3 Things That Need to Happen in Pharma for Customer-Centricity to Work
Anyone who’s recently been to a conference, summit, pitch, health Meetup, or simply uses the internet, has surely heard of this thing we call customer-centricity. Essentially, it just means putting our customer at the center of the equation. For FMCG, Consumer Electronics and Retail this would seem like old hat, but for health, forever late to the party, it’s proved to be a bit of a revelation, one of which we are taking some serious ownership. You would have thought we’d invented it but alas… The catch-22 here is that, if our customer i.e. the patient or HCP is at the center of the equation, where does that leave the brand? See what I’m getting at? Brand-centricity has been a staple in health strategy for as long as there has been such a thing. To convince a brand that their customers are now at the epicenter is easier said than done. And therein lies the problem.
Many brand marketers are talking about customer-centricity like they really want to like it. It’s similar to America’s relationship with kale. In theory we love it, but in practice we just can’t quite figure out what to do with it. For brand marketers, maybe they don’t have the blueprint, maybe operationally their organizations make it difficult. Or maybe they just don’t understand it, although I’d really like to believe that they do. It’s just, for all this talk, there seems to be very little substantial action. But I’m still encouraged.
Social listening is now being utilized at the majority of top Pharma companies. Social insights are being used for planning, market research is pulling in data from social platforms, and health strategies are at least, taking into consideration what’s happening in the social sphere. It’s the execution that’s lacking. For a company to truly be customer-centric, then an actual customer needs to be able to connect with that company directly, authentically, and immediately.
1. Connect Directly: this is difficult and understandably so. In a regulated environment, to open up a direct and possibly public communication channel between brand and customer, could be a liability for all the reasons you already know, not the least of which is an AE. To address this, brands need to have insight into the platforms they are engaging on and they need to understand the technology that can plug into those platforms. This could mean a pre-moderation tool, an alert system, triage plan, etc. The point is that it can be done and it has been done already. But it isn’t easy. Customer-centricity presents a complete overhaul to the way we currently do business. It shouldn’t be easy. But it will be incredibly rewarding, not to mention inevitable. It’s up to you if you want to address this now proactively, or reactively in the future.
2. Connect Authentically: by this I mean making a real connection. I’m sure at this point you’ve tried everything under the sun to connect with your customers, making it seem authentic without rocking the regulatory boat. I’ve seen and participated in experiences that used canned responses, drop-down lists, quizzes, radio boxes, even connect the dots on an iPad. Although these are certainly steps in the right direction, as well as good ancillary engagement tools, they will never replace the desire that a customer has for making a direct connection. We could have another conversation about Millennials and their desire for automation and efficiency, but research still shows that if they have an issue, they want to connect with a real person. I didn’t say “talk”. They love the “click-here-to-chat-with-a-live-representative” button on say, a Verizon website, but the ability to actually make the connection isn’t going away any time soon.
3. Connect Immediately: The standard, multi week review times for MLR aren’t going to cut it here. If an environment is created that allows a customer to ask a question, only for the customer to then have to wait fourteen days for a response, then the entire interaction is nullified. Operationally there needs to be some level of internal restructuring that allows for the right regulatory bodies to review response content in a timely fashion. Even the few social Pharma experiences that have been created aren’t setup to facilitate a true ongoing dialogue. It’s fantastic that they’ve come as far as they have with a desire to push the boundaries, but they are still very “one and done”. We need to take it a step further in order to be at a point where we can say yes to customer-centricity…and mean it.
Customer-centricity is more than a fad, it’s a model that embraces the rapid changes in society and the emergence of the fickle, opinionated, hyper-connected, cord-cutting, over-sharing, tech-savvy, instant-gratification loving, Millennial generation. Just as other industries have adopted customer-centric models to appeal to this generation (not to mention Boomers who are also extremely relevant to the conversation), isn’t it high time Pharma followed suit, instead of just paying lip service?
For more information on customer-centricity and it’s role in regulated environments, please reach out to info@Hypertonic.com and we’d be more than happy to talk it out.