Walking the Fine Line- Must Pharma Companies try to ‘Please’ their Customers?

May 19, 2017

Primary Health Care

In the case of a typical business unit, customer experience can be gauged as delightful, lacking or downright horrendous. However, explanatory terms hold emotional meanings when taken in the context of the experience afforded by pharmaceutical companies to its patients. Can the satisfied customer be truly branded as ‘delighted’?

Bad Beginnings: A popular 2011 poll marked pharma as one of the least customer-friendly industries on the planet. The problem stems from the fact that a majority of the pharma companies concentrate more on their brands and aren’t overly concerned about solving real-world problems associated with their customers. There is a distinct divide, that is further accentuated by the one-on-one approach encouraged by most other commercial disciplines.

Mimicking the General Approach? Or, Staying Put?   

The question is more in relation to the pharma company’s deployment of customer retention solutions and the associated customer analytics services to ascertain if the former is fruitful. Considering the privacy issues involved in a patient-medical service provider configuration, can the pharma company truly push for focused customer engagement, in line with the trends observed as part of the marketing efforts in other industries?

Maybe not. After all, most ‘customers’ will not want to revisit a personal health issue, willingly and publicly. However, engagement may also refer to a holistic approach that deviates away from the usual point of conversation between a pharmaceutical company and its patients. Experts believe that the pharmaceutical industry is poised at a major crossroad- wherein firms must abandon their long-standing approach of focusing on their internal attributes and align with what the people really need. This new brand of customer engagement is more about the conversations than promoting a pill or a cure.

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All Roads Lead to Social

In this enlightened scene, social media serves as the preferred medium of communication. Major pharmaceutical companies have started treating their Facebook and Twitter pages as online hubs wherein information and counsel can be dispersed. Slowly, the patients are also becoming aware of the shift in the pharma companies’ approach- the latter are talking about common ailments and how it impacts an individual, customized solutions and the latest research in this specialist area.

Consequently, patients/customers will now be interested in contributing to this conversation as they seek to see if their suggestions and insights are incorporated in the pharma company’s overall game plan. It’s a definite give-and-take with the pharma company gaining firm customer loyalty and predictable engagement, that can eventually be redirected towards clearly defined monetization pathways.

Again, customer centricity is the key here.

Playing Texas Holdem with the Insurers

On the flipside is the pharma company’s relationship with the ‘payer’ (ideally, the insurance company). The former must treat the latter as a frontline customer too, while the latter’s decision to interact with the pharmaceutical firm depends on the quantum of data that the firm hosts about the patients. The insurer must be convinced that the pharma company has unique, actionable data about the customers that could be profitable- and that the latter isn’t exactly an adversary or a reluctant partner. In return, pharma companies will benefit from patient data that can be sourced from the insurers- a longitudinal source that touches upon key metrics without dwelling into topics that may be deemed private and off-limits.

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In the End, It’s a Long Road Ahead

The explosion of data in such interactions will be immense. As pharma companies perfect their customer retention solutions, they must also keep a close watch on the regulations and the regulators, probable discord brewing in online interactions with patients, and the keen eyes of competing entities that are looking to pounce on any slipups.

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