One of the most challenging factors surrounding customer experience in the pharmaceutical industry is the different types of customers, with diverse needs and expectations. Customer profiles can be further divided into whether the customer is a payor, patient, or prescribing physician. The value proposition, messages, and engagement strategies often vary within individual segments across different markets and geographies.
Mike Bellis, former Customer Experience Lead at Pfizer Europe says “For me, customer experience is an answer to some of the fundamental challenges that face pharma; declining customer engagement, a greater emphasis on profit margin and capabilities that haven’t changed in 10, 15, or 20 years and which are bordering on irrelevance.” There are various factors that influence an individual’s purchasing decision, but brand loyalty is becoming increasingly important.
Ernest & Young has defined customer experience as the interaction between a customer and a company over the time of their particular relationship. As society and technology evolves, the way customers behave and purchase changes with it, making the delivery of customer experience more complex. “The world is changing and we have to change with it,” says Bellis.
At least two large pharmaceutical companies have successfully mastered the art of managing customer experience:
Teva has successfully launched a new oral contraceptive in Germany last month without a sales team. The Company focuses on not just selling but on service. “When we bring our medicines to market, we do not lead with product messages, rather we use a service model” says Tim White, Head of Customer Experience. In addition to the product’s unique value proposition, White and his team created a customer engagement strategy with lots of good media and editorial content which were distributed on various channels to create a good customer experience, funnelling through inbound marketing into more product-focused discussions with customers. “We were able to gain a lot of brand awareness this way, and now we are combining push and pull using customer experience principles.”
The second example has a longer track record – AstraZeneca started a programme changing the way it interacts with its customers seven years ago. “Our focus was to move from products to services to really drive the experience and create customer loyalty, regardless of whether the brand was growth, mature or launch. Our new approach put service at the centre, with selling arranged around that central core, driving customer and patient loyalty." AstraZeneca was facing the same challenges as other pharmaceuticals where access to customers has greatly reduced. As a consequence, AstraZeneca launched a service rep and a call centre. They have shifted their focus to service and customer experience with selling around that central core driving customer and patient loyalty.
Customer experience is worth investing in. Companies that deliver outstanding customer experience will reap the long term benefits. Building trusted and transparent relationships with customers not only creates a loyal customer base, but these customers can also become brand advocates, bringing in further customers. Customer loyalty is highly profitable, as less resources need to be spent on selling and marketing, reducing costs and ultimately improving profit margins.