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Are you experienced?

Identifying and exceeding customer expectations remains a work-in-progress for pharma
Are you experienced?

To mangle a couple of metaphors, before you can walk a mile in another's shoes you must try and see the world through his eyes.

Customer experience, as an approach to pharma brands and offerings, has been making waves for a few years now and perhaps falls between two stools - it's no longer the new kid on the block, but nor is it by any means old hat. But, based on pharma adoption of the approach, it's still a fresh concept for many in the industry.

This can be seen in the way pharma companies are increasingly looking to customer experience, or CX, as a way to improve the way they conduct their marketing activities, build their brands and devise additional service offerings.

Among some of the more mature companies in this area, work is being undertaken to establish a clear 'cause and effect' relationship between customer experience and marketing investments.

It's a challenging area for pharma, but one that can potentially help companies to deliver on their promises to be more patient-centric, laying concrete foundations for the oft-mentioned idea.

With that in mind perhaps we should first revisit what customer experience is. One way to sum it up is customers' perceptions of the brand - for example, a product or corporate brand, based on the sum of their interactions with it.

Such potential touchpoints for these interactions include pharmaceutical companies' digital properties, the sales force and educational meetings. Having ascertained both customers' perceptions of the brand, as well as where they will experience it, the tricky part then comes in trying to manage the customer experience of that brand so that it meets or exceeds expectations.

Luckily there are some truisms that all marketers can rely on, not least because we're all consumers and have our own notions of what we expect, from problems to fixed to speedy responses to queries.

Keep it as simple as possible... then you're able to achieve it

Identify your customer
However, one of the challenges is a familiar one for the industry - if you're looking at customer experience, who is the 'customer'? And, of course, these days that can encompass patients, prescribers, non-prescribing healthcare professionals, payers and a variety of other business stakeholders.

There are many different types of customer in pharma, agrees Blue Latitude Health's director and head of CX Elisa del Galdo, adding that this is especially true when it comes to designing services. “In order to understand what the customer wants, you need to identify who the customers are in your context - healthcare professionals, patients, pharmacists, payers, service providers, or business stakeholders?

“For example, a payer customer will be interested in the effectiveness of the service as well as the cost of implementation and management. Whereas a healthcare professional will be more interested in how easy the service is to use for a patient and the improvement in patient outcomes.”

In looking to address this Elisa suggests that first and foremost pharmaceutical companies need to make sure they have the right internal capabilities in place. “The transformation of an organisation from 'looking from the inside out' to a perspective of their customers - 'looking from the outside in', is a major switch in attitude and in approach. Hiring the right person to helm and create the capability and understanding within your organisation ensures that there is executive sponsorship and that those lower down the organisational tree will understand the benefit of CX to them and their work.”

Customer experience is described by one experienced pharma executive as “helping change the conversation internally, through a raft of activities to bringing customers - and patients especially - much more into the conscious decision-making undertaken by our commercial teams”.

“It's not rocket science,” he says. “But by using personas and by taking steps to really empathise with what it's like to be a patient, you can start to change internal conversations.”

He adds: “One of the principles that I often recommend teams to follow is to keep it as simple as possible. If you can do that, then it becomes possible and you're able to achieve it and make something happen.”

From CX to patient-centricity
But where do you draw the line between CX and something like patient-centricity? Though laudable, patient-centricity has been at risk of becoming just another buzzword for some time. Nonetheless, pharma cannot have a free pass simply because it makes products that, intrinsically, do good. The industry will be judged on much more than that, and those that want to be absolutely, and ruthlessly, commercial will find that harder to justify.

For Blue Latitude Health's Elisa 'patient-centricity' doesn't mean 'sticking the patient in the middle of a lot of offerings' and then giving them the freedom to navigate or choose what is right for them. “What it should mean is providing services that address the patient's needs, capabilities, context, and desired outcome to provide a clear pathway through the system and facilitate a partnership between the patient and an extended healthcare system. Customer experience, user experience and all of their foundations of this approach is what will deliver patient-centricity.”

In order to understand what the customer wants, you need to identify who the customers are in your context

Measure it
Talking to those in pharma involved in this area and something they see that is often missing from companies' customer experience efforts is a structured process for measuring their impact. The focus within the industry has tended to be on internal measurements or processes that are explicitly financially-motivated. Instead, what is needed is a consistent customer feedback mechanism.

There are suggestions of this in the work undertaken by Boehringer Ingelheim in the UK, where that company has developed a scoring system that will enable it to measure its progress in measuring up to patients' expectations of the company.

As UK medical director Klaus Dugi told PME last year: “By having clear benchmarks that are revisited year in, year out, we expect to be able to demonstrate internally and externally that the company is moving in the right direction allowing us to set new and ambitious goals.”

At the heart of the scoring system will be a process of continuous engagement with patients and measurements of the quality of people's interactions with the company.

Blue Latitude Health's director and head of CX Elisa concludes: “There is certainly a much greater move toward the inclusion of CX in pharma, but it isn't always as straightforward, quick and inexpensive as many would like. However, decades of research on what makes IT projects successful demonstrates that although CX looks expensive, its return on investment is far greater.

“The more pharma can see the potential of CX for delivering successful products, services and tools that will exceed the expectations of both the business and customers, the more amenable they will be to its inclusion. And the better pharma can understand how best practice CX or user experience is implemented, the more likely they are to get the results that will continue to make them amenable to its inclusion.”

Some key lessons in CX
  • Ensure that you have experienced practitioners (researchers and designers) to run your CX capability
  • Ensure that CX does not work in isolation and they are part of a multidisciplinary team
  • Do not try to fit CX into a marketing shaped box - they are not the same thing and deliver in different ways, using different methods
  • Look to success stories outside the pharma and healthcare sector to understand how CX can benefit both the business and the customer
  • Remember that how you approach research and design in a different industry, although it may have its own idiosyncrasies, is very unlikely to compare to the restrictions (legal and medical) that researchers and designers face when working within this industry.
  • Ensure that your CX people are not only user experience experts, but are also experienced in working in the pharma industry, so can understand how best to incorporate CX.

Source: Blue Latitude Health

Article by
Dominic Tyer

is PMGroup's editorial director

31st March 2016

From: Marketing

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