The letter I wrote this afternoon to Kevin Sayer, president of Dexcom International

Kevin Sayer
President, Dexcom International
6340 Sequence Drive
San Diego, CA 92121

Dear Mr. Sayer,

In February 2014 I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. Within 3 months my c-peptide reading was 0; my beta cells were completely wiped out. Even my doctors were disappointed at how quickly it happened—I guess many Type 1s “honeymoon” for months or even years, but I lost all function within about 100 days.

My diabetes is brittle. My blood sugar shoots up quickly and crashes punishingly. For the first few months of my disease, I was terrified to go to sleep. I’d read about Type 1s dying overnight because their blood sugar went too low, and after setting alarms for all hours so I could test at night I confirmed a big fear—I too frequently have nighttime lows. During those first nighttime tests, through the half-conscious haze of shaking and sweating, I developed a low grade, 24/7 anxiety that hasn’t lifted since.

As you might have guessed, Dexcom was a gamechanger for me. As soon as I learned what it was, I begged my doctor to set me up with one, and she obliged. By the end of June (after my February diagnosis), I was wearing a Dexcom, and it provided a layer of security and relief from fear that I truly cannot understate. I now think back on those 4 months that I wasn’t wearing one and wonder how I even made it through.

In the past, I’ve been so impressed with your company’s customer service. Because of my insurance (United Healthcare), I actually get my Dexcom supplies through Byram Healthcare—one of those intricacies of insurance bureaucracy that’s kind of baffling—but whenever I have a technical issue it’s always such a relief to call you guys directly. I’ve found your agents to be great—they seem to understand how scary it is to be without a Dexcom and immediately offer to ship me replacements for things as fast as they can.

Because of this, I made the mistake of assuming your company was governed by compassion, not capitalism. And that the agents I spoke to held my well being as their highest priority. I was wrong.

In September 2016 my Dexcom receiver broke. I called you guys and was informed by tech support that the receiver’s 1 year warrantee went through October 2016, so they would be able to ship me a replacement overnight. I was hugely relieved, as the process of getting new supplies through Byram is so lengthy and drawn out that I always give myself at least a month to start the process before I actually need the product. Whereas Dexcom has always seemed to understand urgency, Byram, wrapped up in prior authorizations and prescriptions and a thousand layers of departments, does not.

Within a day, I had a brand new receiver in my hand.  It never occurred to me that a brand new machine would inherit the warrantee of a broken machine. If your machines have a warrantee of 1 year, logically I should have been able to use my brand new receiver for one year.  Certainly no one in September told me otherwise.

This morning, my 5-month-old receiver died. It displayed an error message instructing me to call tech support and began repeating a very loud, piercing noise. When I called tech support, expecting to be treated with the same polite compassion that I’m always treated with, I was floored by the response. Your agent told me that this 6 month old machine was out of warrantee, that its warrantee expired 1 month after I got it, and that there was “nothing she could do for me.” If I wanted a replacement, I had to contact Byram, with its notorious miles of paperwork and weeks of waiting.

I explained to her that it never occurred to me that a new machine would inherit an old machine’s warrantee, otherwise I would have gotten it replaced immediately, to avoid this nightmare scenario. Already while on the phone with her my blood sugar tanked and I didn’t find out until I tested after hanging up. I feel nauseous thinking about going to sleep tonight without my Dexcom, but I feel so much worse about not having one for as long as it’s going to take for an insurance middleman to get one to me. (And yes, I immediately called Byram and was informed that the prior authorization on my Dexcom has expired, so it will take me at least 14 days—and likely more—for Byram to replace my receiver.)

I have worked in customer service. I know that there are always rules, and I also know that there are always exceptions. I have now called Dexcom three times today, and spoken with 5 different people, all of whom have apologized “for my frustration” and politely assured me that there is nothing they can do. (In every case, I responded that I wasn’t frustrated, I was terrified. I got no answer to that.) To my embarrassment, I sobbed—straight up, sobbed—with fear to every single one of the five employees I spoke with, and received only bland, vague apologies in response.

It is a punch to the gut to realize that your employees’ compassion only extends as far as my machine’s warrantee. My Dexcom has, I am sure of it, saved my life, and the thought of being without it for weeks as my prescription snakes through the web of Byram Healthcare’s faceless bureaucracy is terrifying.

One of your employees interrupted my crying to tell me I “should have gotten a replacement receiver in October” when the warrantee expired. (Even though no one at your company told me so at the time.) Another put me on hold for 3 minutes to “talk to leadership” and then came back and assured me there was nothing she could do, but she “tried as hard as she could” (for three whole minutes) to convince them to help me out. Many of them apologized for the misunderstanding with the warrantee, and even apologized that I wasn’t informed in September that the September replacement still needed to be replaced in October. However none of them offered to do anything for me.

Instead, every single one of them did their best to find someone else to transfer me to, until I finally wound up with Martha in tech support who patiently listened to me sob before continuously, politely insisting she was helpless.

If your goal is for your employees to rigidly obey the rules without consideration for the real human lives that your product saves and affects, then they all did an impeccable job. But if your goal is for them to go above and beyond to provide lifesaving technology to sick people regardless of arbitrary, bureaucratic warrantee status, then unfortunately I will tell you that that’s not happening.

At one of my previous jobs, I worked customer service for a makeup company. A woman emailed us, distraught, because a $30 birthday gift she’d ordered for her sister didn’t arrive in time. I felt awful; I could imagine the party and this woman’s anxiety at having to show up without a present. I thought of how badly I’ve felt in the past when I haven’t had presents in time for peoples’ birthdays. After checking with my boss, I sent this woman and her sister an upgraded gift – it was probably a $100 solve for a $30 purchase. We lost money on the transaction, but it was the right thing to do.

I’m so terribly disappointed with Dexcom.

 

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