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Don’t Let Digital be the Conversation Killer

Updated: Dec 16, 2019

Words by Saskia Pronk

Despite ‘going digital’, most marketing plans still rely heavily on in-person rep visits to drive engagement. Part of the reason for this lies in pharmaceutical companies’ difficulty in mastering an appropriate dialogue, which enables them to deliver the right content at the right time through multichannel engagements. So, how can pharma enable their digital platforms to truly take centre stage?

A key issue with digital channels lies in conversation techniques. “As an industry, HCPs don’t feel like we [pharma] give them what they need digitally, and they are frustrated due to what that content currently looks like”, begins Sari Carter, Head of Marketing and Digital Strategist, Anthill. Since society first began, people have been mastering the art of in-person dialogue, understanding the spoken word and body language and formulating appropriate well-timed responses. However, despite the influx of money and resources into digital communications, that harmonious back and forth is not being replicated via digital platforms.

40% of physicians’ brand preference is attributable to customer experience factors beyond the product

Carter highlights a key message: “Just like in an in-person engagement, you always let the target audience lead. Whoever holds the power is the decision maker... the one who is going to choose to engage with you, buy your product, or believe in your solution.” Therefore, companies need a better grasp of how to let the target audience lead across digital engagements; this includes avoiding those long, awkward pauses between touchpoints and the tendency to deliver a barrage of information when customers aren’t ready. “This means thinking about those technologies and solutions coming available to us which can put the customer in the driving seat, while collecting insights and data to help to start understanding what the appropriate pace of conversation is in digital”, explains Carter.

One method is the introduction of technologies such as traditional chatbots into existing communication channels that customers are accustomed to, which can enhance the customer experience. “The beautiful thing is they are naturally integrating, so the customer can choose how they want to engage, whether that’s SMS, WhatsApp, Skype, or Facebook Messenger”, says Carter. The opportunity here is tailoring and disseminating modular bite-size pieces of great digital content depending on customers’ interests. Carter explains: “They can give keywords or questions they have, and you can link them immediately to the relevant/existing parts to add value to them.”

For others, unlocking the potential of customer experience must begin with something simpler: target identification. Florent Edouard, Senior Vice President and Global Head of Commercial Excellence and Customer Engagement at Grünenthal Group, believes it’s about how you apply customer experience feedback, but notes that confusion surrounds the identity of the customer: “We aren’t aligned on who the customer is... Is it the patient? Is it the HCP?

Or is it the NHS? As long as we aren’t completely aligned on that, who do we target a good customer experience towards? We will struggle setting strategies and measuring the impact of what we do.”

Considering strategy and the experiences customers value most over digital channels, Christian Frank Scheuer, Vice President Global Strategy and Commercial Excellence, LEO Pharma, believes the customer experience shouldn’t revolve solely around brand-focussed communications: “We like to talk about our brands and typically customers aren’t overly interested in our brands, they are interested in what does that disease make them feel and what can they do about it.” In fact, research shows that 40% of physicians’ brand preference is attributable to customer experience factors beyond the product; however, “As a marketeer, if we spend a lot of time on promoting above brand content, how does my boss see that as a direct link to actually winning market share?” questions Scheuer.

HCPs don’t feel like we give them what they need digitally, and they are frustrated due to what that content currently looks like

This re-emphasises the importance of developing a well-considered strategy around customer experience and ensuring that it is well-measured. As Edouard points out: “Probably 0.05% of spend is on customer experience, because there’s no business strategy behind it.” To drive progress, company goals need to adapt. Addressing the audience, Edouard asks: “How many of us have a personal objective for this year which is based on HCP satisfaction or patient impact? Probably not even half of the room, because that is still not a focus.” However, “When you start to incentivise people on these kinds of metrics, things will start to move.”

To achieve the delivery of effective customer experience through digital channels, strategies need to change to ensure appropriate dialogue and content is provided. To move forward with this, pharma need to determine the appropriate metrics and business incentives: “We must understand what the end objective is and have conversations on the way to the end goal”, states Scheuer.

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