No, this is not going to be about segmentation and targeting, we’ll save that for another day, what I want to do is focus on what ‘we’ the pharma industry know about our customers.
I’ve had lots of folks tell me how customer focused their company is; how the company works with customers everyday, and how many resources they allocate to customer facing roles and how much money they spend on customer research and so on. But when you scratch the surface, and I recommend you go and scratch it at your organization, I am sure you will uncover some very interesting insights.
As a start, it is an interesting exercise to ask your colleagues ‘who is the customer’? I’m sure you’ll get a bunch of different answers to this simple question. And, if you can’t agree on who the customer is……..what can I say?
I’ve heard lots of answers, including one that even identified company colleagues as customers, ‘internal customers’. How does that work? Is it still doctors, or does it now include nurses and other HCP’s, what about patients, caregivers, hospitals, payers, pharmacists, healthcare consumers? Clearly, having a good definition is a great way to start, that way your company will be aligned and focused on what matters most.
Pharma is a product-orientated industry. That probably is not going to change, this customer centricity, patient centricity discussion is not about moving from being product focused to customer focused, that is too big a step change for pharma right now, so this is about being more customer inclusive, realizing the importance and value of the customer and ultimately, for most businesses, it is the realization that ‘you’ will sell more product and be more profitable if you become more customer centric. It’s simply a better way of selling!
But, you need to be careful. If all you are doing this for is a cynical strategy to sell more stuff then beware. One of my favourite quotes of all times comes from Martha Rodgers of Peppers and Rodgers fame, she said, “If your goal is to sell more stuff to your customers you will compete on price. If your goal is to add value to your customers, then you’ll end up selling more stuff’.
So being customer focused is a better, more effective and, yes, more efficient way to sell, and it begins with what you know about your customers.
Go ahead and look at your own data, really dig into it, try doing it from a customers’ perspective and you’ll be amazed. Put yourself in the customers’ shoes and ask ‘what does the company really know about me’?
Look at call data. Do you have a single view of a customer, can you see all the interactions across all channels, with a particular customer, start at an individual customer level – don’t be tempted to do the segment average type approach.
Here’s what you are likely to find?
- You don’t know much about an individual customer
- You have good call data, but likely not consolidated across all channels and brands
- You have some contact information, address, business phone etc probably not personal email addresses and other critical business information
- There will be very little additional customer data – often precluded by out dated and overly conservative legal policies
- Representatives have more customer information that they do not share with the company
- Spend a disproportionate amount of time and effort with the wrong customers
- There is no factual reason one customer is seen more often than another – it could be simply that reps have access
- Unable to identify your most important customers
- Some customers are not profitable, you expend too many resources and calls on the wrong customers
- You don’t treat different customer differently, other than call rate.
Overall, there is very little customer insight to be found.
Most of pharma still, if we are talking healthcare providers, allocate resources according to customer value (their value to us), so a high value customer subset – lets call them A customers, get more calls. This has been around for decades and is still alive and well today.
In primary care in particular, this call rate is usually by brand or in some cases therapeutic area, but when you see the same HCP customer called on by different reps across different channels, you see how much resource is actually allocated to this customer. It’s not a common view; the data is usually not looked at this way.
But go and look at your B Customers. Yes you see them less, perhaps, but the total amount of effort spent on this group will be significantly more that the effort spent with your highest value customers, because when you add it all up, there are more of them, more calls in total, more effort. And it continues to work down your list of priority targets, so that, in the end, the total effort directed at lower value customers is more than your highest value. Why would you do this?
Now lets go back to the individual data and look at what you actually know about your most important customers. I bet you know a lot about their prescribing, particularly if you are in the US and have access to prescribing data, outside the US you may use external services like IMS or others or you may just work on rep feedback to rate HCP’s, either way you will know, or think you know, more about their prescribing than you actually know about them as a customer.
What does your CRM system say about this customer, what facts does it contain? Try asking your reps what they know about their highest value customers and the chances are they don’t know much. Again, probably lots of RX data or impressions and probably a lot of personal stuff, but not much more about them as a customer.
Do you act differently with different customers based on what you know about them, or are you still focused on delivering messages that are important to you?
This situation is the result of the fact that pharma has not wanted, or felt it needed, to know about customers and has fears about the legality of gathering and storing this type of information. But now, it is critical to better understand customers.
This all sounds simple and obvious but the changes required to be more customer or patient centric are significant and it should not be thought of as something you only need to do with HCP’s.
Indeed, how do you become more customer focused with newer customer types like payers? I’d begin asking the same question –‘what do you know about this customer beyond Rx?’
Being more relevant to your customers is key; building trust, being trustworthy and delivering value are going to be significant differentiators in the future and I don’t know how you do this without knowing about what matters to your customers.
Things you can and should do starting today.
- Establish as sense of urgency.
- Build a team of passionate patient advocates
- Become more customer curious. Ask customers about their business, their challenges, what’s important to them and more.
- Collect customer data. Try at every interaction to come away knowing something about your customer that you didn’t know before.
- Store factual information, share it across the business, analyse it and then act on it.
- Develop a comprehensive customer view – monitor and measure the collection of relevant, factual data.
- Use your CRM system as a source of insight not just call reporting.
- Build customer advisory boards not for brands but to better understand customers, get customers involved.
- Segment not based solely on value to the company and Rx
- Be open and honest about the data you gather. Would you be willing to share what you know about customers with that customer? You should be!
- Focus on your most important customers and deliver differentiated services and offers to them in response to their needs.
- Identify the top 6% of customers that generate around 40% of your sales and build an individual customer plan for each of them.
- Demonstrate that this is not only for the field force – anyone touching a customer should enter data
- Reward the right behaviours. Senior leaders should review customer data on a regular basis – not just sales managers
- Review and change attitudes to customer data, engage the legal department in the change.
Of course, the next big challenge, once you’ve begun to better understand your customers is ‘what are you going to do with that knowledge?’ But lets take one step at a time.