The New Realities of Customer Engagement
Mark Karch, VP Sales, Technology Solutions
Andrew Ploszay, PhD , VP Digital Strategy, Technology Solutions
Apr 01, 2019

Like all industries, the life science sales model is evolving: our customers are demanding it and technology is finally enabling it. The old method of field representatives calling upon healthcare professionals (HCPs) has given way to a team- and account-based omnichannel approaches to reaching a variety of stakeholders. 

Successful commercial engagement today requires companies adopt an orchestrated strategy across all teams and persons who interact with a given account, which is only possible with dynamic and comprehensive commercial technology. Bonus points if the tech-stack is designed specifically to amalgamate—and inform—customer-facing interactions. 

The New Reality

The healthcare ecosystem and associated life sciences sales engagement environment have changed over the past decade in several significant ways:

  • Speed. Life science brands have months—not years—to establish the appropriate sales trajectory.  To that end, companies must be agile enough to shift commercial resources quickly to take advantage of customer access and product profitability opportunities.
  • Ever-expanding playing field. Stakeholders with decision-making power and influence go beyond the traditional healthcare professionals (HCPs) to include payers, integrated delivery networks (IDNs), hospital systems, clinics, and nurse advisors/educators. Expansive buyer personas render the old reach and frequency model inefficient and ineffective. Organizations must deliver content tailored to individual customers’ needs and preferences to ensure the right messages are reaching the right people.
  • More proverbial cooks in the kitchen. Channels—and the teams using them—are more varied than ever. Account teams now have as many as five people on them, each with a unique priority and specialized expertise. Sales and marketing channels are multiplying daily, incorporating everything from traditional sample drops to virtual congresses. When you matrix the people versus the channels, the result is a complex—and often tangled—web of communication streams.
  • Greater alignment on outcomes. Obviously, commercial teams are still primarily concerned with sales but driving clinical outcomes at an appropriate cost is growing in priority. The increasing priority on outcomes directly aligns life science companies with HCPs, integrated delivery networks (IDNs), and hospital systems.
  • Data complexity. The data required to support effective sales and marketing functions has multiplied and is constantly evolving. We require increasingly advanced analytics to look beyond basic NRx to TRx and get to true profitability by payer or IDN or HCP.

Orchestration is a strategy.

In every other aspect of our lives, we—as consumers—demand orchestration from our vendors. We expect a Starbucks application to remember our usual drink. We expect Google Maps to know “home” and “work” and calculate our arrival times with current traffic conditions. We expect brands not to spam our e-mails, but deliver the content we want, when we want it. And when a brand breaks these conventions, they pay a price: bad press, lost business, and the dreaded unsubscribe.

HCPs are no different. Medical professionals today are inundated with content without regard for their preferences and needs, often touched multiple times by the same company.  We must enhance that engagement to match the consumer-grade demands of customers today, and orchestration is the strategy to achieve it.

Orchestrating customer engagement breaks down the virtual barriers that separate marketing, sales, market access, key account management and medical affairs teams, allowing the left hand to know what the right is doing with respect to the customer.

Shared-owners of accounts need access to precise and consistent information, with context. There’s no reason why market access teams can’t see the sales and marketing touches, or why marketing can’t see which samples have been dropped and use that as a segmentation component, or why sales can’t help inform which nurturing paths a customer should be put into based on conversations they’ve had. Orchestrating these touches allows commercial teams to coordinate decisions and activities to avoid confusion and build trusting, authentic, customer relationships. 

Technology enables orchestration.

What does a consumer-grade customer experience look like in life sciences? Our industry has been laggard in this engagement strategy mostly because our legacy technology couldn’t support the necessary integrations. Commercial technology revolved around the assumption that the field force is the primary “owner” of the relationship. Platforms didn’t exist to support a model where all client-facing functions co-owned a customer/account with equal weight—and certainly didn’t assume coordination was necessary. CRM can't become a true customer engagment platform precisely because it’s designed to make it easier for reps to use the CRM instead of focusing on making overall engagement stronger.

Orchestration, however, requires the customer to signal, overtly or implicitly, what content and outreach is appropriate. True orchestration reflects a unique customer’s journey, borne of their content needs, preferences and interactions with the company. The customer orchestrates their own experience with the company. 

IQVIA’s OCE platform is built specifically to enable an orchestrated strategy. Native to the OCE tech-stack, algorithms and artificial intelligence empower organizations to efficiently and effectively craft customer journeys, that the customer themselves can shape. OCE’s Next Best recommendations engine lets team members across all departments see the next best steps to take: which customers need/want to be contacted, which content to send, and more. And, with the benefit of machine learning, the recommendations improve over time. By anticipating which content the customer needs at a particular point in time, companies can deliver a precisely tailored interaction—bringing the life science industry across the customer-engagement chasm.

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