Change is happening faster. As a result, today’s measure of success in the life sciences is less dependent on current market share and more reliant on responsiveness—the agility and foresight to pivot, reorganize and invest according to the winds of change sweeping across the industry.

The laundry list of change agents is now imprinted on the minds of executives throughout pharmaceutical, biotechnology and medical device enterprises. Arguably, some of the most important recent changes concern the customer. At the center of this trend is the simple fact that the definition of the “customer” has radically changed. What was once a navigable structure of healthcare providers has transformed into a complex web of providers, payers, government entities, patients and even pharmacists.

To add to the intricacy—as sales representatives are painfully aware—this customer labyrinth is increasingly less accessible. Both Accountable Care Organizations (ACOs) and Integrated Health Systems (IHSs) are growing in size and are further blocking access and limiting time spent between commercial teams and practitioners. Nearly 28% of doctors in the U.S. refuse to see sales representatives, according to a study published by SK&A, A Cegedim Company, in March 2014. And more than ever before, doctors are professionally fluid with the annual move rate now at 14.5% (SK&A, October 2013). Further, providers have increasingly less freedom in regard to independent decision-making and must strictly abide by established protocols.

Engagement and the Future of Relationship Building

How are these trends going to shape the future of relationship building? What’s the next pivot that life sciences enterprises need to make to continue connecting with customers despite the current pattern of obstacles? The answer: A reconfiguration of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) into Customer Engagement Management (CEM).

CEM is a collection of systems and processes that is powerful enough to become the new focal point of relationship building due to the changing customer structures and behaviors. 2014 represents a call to action for enterprises to fully understand and begin leveraging the practice of Customer Engagement Management to spark new and sustained value within an altered customer landscape.

Although new to the life sciences, Customer Engagement Management is not new, in general. The B2C business model has employed this system for a number of years as a means to better service consumers and has referred to it as Customer Experience Management. Gartner Research defines CEM as “the practice of designing and reacting to customer interactions to meet or exceed customer expectations and, thus, increase customer satisfaction, loyalty and advocacy. It is a strategy that requires process change and many technologies to accomplish.”

Simply put, CEM is the process of gaining deeper customer behavior understanding by collecting data from all touch points and channels, then analyzing the respective data and finally leveraging it to deliver a more personalized experience within each channel. Ideally, the process serves to increase brand loyalty, drive revenue and decrease churn. Standard models of these platforms include Big Data that connects disparate data sources, multi-channel automation, and data visualization and algorithms that analyze and score customer content preferences across different channels.

How does this translate into the use case of our industry? Given the dynamics of life sciences, “engagement” is substituted for “experience” because it represents the primary objective in interacting with healthcare customers.

Consider the new key performance indicator (KPI) of relationship building to be engagement. More specifically, if the content displayed during an interaction does not illicit genuine interest or is off-base, then the well-being of that customer relationship is contingent upon a company’s ability to rapidly adapt the content for future interactions in order to achieve a more meaningful relationship.

Now that life sciences CEM has been defined, let’s discuss what steps companies need to take to achieve it.

Life Sciences CEM = Multi-channel Strategy

Customers are now dictating the channel, time and media by which they prefer to be reached. As the customer infrastructure continues to evolve, more organizations are adopting a key strategy to generate meaningful engagement throughout a matrix of interaction channels—referred to as the multi-channel strategy.

Ideally, it exists as a strategy, campaign or initiative that achieves a balanced mix of engagement across channels, each of which is to be adapted to the unique needs of the customer. This enables companies to:

1. Optimize budgets by targeting the channel or channels through which the customer is most likely to engage.

2. Synchronize and orchestrate consistent messaging across all the channels.

Within the life sciences, examples of channels include face-to-face, digital and remote interactions across diverse media, platforms and devices.

Under this strategy, customer-facing teams take on a new purpose: Cross-functional teams execute on the overall customer engagement plan, which is managed by the marketing department. Within the organization, other key players are medical sciences teams, Key Account Managers (KAMs) and Customer Service Representatives (CSRs). Enterprises are making strides as reported in Cegedim Relationship Management’s 2013 whitepaper, Managing Customer Relationships More Efficiently: A Cegedim Case Study on the Multi-channel Initiative in the Life Sciences, which reveals that 69% of respondents are on a path to driving a multi-channel engagement strategy.

In the same case study, when respondents were asked to qualify how critical their organization viewed the implementation of a multi-channel engagement strategy, nearly half (44%) found it to be either critical or very critical.

Going One Step Further: Multi-channel Customer Engagement

Just because engagement is the new interaction goal does not mean that CRM is diminished. But rather than a system of record that has long been viewed as onerous to the user, the most innovative of CRM solutions facilitate customer engagement across multiple channels, multiple stakeholders and multiple devices and media—bringing real value to the end user.

A multi-channel strategy serves to transform once siloed systems dedicated to sales forces into an integrated multi-channel engagement system. This ecosystem comprises customer data, CRM, Closed Loop Marketing (CLM), remote detailing, resource allocation, compliance management and digital interaction hubs that include multiple user types, such as Medical Science Liaisons (MSLs), KAMs, etc.

What technological advances are enabling multi-channel? The first on the list are highly sophisticated customer data mining solutions, which provide a robust understanding of customer behavior and preferences via key data points. These solutions surface extremely relevant data sets for a multi-channel strategy, including demographics, behavioral information, channel preference, survey results, influence networks and affiliations.

Complementary solutions for the initiative include analytics products that deliver deeper customer insights to better identify, segment and target customers. Additionally, analytics can cross real-life data evidence with HCP behavioral insights to better predict patient outcomes, giving customer-facing teams real-world data to assist their customer in making better decisions. Since a coordinated, cross-channel delivery of the marketing message is key to the success of a multi-channel strategy, a CEM solution capable of synchronizing and orchestrating targeted messaging across all channels is essential.

The End Game of Life Sciences CEM

Marketing and communications departments are the primary drivers and owners of multi-channel strategy, and by default, CEM initiatives. From a broader perspective, these departments are dealing with a phenomenon that is not unique to the life sciences—all customers rely on multiple communication channels using various devices and expect companies to follow them on this journey.

According to a recent cross industry survey conducted by Incite, the four key issues for marketers and communications executives are customer centricity, multi-channel marketing and communications, building unique customer experiences and internal collaboration.

In essence, Engagement Management is the meeting of the customer at their preferred channel, capturing their engagement, aggregating feedback to a data-verified profile and continuously adapting the approach to enhance further interactions. Customers now dictate the channels—the new multitude of both personal and non-personal channels puts the power in customers’ hands to dictate their preferred mode of interaction. The cold hard truth is that enterprises must meet them on their ground or become obsolete.

The 2014 imperative: Life sciences must move away from an inside-out model towards an outside-in model to embrace the customer journey!

  • Laurent Savelli

    Laurent Savelli is Vice President, Product Management and Innovation at Cegedim Relationship Management. With more than 10 years experience in the life sciences industry, Savelli is a thought leader on ever-evolving technologies and an expert in defining solutions to address market changes in a timely manner. He is passionate about innovation and committed to using it to constantly increase business efficiency and effectiveness.

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