Words by Jade Williams
The pharmaceutical industry as a whole has not had an imperative need to focus on the personal experiences of a customer buying or using their products. How did the pandemic cause this to change?
Think back to the last time you felt truly valued as a customer. Was it in a coffee shop while picking up a personalised drink from a smiling barista? Or perhaps receiving a birthday message from your phone company or another brand? Customer experience has always been at the forefront of the service industry, and it is a concept that pharmaceutical companies are striving to swiftly nail down.
The pandemic’s impact
COVID-19 has undoubtedly acted as a catalyst for business transformation over the last two years. Speaking at NEXT Pharma Summit’s ‘NEXT Normal: Pharma digital and commercial excellence’ event in a discussion about pharma’s ongoing journey to disrupt old models of customer engagement, Maria Raad, Vice President, Customer and Digital Strategy, Commercial Excellence, Janssen EMEA, highlights that the shift towards hybrid engagement had a particular impact. “All of a sudden, [companies] felt the need to engage differently with customers, trying to meet the needs of patients in an efficient way because all the normal traditional ways were no longer viable,” she says.
And Florent Edouard, Senior Vice President, Global Head of Commercial Excellence, Grünenthal Group, agrees, saying that the pandemic “killed the commercial model that had been operating successfully for 20 years without ever challenging its validity”. The crisis was as destructive as it was revealing.
However, while sales reps were prevented from meeting customers face to face, new products were being prescribed all the same. Edouard notes that doctors were even “testing products without being told to test the products”, leading the industry to understand that their existing models of engagement weren’t necessarily hitting the parameters they set out to. How exactly can the industry capitalise on their customer’s changing behaviours and improve their overall experience of interactions?
Treat customers like consumers
Curating the experience of each customer can be a challenge, but marketers must ask themselves: ‘how would I like to receive this information?’ Customers are consumers, and ultimately, they would like the delivery of product information to be as convenient and personalised as possible. Putting the customer in the centre, asking them what they want and what they need based on the pain points they experience, and how they feel – or felt – about particular engagements can all help to improve understanding and, eventually, boost customer experience. The key is embedding as many feedback loops into the process as possible so the customer can offer their revealing insights at all stages.
“It isn’t solely about a product anymore,” comments Stephanie Grgurich, Head of Customer Experience, Sanofi, also at NEXT Normal. “The marketplace is exceptionally competitive, so now it is about having a premier product but also balancing that with a premier experience for our customers as they navigate this journey.” While this may be the road less travelled, pharma companies must strive to make their customers feel valued on a personal level, not only to keep customer retention high, but to convey the best impression of their brand as possible.
It is time to place customer experience at the front of transformation pathways and place customer care in line with patient care.
This article features in GOLD 21 – read the full issue here.