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Pharma, tablets and e-detailing - a prescription for physician engagement

As customer expectations increase, so must pharma's approach
It's taken a while for our industry to get on board, but it appears that tablet detailing has finally arrived. One in three details is conducted via an iPad or similar device, according to Hall & Partners research, and of our clients that have yet to embrace this evolution most say they plan to do so soon.

However, how much thought are we giving to this new technology? Often we hear that the edict has come from 'on high' … “We are going digital!” our clients tell us. But when we sit down to consider what this really means, conversations are often focused on the format and execution, rather than the potential for interaction offered by the new detailing medium. 

This approach sells tablet detailing short. Tablet details are visually appealing and novel, they hold vast amounts of data and offer the potential for animation and video. All good stuff, but they also provide the perfect tool to deepen customer relationships. 

Tablets can be used to more easily tailor calls to individual customers' areas of interest, needs or patient demographic. They also provide greater scope to encourage interaction by supporting a more natural conversation and to enliven debate through the use of quizzes or games. Involving customers in the call in this way has been demonstrated to greatly increase interest. In fact the simple act of handing the tablet to the customer has been shown to lead to a four-fold increase in the clinicians' likelihood of having a satisfactory experience with a resultant impact on his prescribing decisions, according to analysts at Manhattan Research.

Much of this has been known for some time, and yet we often see that the approach to sales interactions via tablet detailing hasn't kept pace with this new reality. In 2014 we should be looking to change this.

Meeting customer expectations

Our research shows that customers have increased expectations of a tablet detail - associating the medium with innovation and interactivity. However, customer experiences of tablet detailing reveal it is perceived to offer no benefit over paper-based detailing in eliciting interest in the brand or encouraging follow-up with the rep. Pharmaceutical industry marketers and communications agencies tell a similar story of paper-based details all too often simply converted to tablet format, overlooking the opportunity the tablet provides to allow us to achieve so much more in our customer interactions.

So what is holding us back? Perhaps as an industry we have become entrenched in the mind-set of communicating a brand story and are still reluctant to relinquish control to the customer by encouraging true dialogue? Should we be re-evaluating what constitutes 'success' in the context of a rep detail? We know message recall and a clear brand positioning are important, however shouldn't we also consider customer engagement and how well a representative addresses customers' needs? Good reps are doing this already and tablets could provide a more sophisticated tool to better support this conversation. Used in the right way, this method could also encourage other reps to adopt a similar approach. 

So far we are only scratching the surface of what tablets offer in building a more holistic picture of our customers. But the future holds even more opportunity to incorporate data from tablet detailing within a closed loop marketing process. Doing this would move us into a world where we can address the right need, for the right customer at the right time - elevating the tablet detail into the true digital domain so we can better connect with our customers and embark on the path towards true customer centricity. 

There are exciting times ahead … we just need to be brave enough to embrace them.

Article by
Di Adams and Rachel Moore
Adams is a partner and Moore is an account director at Hall & Partners. More information contact Di on tel: +44 (0)20 7173 4509 or email

3rd February 2014



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Hall & Partners

+44 (0) 20 7173 4600

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81 Dean Street
United Kingdom

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