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Multichannel customer interactions in healthcare

Lessons learned from industry leaders

by Didier Dierckx & Claire Versluys

Most healthcare companies are fully aware that multichannel interactions with clients and stakeholders should be at the center of their business operations. Although some leading companies have managed to integrate a successful multichannel interaction model in their daily business, we see that many companies still adopt a cautious strategy.  Let us summarize what we have learned from working with our clients in using this new wealth of interaction tools, models and processes.  Practicing the art of saying what, to whom, when, and how not only requires rational, data driven use of technology and thought-through process management but also a flexible mindset and emotional intelligence allowing for change and fast adaptation.

How did we get here?

In the last 20 years or so the complexity of the business environment for healthcare companies has increased considerably.  The decision-making process for bringing treatments and brands to physicians and their patients involves an ever-growing number of stakeholders: not only the physician, but also public and private insurers, economic buyers, approval authorities, nurses, pharmacists and the patients themselves.  In addition, the selection of treatments and brands takes place in an environment with an increasing pressure for cost-effectiveness.

Simultaneously, we have seen a deep and sustained transformation of technologies supporting the way we communicate: the possibilities for online and mobile communication have grown exponentially.  But not everybody has become technologically and social media savvy to the same degree leading to a further segmentation of  our already diversified client base .

A broad outline of what multichannel is about

Working with clients on implementing multichannel strategies has taught us that a theoretical puzzle alone (based on customer interaction and channel data) will not meet the goals: even a robust multichannel framework needs to be complemented by the agility of human and intuitive response.

Here is a concise overview of the most important lessons we learned from advising industry leaders in setting up multichannel interaction strategies and processes.

Context matters

Multichannel has perhaps worked best so far in the fast-moving consumer goods industry.  But this multichannel model cannot simply be copied in healthcare.  Healthcare companies cannot enter freely in mass media or social media communications channels because of the confidential, medical and scientific character of the conversation.  But also the necessary tradition of seriousness in the sector not always resonates with the playful and fast character of some of the newly available interaction channels.  Nevertheless, with the type of stakeholders expanding beyond the traditional clinicians and the monopoly of face to face meetings as an interactional model fading, multichannel communications will play an important role in Healthcare.

Content matters

It is important not to lose sight of the messaging. Our studies show that the relevance of the content of the message remains a sore point, especially amongst the ‘new’ digital channels. Therefore, always adapt the messages both to the segment or individual customer that is addressed and to the specificities of the channel that is used.  The message set used for interaction with physicians is different from the set used with approval authorities, which again is different from the words we use to address economic buyers.  But in a multichannel approach messages and visual content aimed at the same audience or individual also have to be adapted to the channel that is used: a similar message needs to be phrased and presented differently in a face to face interaction than in a social media context for instance.

The customer defines the multichannel mix

The key is a tailored multichannel approach that bears in mind the differences between stakeholder segments and individuals, both in their functions and their own channel preferences. The sales rep should be equipped with the skills and tools to integrate in his face-to-face contacts a digital and mobile mix (including the insight that a face to face approach may in some instances not be a good option).  At the center of the sales reps’ mode of work are the clients: it is also their needs and changing preferences that define the channel mix.

Adopt a flexible outside-in view

One swallow does not make a summer so repeated evaluation is crucial. Repeated listening to the voice of the customer helps to define the right multichannel strategy. This means measuring the  impact of the different channels at various points in time, where  quantitative data is complemented by qualitative interviews. This mixed methods approach will help you in identifying the right mix of channels, the right frequency of contacts, etc..

Technology serves strategy: start small

Technology in itself is not the strategy but a facilitator and its implementation depends on circumstance and human factors.  Start with a small(er) number of channels with strong impact and fully integrate them in a strong customer journey.  Gradually expanding the number of channels can reinforce what has already been achieved.

Co-create in multi-disciplinary teams

It is a good idea to embed the sales reps in a cross-departmental process including Medical Affairs, Marketing, Reimbursement etc.  Multichannel strategies do require extensive IT support and changes but is first and foremost an organizational transformation and training effort. We have seen that installing a temporary Center of Excellence around multichannel interactions helps to move things forward.  Initial training and continued coaching in the use of multichannel interactions of sales reps and other staff are definitely part of the strategy.

Evolve the approach & scale success

The destination in a multichannel approach is never fixed: the healthcare landscape evolves, the communication technology and (social) media continue to evolve. As a result, the multichannel approach will also evolve.  There is no other option but to learn from experience: set up pilot projects, measure the impact and adapt, experiment and hone, then scale up.

 

About Trilations 

With over 15 years of focus on Healthcare, Trilations is a valued consulting partner for Pharma and Medical devices managers that are looking to maximize the ROI of their investments. We combine data research and analytical skills with emotional intelligence to identify what is driving your business and turn these insights into impactful actions.

Trilations strengthens your impact on your customers and markets with a multichannel approach tailored to your business and clients.  We believe in our ability to turn data into actions and to mobilize your teams, showing measurable results and lasting benefits. Our consultants work side by side with your internal leadership teams and supply the proper tools and insights to take your teams to the next level in their interaction with clients.

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