There was a time when the only customer pharma really had to worry about was the physician. After all, they were the ones who prescribed the product. Today, the list of potential customers has grown a little longer to include patients, payers and pharmacists in addition to physicians. As that list has grown longer, pharma has had to reconsider its strategy for supplying the best customer experience for all of its customers. PM360 asked healthcare marketers across the industry what pharma should be doing to guarantee the best customer experience—whether pharma can align a strategy that fits all of its external customers or if it is better to only focus on one targeted group at a time. Also, what insights can be gleaned from “Big Data” to provide a more satisfying experience for customers? And what research methods should pharma use to gather these insights in the first place? Finally, how should pharma measure their customer experience efforts?

Daniel J. Gandor
Daniel J. Gandor
Associate Director, Cross-Brand Relationship Marketing
Takeda Pharmaceuticals U.S.A., Inc.
Twitter: @DanGandor

We are bombarded by countless messages and information all the time. Some studies estimate the average American is exposed to as many as 3,000 plus advertising messages per day.1 Even the lower estimates from studies are in the hundreds.2,3,4 The messages that stand out and stick in the minds of customers are the ones most relevant to them as individuals. Value and satisfaction come straight from this relevancy. Be it patients, HCPs or payers, delivering the right message, to the right person, at the right time, in the right way is critical. The challenge for pharma is to start listening to what customers really want and provide that, instead of insisting on providing our messages when we want.

Pharma most definitely can and should think about the entire aligned customer experience, because frankly, that’s the experience our customers live within every day. Of course, relevant messaging is an individualized experience. That’s the paradox pharma must effectively manage: Allowing individual relationship-building relevant messages to all customers, but having repeatable scalable systems and strategies that align an experience across all customers and stakeholders. I believe a well-integrated RM platform can enable this philosophy.

When it comes to measuring the customer experience, metrics and KPIs ultimately need to link back to moving prescriptions. Brand business plans in the simplest sense rely on positively impacting TRx and/or NRx. Recalling that an aligned strategy across customers works most effectively, even “distant” measures and KPIs need to be eventually tracked back to a scrip. It may be tempting to get lost in the weeds of detailed tactical metrics, particularly those for interactive/digital efforts, but always be able to draw a connection between the specificities of an individual measurement somehow back to a patient receiving or filling a scrip.


1. Union of Concerned Scientists website:

2. The average American is exposed to 247 commercial messages each day; Consumer Reports Website.

3. The average American adult is exposed to over 600 advertising messages in a single 24-hour period; Managing Business to Business Marketing Communications, De Bonis and Peterson

4. A conservative estimate has the average American consumer exposed to more than 850 commercial messages a day; Texas A&M University Digital Library

Al Topin
Al Topin
Topin & Associates

It’s difficult to read a recent business article, post or book title that doesn’t include some reference to Big Data or Customer Experience. It’s as if business just woke up to the fact that their customer has a voice in the sales process and just realized the tons of digital purchase information piling up now has value.

Admittedly, new digital approaches allow us to do more with data than ever before—but that’s evolutionary, not revolutionary. All of which reminds me that many years ago, Stanley Marcus (as in Neiman Marcus), who knows a bit about enhancing customer experience and satisfaction, said “Consumers are statistics. Customers are people.”

Yes, Big Data can create big value, but so can Little Data. One-on-one conversations with customers can work hand in hand with unique, directional input from analysis of complied data bases. Together, Big and Little Data provide more powerful and actionable insights to drive product and strategy development.

Both allow marketers to turn over rocks and see what’s underneath. Both provide actionable “Aha” moments and valuable surprises. One does not replace the other. Different insights, different customers, different uses.  Analyze volumes of data with today’s software and you can see micro trends, improbable correlations of behavior or market segments in multiple dimensions. On the other hand you are not going to learn the details of a patient’s limited understanding of how to use the new, complicated drug they were just prescribed from analyzing big data. That takes individual conversations, follow-up questions and insightful probing. On the consumer side, P&G routinely sends their researchers and brand managers directly into consumer households to watch them use their products and ask questions. From these observations have come unique, new packaging ideas for Tide and other brands, plus a growing line of Swifter products.

Together, Big Data and Little Data provide today’s marketers with better insights and better decision tools. Used properly they can help dramatically enhance customer experience and satisfaction. I think Stanley Marcus would agree.

Steve Gransden
Steve Gransden
VP Technical Marketing
J. Knipper & Company

In order to provide a positive experience for the customer, pharma must capture all customer touch points (outreach and reaction) and convert the raw data into actionable information. To start, the right objective must be defined and this requires an understanding of the business process. For example, a pharma company may define an objective of providing samples to providers in the manner in which the provider prefers in a multi-channel environment. From Knipper’s own market research, more than 50% of respondents used two to four sampling tactics per brand. Almost 30% employed five to seven tactics. Such a broad array of activity provides extraordinary opportunity to collect and analyze preference metrics. One-on-one interviews are valuable but what the customer says they prefer is not always consistent with how they act. We refer to this as “stated” preference versus “demonstrated” preference. There is often an interesting correlation between these metrics and the tactical variables employed.

Well-designed multi-channel sampling environments are a hotbed of such data. With the correctly defined data capture methods and analytics, the pharma company can often shift higher cost tactics to lower cost tactics while maintaining or increasing scrip writing levels. The data can also provide insight which enables the pharma company to reduce the amount of touches required to generate the desired behavior. A key variable in achieving the ultimate success of such endeavors starts with the ability to uniquely identify the targets to the highest degree of certainty. The percentage of overlap or duplication introduced into the activity data can cause exponential errors in analysis, resulting in a far less efficient process. In summary, properly prepared and managed Big Data turned into actionable information can uncover the real formulas to help obtain desired results with an ultimate goal of “predictive” analysis.

Sue Ramspacher
Sue Ramspacher
Executive Director, Marketing
Catalina Health

To provide a more satisfying customer experience, pharma should employ an aligned, multi-channel strategy addressing the “new needs” of each stakeholder in the evolved healthcare environment. In the new patient-centric healthcare model, patients are charged with self-management of health and wellness but need help to do so. It is natural for patients to turn to trusted healthcare providers and payers for assistance but they are not always equipped to provide it.

To evolve from traditional roles, physicians, pharmacists and payers must adopt more consumer-centric approaches. Pharma can help facilitate that transition by employing a synchronized approach to disseminating information to influence behavior change. Tools provided directly to healthcare providers can assist them in engaging in more productive patient dialogues. This will also help patients get the more personalized, coordinated health and wellness support that they are seeking along trusted points of care and help them successfully navigate their health journey. Applying a holistic and consistent approach across all constituents will foster better communication and provide more positive experiences to drive healthier outcomes.

Big Data provides behavioral insights to segment and target messages to health stakeholders based on a variety of criteria. However, people are becoming desensitized to “one size fits most” messaging so it is increasingly important to personalize communications in order to get them noticed, be relevant and initiate action. As robust as Big Data is, it doesn’t reveal “why” certain behaviors are exhibited. And, without understanding “why,” it’s difficult to create an effective argument for change. That argument can be made, however, by obtaining an understanding of underlying emotional drivers and barriers to behavior. Whether live or virtual interviews and/or chat and focus groups are employed, there continues to be a valuable place for them and an argument that it’s the combination of “Big Data” and “personal interviews” that results in “optimal insights to enhance customer satisfaction and motivate change.”

Craig A. DeLarge
Craig A. DeLarge
U.S. Leader, Multichannel Marketing & Customer Business Line Support

Can pharma align a strategy to provide a better experience for all of its external customers (HCPs, payers, pharmacists, patients)?

I think the answer is “Yes, if….” Doing so will require a fundamental reform in our structures, paradigms, priorities, processes, practices and incentives as organizations, teams and individuals.

It will take a continued pivot towards a customer orientation as balanced against our traditional brand orientation. This must happen not only in our talking, but in our in our organizing, strategizing, planning and executing.

It will take a continued recalibration and integration of our remote and self-service channels with personal. It will take an expansion of our content mixes, in compliant fashion, to include more customer-relevant topics and formats going beyond sales-oriented branded content.

It will take an ever evolving competence in understanding and executing strategies, which not only account for how we communicate in our organizational silos with each customer, but also how customers communicate with one another in an increasingly complex, and I hope not “pharma-marginalizing,” ecosystem.

It will take a belief in the power of “emotion” to move customers and business as much as the power of logic. We have to remember that “positive emotional memory” is a, if not the, differentiating hallmark of customer experience going beyond traditional sales, marketing and customer service.

It will take creating customer value that goes “beyond the pill” and supports, if not drives, improved healthcare outcomes.

It will take leaders and managers who can rekindle the best of our industry’s legacy of innovation, management and a mission to improve human, and even animal, wellness. These players are also needed to appropriately bring this legacy into a future entirely reconfigured for a significantly more complex healthcare ecosystem seeking different value propositions.

Again, the answer is “yes” and the “if” is “if we can change,” and I believe we are beginning, and will continue to.

Jim Curtis
Jim Curtis
Chief Revenue Officer and
Chief Advertising Officer
Remedy Health Media

When it comes to customer service and the experience of patients, pharmaceutical manufacturers should continue to support the whole health of a patient. Whole health and wellness solutions are more popular and effective than ever before, and wellness solutions are no longer limited to staying healthy. Solutions are now focused on a new generation of tech savvy people who want to live well with a health condition. Patients need better ways to align treatments with managing life (busy parent, busy caretaker). “Living with” plans and solutions on how to integrate life and treatment that focus on making life better, simple and enjoyable are in great demand by patients and caregivers. In order be successful, pharma marketing solutions must work in tandem to help guide patients and caregivers through every step of their health journey.

To better serve patients, pharma can benefit from Big Data as well as working with individual real patients and patient experts. Pharma can learn a great deal more about the online behavior of patients and how their behaviors are different depending on their disease/condition. Big Data is a very popular topic and term today but it is most effective if you can use it to find the small learnings that help to affect better health outcomes. Pharmaceutical manufactures should work more closely with individual patient experts and publishers to study the “not so big data” from publishers’ internal analytics sources. Publishers and real patient experts know and understand their audiences and can provide meaningful insights about effectively communicating with their users. To act on this, pharma will need to tailor solutions aligned with each publisher. The key to success is developing strong relationships with publishers who truly understand how to best engage their audience.

David Newman
David Newman
Associate Practice Leader, Digital
H4B Catapult

It should come as no surprise that pharmaceutical companies spend countless hours attempting to define and create value for their external stakeholders.  To be relevant, leadership must now embrace a new definition of who is considered an “external stakeholder” and focus their energies on developing strategies and initiatives that acknowledge and embrace all the new players in our healthcare ecosystem.

Regulators are evolving the rules governing safety and efficacy. Payers who, by introducing Accountable Care Organizations, are changing the dynamics for providing quality care with an emphasis on cost reduction; the Affordable Care Act itself ties healthcare payments to quality and cost-effectiveness; Medicare and Medicaid are pushing hard to reduce unnecessary tests, treatments and prescriptions that don’t translate to positive outcomes; pharmacists are using generic drugs to drive down overall costs; and finally, patients who continually bear more of the cost of care are seeking ways to relieve the financial burden. All of these influences are relevant and, in varying degrees, subject tremendous pressure on pharma by demanding more value.

As Joseph Jimenez, CEO of Novartis, said in The Wall Street Journal, “In the future, companies like Novartis are going to be paid on patient outcomes as opposed to selling the pill.”

In order to meet and exceed expectations, pharma must embrace these influences and reengineer its overarching value proposition so it aligns with today’s and tomorrow’s marketplaces. However, each stakeholder has different levers that drive their business and different perspectives on what represents value and satisfaction.

As pharma redefines how they contribute to overall health and wellness, their message must be adaptable enough to be clearly relevant to every specific stakeholder being addressed. One size will not fit all—and one at a time will not be fruitful since all audiences are inextricably tied together in the larger conversation.

David S. Duplay
David S. Duplay

According to some stats, it is estimated that 2.6 exabytes of data are created daily and over 85% of all data in the world today was created in the last two years. Given this kind of data generation, there is a lot to be learned about the stakeholders that pharma targets and their desire for a better customer experience. Along with the mass of clinical data that pharma has always been accustomed to handling, patients and caregivers who engage in social media to communicate with other patients about their condition and the ongoing patient journey produce valuable insights that need to be understood. Not only are patients and caregivers communicating with each other, but according to a recent healthcare social media study conducted by PWC, patients are more likely to share information about their health related condition through social media with doctors and hospitals than any other groups. In this study, PWC also found that patients were likely to share their information with pharmacies, health insurance companies and other retail health clinics.

The kinds of information online patients and caregivers were sharing depended largely on who they were communicating to, but the most common topics included: Supporting a health-related cause, commenting about health experiences or updates, tracking and sharing health systems or behavior, and sharing health-related videos or images. The pharmaceutical industry winners will be those companies that make the investment to integrate social media into their overall business strategy with the purpose of gleaning valuable insights on their customers as well as other stakeholders in the healthcare delivery continuum. Leveraging social media data will also be key in understanding and monetizing what is on the top of minds and important to patients, caregivers and others as they engage in “Virtual Social Therapy.”

Rob Dhoble
Rob Dhoble
CEO, Adherent Health
Founder, Mobile Health Library

Our society has quite rapidly become broadly engaged in consuming mobile app services through frequent use of an expanding variety of mobile app devices. And as mobile app engagement continues to grow across every socioeconomic and demographic group, it creates and promotes a more continuous and simplified personal services expectation among everyday consumers, including HCPs and patients. As the pharma industry has long-strived to establish a more continuous and simplified personal engagement with HCPs and patients, the value of an app-based approach to better support the personal brand experiences of customers has never been greater. The question is how.

As pharmaceutical companies and brand teams explore and evaluate their app-based communications options, they often first find they require greater internal and external competencies in managing privacy to HIPAA standards, supporting “meaningful use,” managing regulatory compliance, understanding HCP workflow, creating app awareness, managing app distribution, designing app functionality, attaining high rates of customer “opt-in,” and ensuring customer satisfaction through ongoing app use—especially in a world with declining email use; increasing reliance on alerts, notifications and pings; a majority of HCPs and patients not wanting email relationships with pharmaceutical companies; and poly-pharmacy realties needing more multi-brand, patient-centric solutions.

So what about metrics? Many pharma firms are fully engaged in mobile app assessments and pilots, with most seeking to deliver greater value as measured in satisfaction, relevance, brand preference, adherence and health outcomes impact. Metrics that capture these elements will propel the success of industry leaders, provided they can also engage HCPs, caregivers and patient populations at much higher scale than relationship marketing, email and CRM programs of the past. The demand for greater health outcomes attainment by ACOs requires it. Pharmaceutical companies have the timely opportunity to use innovative app-based strategies to achieve and sustain higher levels of customer satisfaction, brand preference, adherence and health outcomes value.


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