Knueppel Healthcare Services
It’s easy to be swayed by Cindy Ciardo’s vivaciousness and youthful spark. But be certain: This diminutive, red-haired CEO packs a punch in a velvet glove. Her intensity quickly mobilizes in a common sense discussion about her firm’s devotion to community, professionalism, consumer education and contemporary solutions for her customers and the HME industry.
Ciardo co-owns Knueppel Healthcare Services with William Knueppel, grandson of the company’s founder. They have guided the firm from its 1955 roots as a pharmacy to solid standing as a three-location, progressive HME provider and retailer in southeastern Wisconsin.
Once a pharmacy with gifts, cards and a candy counter, Knueppel now operates out of a 25,000-square-foot, light industrial building in West Allis. The building contains 5,000 feet of retail space, along with the main warehouse location; billing, shipping and receiving; service and repair; and a custom fabrication area and shop for rehab.
The 3,900-square-foot Mequon branch and 4,900-square-foot Racine branch are located in business complexes. Neither branch is a particularly good retail location since they are well away from main traffic patterns and have poor main street visibility. No matter. Challenges just make Knueppel more creative.
Old-Fashioned Values with Contemporary Flair
Knueppel’s customer experience is based on old-fashioned values: compassionate and exceptional service; continuous education for staff, clients and health care professionals; and dedication to the community and industry.
The company’s business model is based on thousands of referral touch points. The primary source of revenue is professional, referral driven, with 78 percent third-party payers. The company has one outside marketing person, so Knueppel’s biggest tools are networking and relationship building.
A key for Knueppel is to be the go-to source for education—both for professionals and consumers. It provides continual in-services and CEU courses for health care professionals.
“We believe we earn referrals based on their extensive knowledge and product selection,” Ciardo said. “We have invested in building our brand to represent a unique, distinguished level of uncompromising expertise. Our main goal is to get them in the store, since no matter what you say they either don’t hear or remember anything—and seeing is believing. So to that end, we offer onsite in-services, give professional discounts on purchases, host open houses—anything to get them through the doors.”
The same tenets apply to consumers. Knueppel uses traditional and new media tools to reach existing customers and prospective customers. The company sponsors educational programs, open houses, instructional and special events, guest speakers, case studies, sales and special offers.
Proof of success is in the metrics. Sales have grown more than 8 percent the last two years. Knueppel stores see more than 125 customers per day plus phone orders. The website does not handle e-commerce, but directs consumers to customer service where orders are taken. The website receives more than 2,200 unique visits a month with more than 8,000 pages viewed.
Daring to Diversify and Dedicate Resources
Ciardo and her team have a knack for spotting niche opportunities and building them into solid revenue streams. Knueppel dared to diversify, even before competitive bidding loomed.
Its core business is based on custom fitting in rehab, mobility, compression hosiery, women’s health, orthopedic supports and diabetic shoes, but cash sales were always part of the company’s offerings and are poised for expansion.