Loyalty: What can Pharma Learn from Netflix?

Since its inception, Netflix has blown its competition out of the water with the customer loyalty it has managed to amass.



Netflix currently has over 60 million users (and counting), making it the most used streaming service worldwide. Despite having stiff competition from platforms like YouTube (which is free) and Hulu (which has a lot of free content), Netflix has managed to prove that gratuity isn’t what drives people to your services.

So, what exactly has driven the extraordinary growth of Netflix and, more importantly, what lessons can the pharmaceutical industry learn from Netflix growth and prosperity? Here are 5 lessons from Netflix on how to build customer loyalty within the pharmaceutical industry:

1. Listen to your customers

This lesson is as old as time, but in the era of online customer reviews where a bad review can destroy businesses, it’s extra important to acknowledge the power the consumer has. Today, consumers can go online and find a million reviews for a single product or organization, stemming from comment sections, blog posts, and vlogs on YouTube. Subsequently, listening to the customer and having a superior customer care system in place is essential to maintaining good business practice.

Netflix has done exactly that, and customers continue to rave about the customer care, availability, and speed of response when there’s an issue with the server. This has stood Netflix apart from the competition. In fact, without much publicity and a ‘word of mouth’ approach, its customers have been Netflix number one ad campaign.

The way in which some pharmaceutical companies are utilizing social media is one key way of listening to the patient; social media provides access to the patient voice, and organizations who use social media to understand and engage their audience are ahead of the game when it comes to listening to their customers.

2. Sometimes the customer knows more than you

In the midst of the information age, patients can easily search Google about their symptoms or the drugs prescribed to them and what the implications of taking them are. The days are gone when doctors and the pharmaceutical industry know more than the patient. This is true about anything, which is why Netflix makes a conscious effort to stay up-to-date with customer demands. Indeed, this has resulted in their recent endeavors to create original content in response to their audience’s desires to see original and unique shows on their platform.  

Netflix took this one step further by making the entire season of their original shows available at once so that customer’s don’t have to wait weeks for a new episode. Understanding the customer’s desires and necessities, especially in an era where the customer is more informed than ever, is essential to driving loyalty and, ultimately, sales.

Roche is a great example of a pharmaceutical company who takes account of the patient perspective by involving them in every step and taking their feedback into account for future clinical trials as to what works and what doesn’t.

3. It’s not about selling more

According to Andy Nemes, Head of Sales at Antavo, a self-service contest and loyalty software company, rewards programs such as loyalty cards or points for purchase miss the mark in guaranteeing true loyalty from a consumer because what they do is drive sales temporarily; they won’t create a culture of care and concern that makes a person go out of their way to acquire your product. “Forget traditional loyalty programs,” says Nemes. “Use engagement type loyalty programs instead.” Ultimately, it’s the people who have an emotional attachment to a service or product, which is usually gained via engagement, that will make a business succeed - because over time they will choose your product and offering over the competition.

So, how do you get people to choose your offering over someone else’s if loyalty programs aren’t the answer? By Netflix standards, the answer lies in innovation and superior customer service. On the one hand, the company is constantly and consistently innovating and improving their service and offerings and, on the other, they make sure that the customer feels looked after.  All you have to do is make a quick internet search to find stories and reviews on the extra mile Netflix takes to make sure the customer knows they are a priority. Sometimes this means a slower paced growth in sales rather than a momentous growth that can then prove hard to maintain because there is no customer loyalty.

Many pharma companies are attempting to be more empathic in their interactions with patients through the inclusion of patient stories on their websites, but attempts remain in their infancy and more work could certainly be done in this area.

4. Get personal

A common complaint when it comes to the medical industry is that patients can often feel like they are just a number, and that their individual needs and desires aren’t being met. It’s hard to keep up with the sheer volume of people in need of a product or service and for that one product to satisfy absolutely everyone’s needs. However, the more you can personalize services and meet individual needs, the more likely people are to respond positively to your organization.

Pharma companies should personalize their product offering with tools like recommendation engines and personalization providers like Monetate, Gravity, Gravity R&D or Rich Relevance.

Netflix has long been innovating in creating personalized content for their users. Nemes, says, “Netflix personalizes the user experience, meaning that if you like action movies and never bother to watch romance, in their websites and emails you will see movies which you most probably like, based on your past behavior and also from other people's behavior who are similar to you in taste.”

A great example of personalization within the pharma industry is Novartis, who recently won an award for the most valuable patient initiative. The company created an App that helps patients monitor their disease according to their individual needs, ultimately personalizing the experience of each individual patient without undermining the need to create drugs for the general public. There is a lot of room for improvement, however, and Nemes advises, “Pharma companies should personalize their product offering with tools like recommendation engines and personalization providers like Monetate, Gravity, Gravity R&D or Rich Relevance.”

5. Don’t be ‘in their face’

If the success of Netflix has taught us anything, it is that people will go the extra mile to avoid excessive ads and to get the content they want when they want it. It’s no surprise then that Netflix avoids flashy and ‘in your face’ advertisement in favor of a ‘word of mouth’ and positive review system that has so far helped them dominate the market. Indeed, people are most likely to respond to recommendations by friends and family than they are to an ad campaign, so Netflix hit the bullseye again in terms of best practice for gaining loyalty.

The pharma industry can learn a great deal from Netflix and how they manage their business practice. They are the best selling streaming service, even topping Apple, a company known for its high levels of customer loyalty.

The key message to take from Netflix is that caring for the customer and going the extra mile for them will guarantee loyalty. If Netflix can master this simple tactic and sell it to over 60 million people, then who’s to say that pharma, who has an impact on almost everyone’s lives, can’t follow suit?


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