Leverage the Representative Channel in the Pharma Industry | If you believe that leveraging technology can bring about new customer excellence cultural norms inside your organization, then you are on the right track. Through the implementation of closed-loop-multi-channel-marketing, the technology and the required processes and capabilities, will transform your organization into working collaboratively and cross functionally.
Leveraging Technology to Improve Customer Interactions
One of the most significant areas of transformation has been in the commercial teams – marketing and sales. However, the focus has been on leveraging technology to improve our customer interactions. But what if Marketing and Medical relinquished some control and empowered the Representatives, by arming them with good content, know-how and tools, to personalize each and every interaction with the HCPs to meet needs on demand?
The Representatives could drive traffic to various other communication channels, as well as act as advocates for the brand and the company’s science, the various products and the patients. In effective, the Representative is the channel with the most leveraging capacity in the marketing mix with the introduction of new digital channels and technologies.
Release the Potential of Your Reps in the Pharma Industry
Do you know how much of your human channel is idle throughout the day, waiting in waiting rooms, driving, walking between appointments or attempting cold calls? I propose it is probably somewhere around 20-30% of each day. Depending on the size of your field force and the salary costs in your country, this could equate to millions of dollars every year in channel ineffectiveness or ‘marketing wastage’. In most instances, the Representative is, at the least, degree qualified and paid well above minimum wages. Not only is this a business waste, but also poor use of an intelligent capable human being on your payroll.
- Could these team members, not only continue to promote and education, but also coordinate research, report back and be of service beyond what they do today?
- Could they take some load off the customer service department during their waiting or down times?
- Could they be trained on producing and coordinating webinars in partnership with the medical affairs and marketing departments?
- Could they assist in immersive patient or HCP research in the field?
- Could this role be the true opportunity to provide partnership to the customers?
Obviously regulation and compliance are serious considerations, however, I propose this is not why this cannot happen. The reason this may not be considered is that it would require change and relinquishing of control and most of all trust in the new role.
What is Required to Repurpose their Role?
The role of the field representative would need to be re-scoped and repurposed. That alone will create some challenges depending upon the industrial laws of your country.
You will need to create a coherent communications ecosystem with the customer in the center and where the new ‘customer manager’ is not simply one of the touch points, but rather, has the empowerment, know-how and tools, to provide personalize service, education, resources and tools to each customer on demand and remain compliant.
Broad overarching principles are a tactical way to reshape and repurpose the role into a cost effective, valuable multichannel partner at the customer’s disposal. A set of guiding principles will create a strong unified service team beyond this role. That is, a set of generic principles at the baseline of the organization, that cannot be broken EVER, will guide the behaviours and goals, in any scenario and interaction with the customer. Great companies throughout history have used such guiding principles e.g. Four Seasons Hotel’s Golden Rules, Google’s User Experience mantra.
These principles can be localized to integrate with customs and cultural norms. While these principles are rooted in change management, they can be translated into hard metrics and bottom line figures. In effect, you may be able to do more with less, by increasing effectiveness and combining resources together in one.
Therefore, in order to achieve this model, change needs to start today, from a direct marketing approach to a ‘curating’ approach. The Representative becomes a curator of content, both with the customer and with the brand team, uncovering new information, co-developing content and directing relevant content to the HCPs.
This evolution will take time to bring about: from directed, to informed, to influencing, and finally, to curating.
- Directing – executing key message promotion, administrative services
- Informed – key role within the multichannel marketing strategy, knows and promotes other channels
- Influencing – sharing customer insights, designs each customer experience based on other channel activities
- Curating – trigger or pause channels and content based on engagements, co-develops content, triggers other contact with members of the team
I propose at the very least, this will yield a significant increase in productivity and impact - measured through typical SFE reach and frequency metrics, digital channel metrics, headcount and attrition, but most of all - customer engagement satisfaction.
Technology & Human Behaviours
This is not just a job title change, as it will require an organizational change in order for the new role to be secure in its empowerment and the impact on other roles to be fully understood and adopted. Up-skilling will be a critical success factor along with new ways of team engagement, to ensure everyone remains informed. Technology, such as a comprehensive CRM and digital content, will be the enabler, not in my opinion, the pivotal leveraging point that leads to deep trusted relationships between pharma and HCPs. Only human behaviours can make that happen.
Jennifer Grech is an experienced Customer Excellence professional, with over 10 years experience working on the transformation of pharma marketing and sales, and a member of the Actando consulting team.
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