Customer-led transformation in pharma

Rise of the customer experience


The pharma industry has long recognized the need to move from product-based selling to more customer-centric and value-based engagements, but the Covid-19 pandemic has crystalized the urgency to deliver this change. As the traditional, ‘share of voice’-driven promotion model in pharma is becoming increasingly unsustainable, companies that successfully innovate around the customer experience will secure leading positions in the mid-term.

Many pharma companies have already started transforming their customer engagement. But too often, the focus has been confined to technology implementation. As the pandemic has intensified the pressure on traditional engagement models, companies have started to realize that they lack an overall vision, strategy and, most importantly, content for delivering new experiences. They have also recognized new needs in their people capabilities and mindset, as well as in their risk, regulatory, and change management processes.

This report analyzes the current customer engagement landscape and discusses how pharma companies might drive customer-led transformation more holistically throughout their organizations. Depending on the organization’s type of customer, market situation and internal conditions, two different models of customer engagement can be implemented to enhance customer experience.

Based on an analysis containing interviews with pharma leaders and a survey with 500+ physicians in Germany, the UK, Italy and Japan, we reveal an industry on the cusp of change, under increasing pressures to redefine its customer engagement model.

Covid-19 drives digital acceptance

The Coronavirus pandemic has changed the way physicians engage with patients and accelerated the need for pharma companies to rethink their customer engagement models.

In the case of physicians interacting with pharma representatives, face-to-face interactions with sales teams are still significantly more valued than virtual equivalents. This preference, given all the constraints on face-to-face time, suggests a gap between the current and the potential experience using virtual channels. It points to an opportunity for pharma companies to increase the quality and value of virtual interactions.

The rise of customer experience

Wherever an organization is on its customer engagement transformation journey, now is a good time to step back and look at where they are going, how far they have come, and what gaps remain. They need to consider who their current and future customers are, and what drives their experience. Which stakeholders will be key for their business in the future, and what kinds of partnerships will need to be established?

The following questions help to pressure-test an organization’s capability readiness:

  • What structural changes have you considered at all levels to support the shift from product-focused to customer-focused engagement?
  • What people capabilities will you require and do you have a plan how to build them?
  • Do you have a cohesive master data management solution in place?
  • Have you found the right balance between standardization and customization of technology solutions and systems?Are your risk and regulatory processes prepared to support dynamic content creation?
  • Have you adapted people incentives to ensure successful implementation of new technologies and ways of working?

 A differentiated customer experience will most likely replace pharma’s share of voice-driven promotional model within five years – or even sooner. Companies need to accelerate their transformation programs now and build capabilities to seamlessly link engaging and insight-driven digital marketing with high-speed, needs-based customer engagement.

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Dr. Thomas Solbach

Dr. Thomas Solbach

Partner, Strategy& Germany