What tablets can do for pharma CRM

Andrew Tolve explores how mobile digital solutions can enhance CRM effectiveness



Pharma reps have a love-hate relationship with customer relationship management (CRM). They may love that it helps them hit their sales numbers, but they hate, more often than not, at the end of a long day in the field, having to sit down and log feedback into their computers. “In the field, CRM to some sales people is like a swear word,” says Greg Harbin, director of business development at Ontario-based Skura. “They hate it” because it’s “time consuming” and “an administrative burden.”

Of course, recording calls is critical for managing and segmenting customers and better tailoring future marketing campaigns. Harbin is one of a growing number who believes digital solutions can bridge the divide between rep satisfaction and CRM effectiveness. (For more on CRM, see Get ready for CRM 2.0 .)

Real-time recording

The past few years have witnessed the broad adoption of mobile devices like tablets for rep use in the field. Harbin says that pharma companies—especially those in smaller markets like Canada with less leveraging power—currently treat most of these devices as “stand-alone” solutions isolated from the CRM systems that sit on their back ends. But with a little retooling, devices like the iPad or tablet PCs can become vehicles for real-time recording. (For more on pharma and mobile tech, see Special report: Mobile apps and pharma.)

If a physician is intrigued by a graph on a tablet screen, for instance, a rep can swipe left on the screen. If the physician is bored by the following article, reps can swipe right. Such real-time capture mechanisms are easy to operate and help close the loop between marketing materials and customer feedback, thereby strengthening the overall CRM apparatus. “You have to give resources to reps that they can use and want and like,” says Harbin. “If they still have to abide by CRM laws, that’s fine, but let’s automate it for them and make it as intuitive as possible.”

Canada, the mobile intel proving ground

As digital detailing devices become more pervasive in the pharma industry, more companies are emerging with solutions that automate the customer-feedback-collection process. Skura is one, along with the likes of Veeva, Proscape, Agnitio, and Exploria.

Some multinational pharma companies have already forged ahead with fully integrated solutions. But many have not, and Canada will be an important proving ground for these companies in the coming years, according to Harbin.

The Canadian market shares similarities with its American counterpart, but the size of investment for global corporations to roll out new digital solutions north of the border is considerably less. “Canada is a great place to trial solutions that will be extended across the corporate infrastructure,” Harbin says. This is particularly true because what Canadian offices sacrifice in size they generally reclaim in swiftness of operations.

Sales forces can number in the hundreds rather than thousands and marketing and IT departments are often in the single digits. That means that cooperation and face-to-face interaction can be a reality rather than an ideal, which makes it easier to quickly implement new solutions and evolve the corporate structure around them.

Crawl, walk, run

When it comes to digital devices and CRM, Harbin specifically recommends a crawl, walk, run mentality. Crawling entails implementing digital detailing aids into the field and starting to use them in presentations with physicians. During the crawl stage, content can be centralized and provided in a useful format, thus cutting down on support costs for reps while improving physician satisfaction and engagement.

Walking takes implementation a step further by integrating digital detailing aids into existing systems, specifically CRM and closed loop marketing (CLM) platforms. During this stage, companies should prioritize real-time feedback mechanisms so they can funnel better data into their systems and ultimately do more with it.

Running is the last step and requires companies to break free from old models and embrace new, faster, and more streamlined ways to communicate with existing customers and to reach new ones. By fully harnessing apps and real-time solutions, companies can maximize reps’ potential and bring stakeholders fully into the loop. “In Canada, you can leverage these companies’ ability to be more nimble and get these important changes into place faster,” Harbin says.

For more on the Canadian pharma market, check out SFE Canada in June in Toronto.

For more on mobile tech and CRM, join the sector's other key players at SFE Europe and eMarketing Europe on March 27-29 in Barcelona, SFE USA on June 12-14 in Somerset, NJ, and 6th Annual Sales & Marketing Excellence Latam Congress on June 28-29 in Miami.

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