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Did “customer centricity” bring pharmaceutical companies closer to the customer?

“Customer centricity” has become a strategic cornerstone for most if not all pharmaceutical companies over the last decade or so.

Putting the customer at the center of strategies and processes would deliver better treatments and better pharmaceutical companies, that was and is the rationale.  But how “customer centric” has the industry become? What is the effect of communication with customers and what are ultimately the drivers and barriers that steer the behaviour of the clients of pharma? Trilations collected a wealth of new data from top pharmaceutical companies and their customers in a new study.  Lorenz Libert, Business Manager Healthcare EMEA gave an overview of the main findings at the Fleming Conference in Amsterdam on 20 September 2018.

New research data by Trilations

The new insights are based upon an extensive survey by Trilations on customer centricity: first the pharmaceutical companies themselves were probed in a self-assessment of their levels of customer centricity.  Secondly, the industry’s customers were invited to voice their judgment on how central they were placed by companies such as Novartis, Pfizer, Janssen, MSD, GSK, Lilly and many more. The survey provides useful information on what has already been achieved in customer centricity and -more importantly- what can be improved to boost performance of individual healthcare companies as well as of the industry.

Some departments clearly focus more on patients than others

It may seem odd but even within pharmaceutical companies, there is not always a single view on the identity of “the customer”. Who is the customer in this multi-stakeholder environment?  Overall professionals from pharmaceutical companies, identified as most important customers: patients (36%), prescribers (24%), key opinion leaders (KOLs, 18%) and payers (17%).  The study also shows that Medical Affairs and Research professionals are more likely to see patients and KOLs as prime customers than sales and marketing employees who still have prescribers at the top of their minds, with patients in close second place, softening an almost blasphemous state of affairs.  So, there is diversity of opinion.  “The patient is at the heart of all decisions”, one respondent claimed.  “We talk about it but customer centricity in most cases resumes to prescribing doctors and KOLs”, said another.

The industry’s self-assessment score on customer centricity was 7.2/10 compared to 6.7/10 in the view of healthcare professionals (HCPs).

It would seem that, on the whole, both parties would agree on a “good but prone to improvement” evaluation but for some individual pharmaceutical companies the scores could be as wide apart as 7.5 (self-assessment) to 5.9 (client evaluation).

Different context, different insights

These averages hide much more interesting detailed information that could help elevate customer centricity to the next level.  Treatment areas with a lot of change and innovation such as oncology struggle more with patient centricity than mature markets such as dermatology, for instance.  It is important to recognise that customer centricity can mean something different in different settings.

Trilations groups the conclusions from the survey about different aspects of customer centricity around four buckets: customer understanding, interaction quality, value creation and the Customer Relationship Management system (CRM).

Although the study-based customer approach is gaining ground to understand healthcare stakeholders at a deeper level, many feel it is not going far enough and too often it is forgotten to also act upon the insights those customer-understanding exercises provide.  At the level of interaction with the customer, the current multi-channel landscape is still in its learning curve.   The question on how to contact and communicate can still be improved through learning from experience, but certainly also through relying on studies and analysis of customer data, as previous research by Trilations has shown.  The issue of “value creation” is centred around the offering of innovative products and solutions but also in having flanking collaborations and projects and medical education initiatives.  CRM systems are not always used to their full potential and resulting reports do not always deliver the insights that could be used to improve customer centricity.

Knowledge transfer & training are most appreciated by HCPs

Taking a closer look at what HCPs feel about customer centricity in healthcare companies, their focus is clearly on knowledge and especially on knowledge transfer. That transfer should be of high efficiency and quality with appreciation of and demand for more educational events and training support.  HCPs like the interactions to be meaningful and relevant with better access to studies and data.

Customer centricity is a process

If one general conclusion can be made from this new Trilations research on customer centricity, it would be that general conclusions are hardly possible.  One has to deep dive into the peculiarities of every company, every therapeutic area, every function to assess how customer centricity can benefit patients and companies alike.  The mindset of pharmaceutical professionals to listen to stakeholders in healthcare and take messages home to transform them in better processes is one thing.  The second is to regularly and systematically gather data with statistical significance on what works and what can be improved in customer centricity. And that is what this research of Trilations has on offer.

To view the results of your company, contact us now.

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