Multichannel Customer Experience EU 2015

Oct 19, 2015 - Oct 20, 2015, London

Develop a customer plan... NOT a brand plan!

Let’s Get Personal: Customer Experience

Pharma must devolve decision-making power to the people closest to the customer.



There is no doubt that everyone in pharma wants to provide a positive customer experience (CX), but there is a gap between the industry’s vision and the current reality. As customers receive greater added value elsewhere in their lives from other industries (free Wi-Fi or hassle-free online booking, for example), they come to expect something similar from pharma companies. This means that doctors, patients, payers and other key stakeholders are all looking for more from their interactions with pharma.

In eyeforpharma’s recent webinar, ‘Personalize Your Customer’s Experience', participants responded to a series of poll questions which provided a snapshot of industry attitudes. Asked to judge where they or their company is on a sliding scale between brand and customer focus, 27% said they were ‘slightly’ customer focused but 20% of people believe their companies are ‘strongly’ customer focused. When it came to the next question - ‘How committed are you to prioritizing customer and patient needs?’ - 76% of respondents were ‘somewhat’ or ‘strongly’ committed.

On the face of it, this looks like good news for pharma since putting the customer at the centerof what you do is not fluffy stuff: various studies have established that providing a better CX will boost revenue. But how do you actually do it? Three industry experts put forward their thoughts on ways in which companies could make the most of the new opportunities on offer.

Importance of communication

To put together the right content, we need to centralize data and digital services. But we need to empower individual affiliates to analyze and improve things at local level.”

Morten Hjelmsoe, CEO of Agnitio, pointed to the increasing importance of communication as a service which pharma can provide. As the cost of healthcare rises, there will be an intense focus on how we get better outcomes, with the spotlight falling on major potential costs such as poor disease management, including patient adherence. 

“A drug without communication is like an iPod without iTunes,” he says. Pharma can start to personalize CX by improving communication between each stakeholder and adding value by the increased use of technology. This might involve giving the same tools to reps, doctors, pharmacists and nurses, who then use it - within controlled settings - to produce individualized content.

But in order to empower those who know the customer best and personalize CX, companies need to decentralize decision-making. Within a framework, which includes central approval and repositories of approved content, skills and tools should be given to local people, all the way out to the rep, doctor and patients. “To put together the right content, we need to centralize data and digital services,” says Hjelmsoe. “But we need to empower individual affiliates to analyze and improve things at local level.” 

To centralize or decentralize?

However, this does not seem to be happening wholesale at present – and webinar participants were certainly split, with 19% seeing heavy centralization happening at the moment in their companies, 26% some centralization, 22% citing a good balance between global and local and 21% recording some decentralization.

Not everyone agrees that decentralization is the way forward anyway. “I’m not a huge fan,” admits Victor Kara, Associate VP of Digital & Multichannel Marketing at Sanofi. “I don’t want us to lose sight of all the different regulatory restrictions we have to deal with. A certain sense of centralization is absolutely necessary to move forward.”

To illustrate the pitfalls, he cited a campaign aimed only at Brazil, whose messages in Portuguese ran into regulatory problems which would have been spotted with central oversight. “When we are decentralizing, there needs to be a core group of stakeholders who are centralized,” he says.

Local relevance and accountability

One person in no doubt that decentralization must be pharma’s new direction of travel is Mike Bellis, CX Lead Europe for Pfizer. A large part of his job is concerned with taking accountability out of the center and handing it to front line people – to make things relevant locally and to fix problems which occur. He agrees that there must be a regulated structure for communication, but insists accountability has to be near where the customers are. “That could be local affiliates, regions within affiliates or even to individuals who are customer facing,” he says.

He quoted the example of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, which gives every one of its customer-facing colleagues a budget of $200 a day to fix problems with customers. “That is an incredible attitude and culture which is set from the top,” Bellis continues. It may well not be wholly applicable to pharma, but if the principles of the hotel chain’s philosophy could be used in “devolving the accountability for the experience we provide customers to the people who deliver it, then I think we would start to have a more meaningful role in our customers’ lives”.

Hjelmsoe thinks this would represent a useful change from the current situation of a “one-size-fits-all, ‘push’ approach in everything we do”. The next refinement will be menu driven, a mixture of push and pull, he believes, before moving to co-creation.

Engagement in practice

Putting together a process and an engagement strategy that will be received and understood by everyone is the absolute goal".

So much for the theory, what about the practice? When it comes to engaging stakeholders, Kara says Sanofi starts any digital or multichannel campaign with a social listening exercise to pick up markets and demographics, finding out who is saying what and the sorts of things they need. This requires buy-in from across the organization. “Putting together a process and an engagement strategy that will be received and understood by everyone is the absolute goal”. He goes on to say,“You need strong centralized process at global level – but this should ensure there is enough adaptability and flexibility at local level for people who best understand what is going on with customers”.

Sanofi focuses on brand equity, building up content in an enterprise marketing system (EMS) which acts as a digital library with whatever is being worked on, catalogued and available so staff can see what has been done in diabetes, branded or unbranded, for example, and pick and choose what they want to use locally.

Pfizer has a different approach, developing first what Bellis calls “greater empathy with our customers to get a sense of what it feels like to be them”. This empathy will be one of the greatest sources of decision-making which drive value for customers, he believes. The second is customer journey mapping and the metrics associated with it: the idea here is that, if you can map the journeys they take to achieve what they want – especially in terms of patient treatment – then you can start to use that empathy to bring value at each key stage in that journey. But this requires a two-part feedback mechanism, Bellis explains, “to allow us to see how we are doing”:

1) Customer – are we doing a good job for you?

2) Employee – asking colleagues is there anything we could be doing better to deliver value for customers.

How will we retain our customers? How can we give value to make them loyal to us".

However you choose to do it, Hjelmsoe believes this requires a mindset change from pharma to produce information which is relevant to doctors and patients, rather than to companies themselves. “Change the conversation and say: ‘What is the problem and how can I help you with that?’”, he suggests.

“Changing mindset is the goal, because changing behaviors will follow,” agrees Bellis. Pharma’s recent business models have done well for the sector but will not be able to generate similar revenue going forward: reach and frequency is not going to continue the success. “We need to change the conversation to one of customer acquisition and retention,” he continues. “How will we retain our customers? How can we give value to make them loyal to us?”.

Practical next steps

In terms of practical next steps, Kara suggests that companies have to be innovative in terms of the content, value and services they provide – but ensure that these are served up where and how customers want to receive them. “You need to create and follow a very simple internal strategy process,” he explains. “Can everyone within your organization relate to it, repeat it and understand it, and then ultimately act on it?” As a result, Sanofi’s focus is on:

1) Training internal people on digital and multichannel.

2) Providing and monetizing digital and multichannel support to brands.

3) Innovation.

Using these three key pillars, companies then have to come up with a handful of standard operating procedures (SOPs) useful to their target audience. Meanwhile, Hjelmsoe explains that Agnitio looks at four areas:

1) Skillsets in brand teams, sales and IT and so on.

2) Process change.

3) Infrastructure such as unique technology.

4) Content that will be valuable for downstream – giving doctors tools to help patients, for instance.

When making change it is difficult to do so in the whole company at one time. “Take one product in one country as a concentrated, small scale but full-circle solution and then take the experience from that,” Hjelmsoe concludes.


For more information on Customer Experience, visit Multichannel Customer Experience 2015, 19th-20th October, London.


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Multichannel Customer Experience EU 2015

Oct 19, 2015 - Oct 20, 2015, London

Develop a customer plan... NOT a brand plan!

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