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    Leadership Series: The Customer Experience - Q&A with David Pumberger: Part 1

    David Pumberger By David Pumberger - 4 minutes read

    Boil down ZAGENO to its core elements and you’ll see a company that is trying to solve a longstanding family feud. As you begin to understand what is possible when those disputes are settled, you’ll see why it’s worth the effort.

    Within one platform, ZAGENO is working to deliver value to three diverse stakeholders in life science: 

    1. Scientists whose research relies upon lab supplies.
    2. Procurement teams responsible for purchasing these supplies.
    3. Manufacturers of the very same supplies.

    Not only is each stakeholder quite different from the other, but in many cases they are working towards diametrically opposed goals. Take, for example, the difference between procurement’s drive for efficiency and the exacting standards required by scientists. 

    The vision for developing a solution to help suppliers sell more, while reducing administrative tasks for purchasing teams and ensuring scientists have precisely what they need, rests on the shoulders of ZAGENO co-founder and Chief Product Officer, David Pumberger. 

    We recently sat down with David to discuss the art of designing a product capable of solving big problems, by bridging divides between departments in order to exceed their very specific needs.


    Q: How does product development begin?

    David Pumberger (DP): When it comes to building a product that must include a customer experience, there is no magic wand, nor is there a technique that fits all purposes. A personalized customer experience is one that is customized. To truly achieve this, you can’t cut corners.

    A personalized customer experience is one that is customized. To truly achieve this, you can’t cut corners.

    Determining what customers want is the major challenge. Doing so means engaging them. That can mean speaking with them about their wants, needs, and challenges. Once that’s underway, you can begin to spot similarities to customer experiences found in other industries.


    Q: Sounds like you’re gaining inspiration from consumer products. What goes into your thinking when you’re developing something for scientists? 

    DP: At ZAGENO we have a wealth of in-house experience, which has helped us understand and design a solution around their (scientists') wants and needs. The decision to have scientists and scientifically minded professionals within our staff is no accident. Likewise, it has been a conscious decision to bring on professionals with expertise in enterprise and SaaS development as well. Because both our supplier partners and our customers sit at the intersection of these worlds, we must have first-hand knowledge of their needs.

    Both represent organizations with different stakeholders that have unique experiences, needs, and challenges. ZAGENO needs to excel at catering for all of these needs.

    .  .  .

    To build the right solution, we must aspire to completely solve the problems of both our supplier partners and customers. As such, we must always consider that:

    • It's not enough to only build the best search engine for scientists to find the right product for their research.
    • It’s not enough to just build the best procurement dashboard where spend can be analyzed and optimized.
    • It’s not enough to have a one-off solution, but to build the best integration into finance and/or enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems.

    Building the best customer experience is about designing a horizontal path, which bisects the solutions, to make them work for everyone. While there are more important aspects to the various parts of this path, ZAGENO feels that diverting from the customer’s experience, at any time during this journey, will alienate them.

    Diving into this further, consider the scenario where a scientist locates a product, presses the buy button, and receives that product. That’s great for the scientist, but if it causes problems for procurement because, for example, the purchase was from the wrong supplier or caused an invoicing problem, then you’re left with a happy scientist and very unhappy procurement or finance team. Unless the experience that ZAGENO builds is holistic, that horizontal pathway we are building will not succeed.

    Q: What else influences the product development process for the Life Science industry?

    DP: ZAGENO is a B2B company but we recognize that our users, many of whom are young scientists, have grown up with digital commerce. They have a natural affinity to a B2C experience and actually expect that in their professional lives. 

    ZAGENO is a B2B company but we recognize that our users, many of whom are young scientists, have grown up with digital commerce. They have a natural affinity to a B2C experience and actually expect that in their professional lives.

    In building our solution, we’ve taken this into consideration and have looked for inspiration from other B2C marketplaces.

    From life science suppliers, we have learned and incorporated areas of scientific content. From e-commerce leaders, we have considered aspects such as how to set-up and manage an account, as well as user roles and permissions.

    What’s unique about the marketplace we’ve developed is that scientists retain unique purchasing power in the transaction. This is very different from office supplies, where there is a centralized purchasing agent who makes decisions on items like printer paper for commodity uses. That doesn’t work in a lab setting where purchasing agents don’t have the expertise needed to understand the products they’re buying. 

    This dynamic creates a need between the various stakeholders (e.g. scientists, lab and procurement managers, finance teams, and suppliers) to have a common platform from which they can all communicate. Each of these personas have different needs:

    • The Scientist must make a product choice that fits their specific needs.
    • The Purchasing team needs to be informed about these products and communicate that to the suppliers. 
    • The Suppliers must fulfill the order at a cost and in a timeframe that meets budgets and deadlines.

    ZAGENO has created a unified solution with tools that address each of these needs.

    Q: Going back to the origins of ZAGENO, how did you identify that there was a problem that needed to be fixed in the first place?

    DP: Before ZAGENO, there was no way to manage this journey. Going to any university lab, we would still find paper requisition forms, post-it notes on computer screens, white boards in labs with "do not erase!" messages above supplier product names and numbers, and emails about product requests as the only links between stakeholders. Discoveries like these spark ideas.

    Discoveries like these spark ideas.

    In the beginning, our software developers were tasked to make a product that would be intuitive to the needs of a lab setting. We did this through observation, by being in a lab and seeing these things for ourselves.

    When we’re engaging a new customer, it is always interesting to learn about the lack of transparency between their (internal) stakeholders. Each may be aware that a particular process is inconvenient, but may not realize the impact that a lack of efficiency would cost and that resources could be better spent elsewhere.

    For procurement teams, this process has nothing to do with the right product, but rather transactional efficiency. For finance teams, it’s about the accuracy of the transaction.


    Later this month we will publish part two of our conversation with David, where he shares the importance of understanding the history of the customer’s experience, and shares the ongoing journey of a product as it evolves with its user’s wants and needs.

    .  .  .


    David Pumberger

    About the Author

    David Pumberger is the co-founder and Chief Product Officer at ZAGENO. Prior to ZAGENO he spent nearly a decade in academia beginning as a Research Scientist and Teaching Assistant at ETH Zürich after which he was a partner, trainer and coach at where he developed mathematical and economics courses at the University of St. Gallen, Switzerland. Following this David moved into the managing consulting industry holding leadership roles with both EY Management Consulting in Zürich and PwC Management Consulting, in München. David earned his Ph.D. in Mathematics from ETH Zürich and a Masters in Mathematics from the University of Warwick.

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