The Keys to Delivering Superior Digital Customer Experience

The bar just keeps getting raised. Pharma already had to deal with increased expectations from patients in the digital era as patients have become more empowered about their health and gained easier access to information. But, patients are also used to the customer experiences that consumer goods companies offer—and they expect the same from pharma. Unlike pharma, consumer goods companies are not restricted by regulations and are constantly innovating their digital customer experiences as new technology emerges. So, what are pharma companies to do? PM360 asked eight experts in the space:

  • What are the most important aspects of your digital strategy to ensure you are delivering a superior digital experience for your customers? What obstacles can prevent marketers from delivering that experience?
  • As the way people engage with technology continues to evolve, what must life sciences marketers do to meet customers’ growing expectations for what they expect companies to offer in the digital space? What can pharma take away from how other industries are improving their online customer experience?
  • What new digital tools, channels, platforms, etc. can pharma/medical device companies offer to help make the lives of their customers easier?
  • How can marketers create more meaningful and impactful digital experiences that help them to stand out from the pack?
  • In your own experiences, what gaps do you find marketers often fail to fill that prevent an optimal customer experience?

Amy West

Great conversations create dialog around shared interests. Focusing only on yourself and your interests doesn’t engage the other person.

Pharma is intently focused on addressing business needs and brand utilization hurdles such as awareness, request, and adherence. All are important aspects needed to ensure sustainability. However, customers aren’t interested in them and this approach misses the opportunity to engage people with health challenges.

So, how do we support a more meaningful healthcare dialogue and experience? We know consumers of healthcare information have voracious appetites. However, more than ever it’s like drinking from the information fire plug—overwhelming content volume and a plethora of access channels. Take a look introspectively at your organization. If you have a portfolio of products/brands, are you running into silos of disparate information? Are brand teams competing for the same consumers’ attention? If yes, this can lead to confusion about your products, even disinterest, and possibly relegate your brand to the irrelevant heap.

A cohesive strategy integrating digital technologies with customer needs can create that engaging conversation and experiential differentiation:

  • Solve for customers’ true unmet needs (not the brand objective): This could include the inability to enjoy quality of life, uncontrolled symptoms, or overwhelming complexity.
  • Reduce friction: Don’t create new engagement points but instead integrate with existing behaviors. We can be where the customer already is—at home (voice technology), on the go (biometrics), or with the care team (remote monitoring). Another brand app is doomed to failure.
  • Consider the whole health picture: Our customers are people—not targets. With social, emotional, and behavioral data and technology we can tailor to an individual’s health context.
  • Less is more: Consumers want their information in soundbites—consider text messaging to deliver precise, contextually relevant messages and interventions at the right time.

Steve Sponder

Over the years, I’ve had many conversations about customer experience (CX). And as these conversations continue, I’m reminded of the story about the six blind men and the elephant, where each man has a different perception of the animal informed by the part of the elephant they feel.

Many people will talk about digital transformation and how it’s enabling the business to provide a more superior customer experience than their competitors.

Some will describe how big data is providing insights into what experience their customers want or how real-time analytics is helping deliver increasingly agile customer experiences.

However, we shouldn’t forget how critical brand and multichannel marketing are to the customer’s overall experience, and pharma brand marketers need to ensure they’re making an effective contribution.

Brand folk should be aiming to weave the brand proposition across every customer touchpoint, identifying opportunities to deliver on their brand promise.

For brand communications, journey mapping should be used to identify what message will resonate at each relationship stage, as well as customers’ media repertoires. Basically, planning to deliver the right content to the right person in the right place at the right time.

A Changing Mindset

But a fundamental mindset change is required to fully recognize the shift in power and adapt communication plans accordingly.

The simple truth is that all customers will always be in one of the relationship stages across the customer journey. Therefore, an always-on, balanced content marketing program will be more effective than one or two campaign blasts designed to hit sales targets.

I frequently see teams talking at cross-purposes, causing frustration and confusion, so remember, all of the above descriptions of customer experience are correct—they are simply separate parts of the CX animal.

Jessica Every

To deliver a superior digital experience, it is critically important to understand customers’ expectations and needs. You must determine where your customers are spending their digital time and how your brand fits into their digital world. Once you have found the digital channels they use, figure out how you can be most relevant to them in each of those channels. They may be looking for and expect different types of content on the brand website, third-party sites, social, in customer support, text messages, voice assistants, portals, etc. The information that is most valuable and relevant to them will change based on the digital channel.

This sounds intuitive and straightforward, but the biggest obstacles that prevent marketers from delivering on a customer-centric digital experience are:

  • Overly focusing on brand objectives: Marketers tend to focus on the messages they want to communicate, but they must provide the information the customer is seeking to be relevant and valuable to them.
  • Chasing the latest trend or fad: When a new digital channel gets a lot of buzz or a new ad format is available, marketers often want to take advantage of it—and quickly. However, it is important to determine if the channel or format makes sense for your particular customers.
  • Not customizing content: In this highly regulated environment, marketers are tempted to use whatever content is already approved. This may be the easiest way to get up and running in new digital channels but it likely won’t be most efficient in the long run when the channel doesn’t perform well. To ensure optimal performance, the content (both the information and the format it’s in) must be customized for each individual digital channel in an elegant and seamless format.

Megan Baker

One important aspect of a company’s digital strategy is ensuring its digital content appears prominently in search results. Everyone wants to see their website on the first page of results because traffic falls exponentially on each subsequent page. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is a method for improving search rankings. An SEO audit might involve:

  • Conducting keyword research and tracking to see which words and phrases people are searching.
  • Defining title tags, headers, image alt tags, and meta descriptions for each page of your website.
  • Running a backlink profile report to see which sites link back to yours.

It’s also important to ensure your marketing site is easily navigable. Good navigation is efficient, intuitive, and makes it easy for users to find what they are looking for. You can test your site’s navigation through tree testing, card sorting, and usability testing. A professional design researcher can run these tests for you and provide recommendations.

Another best practice is keeping content on your site, blog, and social media relevant and fresh. Your SEO audit should influence copy updates and additions.

Mobile’s Competitive Advantage

Equally as important to SEO and navigation is whether your site is mobile friendly. More people are visiting websites on mobile devices than on desktop computers ( Mobile activity is only going to continue to grow, and Google has even begun to rank search results by mobile friendliness. Still, many companies do not invest in user-friendly mobile experiences. A mobile-friendly website can sometimes be a major competitive advantage.

Digital marketers often lack the staff and expertise for specialized research, design, or copywriting tasks. However, these investments can reap generous returns for years to come.

Hans Kaspersetz

At the core of digital strategy is the integration of the reality that customers are experiencing brands across hundreds of micro-moments: From the exam room to the brand’s packaging to the brand’s digital selling tools (DSTs) to the brand’s digital footprint. As customers traverse that journey and move closer to the brand, they expect the brand to optimize their experience for a successful outcome—as they imagine it. At our industry’s level of digital maturity, the key to success may be as simple as answering a single question accurately, the first time.

Personas, abstractions, and generalizations work well at the consideration level. But once customers engage and invest in their relationship with that brand, the brand with tailored content and support programs will win.

Why Tailored Content Matters

Arteric’s research for a prescription brand analyzed 50,000 searches for the brand. Of those searches, 1,700 were questions about the brand. We determined that approximately 250 could be answered by the brand. But when we analyzed 175 verbatim questions, we discovered that the brand served up only four correct answers in the search results. This illustrated a gap between what the brand’s “generalized” experience delivered and what customers were seeking.

Closing such gaps in customer experience is a challenge because it requires scaling content and experiences in new ways. A single abstracted answer will not capture the multitude of ways in which customers are asking the question. And, if the technology is not deployed perfectly, the information will not appear on the customers’ platform of choice: Desktop, mobile, screenless, or voice. Thus, delivery of an effective digital strategy requires a team of specialists contributing to the creation of a continuous and cohesive customer experience across platforms and contexts that anticipates the customer’s needs and individuality.

Jacquelyn Crane

“Digital” is an unnecessary adjective when describing a customer’s experience. The customer doesn’t care that a product or service is delivered digitally versus traditional means. For example, the last time I purchased software it wasn’t a CD-ROM. That option isn’t available, so the only experience in most cases is a digital download and digital customer support. As life sciences companies expand their portfolios to include software, services, and digital therapeutics, they must find new partners and develop new capabilities if they hope to keep pace with customer expectations.

Adjusting to New World Order

A challenge for most companies: While many of their employees understand it’s a digital world, legacy systems for recruiting, hiring, managing, rewarding, and retaining talent are based on old paradigms that do not recognize our rapidly changing world. While the biopharmaceutical industry is very skilled at scaling drug launches globally, it struggles to scale modest HCP and patient services in just a few markets. This is mainly due to under-resourcing and a lack of expertise to design, develop, and distribute global services. Company leaders must assign real value to these “beyond the pill” offerings and sustain them for the long haul if they expect to deliver real value to customers.

Orchestrating a positive, differentiated end-to-end customer experience also requires a seamless integration of digital and analog components, which is difficult if digital teams and some data remain siloed from the rest of the business. There is tension, too, between the need to acquire data to create more personalized experiences and the desire for individuals to own and manage their data and protect their privacy. The recent General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe will quickly spread to other parts of the world and force companies in all verticals to re-examine their approaches to customer experience and the new transparency that it requires.

Dana Ortegón

Imagine a vast keyring of digital strategies to support patients and caregivers at different stages of their journeys. No single key is guaranteed to get you through the door, but following these human-centered strategies will help.

  1. Liberate the device! Currently, companion apps adhere to strict regulations. Patients may faithfully track symptoms, medications, and side effects, but data isn’t shared with manufacturers, researchers, or providers since doing so might trigger the adverse event report process. Data-sharing from the app would promote a deeper understanding of patient needs and drive better care strategies. If companies could build and test apps during clinical trials, they’d be able to test the app’s efficacy at supporting adherence, refine the medication to address subpopulations, and gather data to identify other unmet needs.
  2. Treat the person, not the condition. To best serve patients, pharma companies should take a holistic view of their experience. Of course, this includes frustrations related directly to their medications: Refills, pre-authorizations, multiple adherence strategies, and companion apps. But, it also includes the psychological impact of living with a chronic condition. It might include the financial impact of reduced income and increased medical expenses. And, it may include a social impact, as patients navigate post-diagnosis relationships and identity. Understanding peoples’ lives helps pharma companies create digital experiences to improve and enhance them.
  3. Be smarter about social media. We often talk about using social media to extend the conversation—with patients, caregivers, and physicians. But medical, legal, and regulatory teams limit how pharma companies talk to patients about product benefits. These limitations can lead to frustration. As an alternative, companies can focus on brand heritage or share personal stories from patients, and steer clear of drug benefits.

Will these strategies unlock superior digital customer experiences? We think so.

David Aponovich

Digital experiences can be enhanced by unifying customer data to create a 360° customer view, which helps organizations identify a data-driven picture of customers and understand the gaps in their consumers’ experience. Testing different journeys based on hypotheses from existing data should be done in tandem with creating a single view of the customer to drive an end-to-end personalized customer experience. This starts with connecting disparate marketing tech tools so they work together to deliver holistic, individualized, data-driven experiences.

Organizations should think about the ideal customer experience. To do this, they should look at the specific personas of their most valuable customers and measure the impact in a short period of time using a large sample size. Next, organizations should think about their marketing and customer experience tactics and align them with the challenges and goals of their most valuable customer segment. Taking the time to understand customers’ motivations and mapping them to the customer journey creates a foundation for meaningful experiences.

Finally, create a report card that indicates what’s working and what’s not. Ultimately, you’ll never know if you’re creating a meaningful impact without analytics to help evaluate customer engagement metrics such as conversions along the customer journey.

Why Marketers Fail

Marketers often fail when there is disconnected data, a lack of personalized content for their customers, and when they use siloed marketing technologies. Marketers can become frustrated when they try to create a seamless experience, but their targeted campaigns become spam and data silos keep them from hitting audiences at the right time with the most relevant offer. Additional challenges include a lack of internal skills in organizations needed to create personalized journeys, and conflicting directions between filling the funnel and building experiences. Both can be done—it’s important to take on a mix of the short and long game.


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