As I indicated in my post summarizing the CBI Conference on Biopharmaceutical Contact Centers, one of the takeaways from that event was that customer experience still matters, even in an industry that is subject to regulatory or legal constraints. Big Pharma isn’t typically heralded as a bastion of good customer service. One might come to expect conservative or protectionist dialog with a pharma company’s medical information or drug safety staffs. Can a company really provide customer service if they have to be constantly worried about litigation or FDA regulatory action? Additionally, the question of who the “customer” even is, is not exactly always clear for a pharma company.

Who might call into a Pharma Contact Center?

  • A taker of an over-the-counter medication with a medical information question
  • A physician who needs to inquire about possible drug interactions for a new product
  • An insurance company (payer) participating in a Patient Assistance Program
  • A patient who is prescribed a high risk (REMS) drug who needs to answer periodic therapy compliance surveys
  • A patient, prescriber, or other caretaker who needs to report an adverse event.

For each of these situations, the company has different motivations and goals for resolving the call efficiently. Each type of caller has its own value; sometimes the callers can even have negative value (Imagine having a call center in place just to handle inquiries for free goods, or other patient assistance programs.) One trend, as mentioned by JD Power at the conference, is that pharma is measuring success more now in terms of “Patient Outcomes,” rather than raw numbers. This trend will start to become apparent in companies’ communication strategies as well.

Even with many factors that are unique to the industry, the fact remains that good customer experience management is a win-win. First Call Resolution is still a “magic metric”, because it indicates reduced cost while maximizing the effectiveness of the communication.  According to JD Power, the most highly performing contact centers are proficient at integrating a concept called Voice of the Customer (VOC) into interactions. VOC is about directly eliciting feedback from the customer on the nature and structure of their interactions, and then applying that feedback to make the experience better.

Pharma should realize that customers are comparing their customer experience to that of Zappo’s and Disney, from completely different industries. The volatility of competition isn’t the same for Pharma as it is in other direct-to-consumer fields. The bar is set high, however, because of the experience leaders.

How can Pharma evolve, or simply keep up in their customer experience efforts? The first step is to embrace cross industry best practices. Good practice says that you have to meet customers on the channel they want (web, email, IVR) to have a chance at providing average customer service. Are pharma companies migrating from call centers to multi-channel contact centers? Are they leveraging the technology that is available today? The trend in IVR is that the automated voice interface should be  be customized and proactive for each caller. The technology exists, is it being utilized?