Confessions of a Telephonic Adulteress

Customer Experience Gone Bad

Making your customers feel guilty is not a good strategy. Granted, I am prone to guilt. I feel guilty going through customs even when I haven’t bought anything. So I didn’t need Verizon to make my recent shopping trip into a blame-fest. But every bad experience is an opportunity to learn. And I learned first hand how incentive programs shape behavior for good or for bad. In the case of Verizon, it was bad.

Image by Kayli Harden

It started out good. Great visit to the Verizon store where I was introduced to Verizon Home Phone Connect. This is a great option for getting a portable landline experience at a reasonable cost.

Here is the bad. The Verizon sales people made me feel like an adulteress.

I had the audacity to make a purchase from a different sales person than the woman who introduced me to Home Phone Connect. I tried to be faithful to Sales Person #1, I really did. I tried calling the number on her business card but it was an automated system with many prompts. I looked for her when I went to the store for the second time. I really, really did. But adopting the “love the one you’re with” philosophy, I quickly got entrenched with Sales Person #2.

Long story short, Sales Person #1 appeared as I wrapped things up with Sales Person #2. She looked at me with a hangdog face and said she wishes I had waited for her. Then the Manager came over. All these guilty feelings crowded out my delight at having found a cool technical solution.

As I was slinking guiltily back to my office, long repressed memories came flooding back.  This had all happened before: different Verizon store in a different state but same shameful story. I was in fact, a serial telephonic adulteress. But in earlier instance, the sales people broke into a verbal argument that required management intervention. All I wanted was a phone charger for my car.

So it doesn’t take a genius (or even a serial telephonic adulteress) to figure out that Verizon sales people are on commission. So it shouldn’t be a great leap of imagination for Verizon leadership to see how this competitive commission system creates a very unpleasant customer experience.

My blog primarily focuses on how Pharma can learn from marketing practices outside the industry. However, this is a case where Verizon can learn from some of the Pharma innovators like GSK, which rocked the industry last December by removing prescription based sales incentives.

In the past, I wonder how many doctors were made to feel like adulterers (or maybe just “uncomfortable”), when Reps came in with data showing that the HCP had “cheated” on the Rep by prescribing another company’s medication.

No company ever changes “just because.”  It took years of image draining scandals and unimaginably high penalties to prompt GSK to change its ways. Not sure what it will take in the case of Verizon. Perhaps headlines like “Verizon sales person shot dead by jealous associate over phone charger.”  However I am sure if GSK CEO Andrew Witty could advise Verizon CEO, Lowell McAdam, Witty would tell him it is preferable to avoid the headlines in the first place.

Thanks for letting us share!

Doorthy

Beyond the C-Suite: 3 ways to build customer focus

One of the most encouraging signs of progress in Pharma is the addition of C-suite level Customer or Patient Officers. While the impact of this new position remains to be seen, making a change at the top is a good start (see blog post, “Chief Customer Officers: Fancy New Title or Path to Meaningful Change”).

Customer

But it may take some time for C-Suite initiatives to trickle down. Meanwhile, what can be done at the brand level? Here are three ways to jumpstart customer focus on your brand:

1.  Create unified view of all customer feedback and interactions: Outside of Pharma, this practice is known as “capturing the voice of the customer.” Marketers go outside their functional silo and collect information from any department that has customer contact. In pharmaceuticals, this should include digging into Adverse Event Reports, long the providence of the Safety and Medical departments. A unified view of the customer is created by collecting the following information in one place:

  • Incoming customer contacts. For added texture, your call center can enable you to periodically listen in on calls
  • Survey information. Does anyone beyond the brand manager responsible for CRM see the CRM survey responses?
  • Social networks and community conversations.  Are your social listening exercises widely distributed and meaningfully communicated?

Once the information has been sourced, there are many companies that can help you automate the data collection for a real time view of your customer interactions.

2.  Interact with customers every chance you get: Vertex was particularly good at this. They did everything from regularly having patients visit their office for small group meetings to spending full-blown research weekends with patients. It is one thing to read that your patients have trouble with basic life-skills and another to get a panicked call from the patient at 7 am because she is worried about her hotel bill.

3.  Change your metrics to reward customer centricity. The time has come for the pharma industry to adopt the net promoter score, which measures the degree to which customers would recommend your brand to a friend or a colleague. Extensive research across industries demonstrates that as the net promoter score goes up, so do sales and margin growth. Changing metrics will change behavior. Marketers will be incentivized and rewarded for solving customer problems rather than producing pretty PowerPoint presentations. Right now, Marketers serving the needs of internal customers, like the Field Force, get more recognition than those meeting external customer needs.

Customer focus isn’t intuitive for pharmaceutical companies. Many brand managers aren’t even allowed to attend customer research in person any more. While all the rest of health care is focused on getting closer to the customer, it often seems that Pharma does everything they can to separate their marketers from their customers. That has to change at all levels from the C-Suite to the brand manager.

Thanks for letting us share,

Dorothy

Chief Customer Officers: Fancy new title or path to meaningful change?

Now that health reform seems here to stay, pharma companies are racing to get on the customer focus bandwagon with new Chief Customer Officer (CCO) positions. The most recent example is Sanofi’s new Chief Patient Officer position, which is promoted as  “a First for a Top 10 Biopharmaceutical Company.” This announcement follows Intarcia’s creation of a Chief Customer Experience and Outcomes officer, publicized as “an officer level position for which there is no precedent or analogue in the Bio-Pharma industry.”  Companies are stumbling over each other to be seen as the most customer focused pharmaceutical company.

Image by Bill McChesney

What remains to be seen is whether these CCO positions actually alter the practice of pharmaceutical marketing. How many times in the past have pharmaceutical companies announced progressive new initiatives only to have the ideas wither on the vine from lack of resources and insufficient political clout? Think of the multicultural marketing plans gathering dust in bookcases all across Pharmaland.

It will be interesting to follow Sanofi and Intarcia as the two companies embark upon their customer centric journey. While both companies operate in the diabetes space, they couldn’t be more different. Intarcia is an emerging biopharma company with a novel diabetes treatment/technology in Phase III. Sanofi is a pharmaceutical giant with a full portfolio of diabetes medications and devices.

Business history would suggest that Sanofi has the steeper climb to meaningful transformation. Corporate culture has proven to be an innovation killer across industries. Take for example, the News industry. Online journalism has flourished in independent start-ups but proved to be an uphill battle in established organizations like the New York Times and Washington Post. According to former Washington Post journalist, Ezra Klein, the reason is in part due to an entrenched “culture of journalism,” centered around the print product (see recent New York Times article Vox Takes Melding of Journalism and Technology to a New Level ).

Similarly, pharmaceutical companies have deeply rooted cultures in direct sales to physicians. This direct sales culture explains why “non-personal promotion” took so long to take hold despite the explosion of no-see doctors. Much like the newer media companies who designed their news organizations around the Internet, new pharmaceutical companies like Intarcia have the opportunity to build an organization from the ground up around a patient focus.

But even emerging companies need to be vigilant against importing internally focused sales cultures into their organization. Witness Vertex pharmaceuticals. Despite an early focus on developing an innovative commercial model, the traditional sales force culture managed to marginalize many of the newer, patient focused initiatives. The Antidote by Barry Werth, which chronicles the Vertex INCIVEK launch, is a good read about stymied efforts to create a new kind of pharmaceutical company.

As large pharmaceutical companies go, Sanofi has embraced change, altering how it organizes its R&D (see extrovertic blog post “Four Lessons in Change from Inside the R&D Organization), rapidly adjusting the pricing of its medications in the face of market outrage and its adventurous approach to social media. So I wouldn’t count them out in the race to be the most patient/customer focused diabetes company. What remains to be seen is if the practice of either company changes enough to make a meaningful difference in patient lives, at a reasonable cost.

Thanks for letting us share!

Dorothy

 

3 steps towards multicultural marketing

Amping up the spend on multicultural marketing is a no brainer given the expected flood of multicultural consumers into the health care market. However despite the rational arguments for investing in multicultural consumers, my fellow attendees at the recent Multicultural Health National conference in Washington D.C. felt selling multicultural investment in a pharmaceutical company is still an uphill battle.

The data supporting the business building opportunity of multicultural marketing keeps getting stronger. However, the funding for multicultural marketing programs within Pharma still seems to be managed according to the LIFO accounting principal, last to be funded, first to be cut. This has to change.

It is estimated that over 40% of the 33 million newly insured Americans by the health care exchanges will be multicultural consumers. Additionally, there are a multitude of ACA initiatives aimed at the different health care stakeholders designed to better serve the multicultural consumer including:

  • Patient Surveys: There are Consumer Assessment of Healthcare Providers and Systems (CAHPS) surveys specifically designed to assess the cultural competency of providers. It now matters that consumers feel respected and actually understand what the HCP is telling them. Materials in multiple languages will no longer be a “nice to have.” Your payer and HCP customers will demand them.
  • Multicultural HCPS: ACA expands initiatives to increase racial and ethnic diversity in the health-care profession. Companies will need to have plans for communicating to an increasingly diverse HCP universe.
  • Government Offices:  ACA elevates key multicultural health organizations within important governmental offices such as the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). That means these multicultural organizations have more power to put policies in place that effect drug coverage and marketing.

As the marketplace shifts to better serving multicultural consumers, so should pharmaceutical marketing departments. Here are three ideas on how to get started:

  • Consider reviewing the CAHPS cultural competency questionnaire and brainstorm how your product and service offerings can benefit the patient experience.
  • Partner with an institution to help them raise the cultural competency of their staff. For example, The Cleveland clinic has a multi-faceted approach to building cultural competency from physician education to forging ties to the community.
  • And last, but not least, protect your multicultural investment. How about a new accounting principle? FILO anybody? First In, Last Out.
Thanks for letting us share,
Dorothy

Scrap the core vis-aid, it’s a patient-payer world

This is the twelfth and final blog post in a twelve part series that transforms ideas from the marketing world at large into practical plans for pharmaceutical marketing in the time of health care reform.

There’s a strong patient and payer bent to the topics I chose for this blog series. That’s because I believe we are coming to the end of physician marketing, as we know it.

From now on, it’s going to be a patient-payer world.

There will of course be communication to physicians. But rather than providing 20 glossy pages parsing minute differences between drugs, I believe promotional efforts will increasingly revolve around improving the patient experience, outcomes and costs. And payers, not physicians, will be the primary arbiters of what constitutes acceptable results at a good price.

In the future state, there will be virtually no “work around” solutions for products that don’t have a real value story.

And I am not alone in my views. At a Marcus Evans conference I attended,

Kurt Graves, CEO Intarcia, said the decision to launch a product now comes down to one question, “Is there enough value in this product for payers to pay for it.”

Physician marketing will also have to change, according to Steven Pal, Corporate Vice President, Global Strategic Marketing at Allergan. In his Marcus Evans talk, gone says Pal, are the days of the large mass-market field force. Instead, companies need to deploy, “smaller, more agile sales forces that are more attuned to customer needs.”

Patients will be at the forefront of any value equation in the future. In fact, according to Ben Haywood, co-founder of PatientsLikeMe, it will be patient value that defines market value, His company is helping industry incorporate relevant patient reported outcomes (PRO’s) into their drug development efforts.

Patients are finally getting the information they need to assess the price/value equation for the healthcare services they consume.  The Health and Human Services Secretary release of the irrationally variable costs for common in-hospital procedures was a first good step. Across the country, the public’s eyes have been opened to the need to price shop, given the wide variability, even within the same city.

And quality of services, long held to be outside the ability of most patients to evaluate, is more readily available and digestible. For example, in Minnesota, patients can compare how individual clinics fare in helping patients meet their diabetes management goals.

Pharmaceutical marketing in the future will need a radically different game plan, one that is decidedly patient and payer oriented. Healthcare is evolving as we speak. Substantial change will happen regardless of how the Affordable Care Act, popularly known as “Obamacare,” is implemented. The outsized and often irrational costs of our current system have brought us to the place where the status quo is no longer possible.

As the popular saying goes, “People don’t change when they see the light, they change when they feel the heat.”   Pharmaceutical marketers are now feeling the heat with shrinking budgets and sales forecasts. My intention with this blog series is to provide a little “light at the end of the tunnel” by demonstrating how others have addressed similar problems. Extro-analogs aren’t brain surgery. All you have to do is use the 3 e’s:

  • explore industries beyond pharmaceuticals
  • extrapolate the core idea, eliminating the excuse of regulatory limitations
  • export the idea in a “pharma-safe” way into your marketing

I hope this blog series is helpful in sparking some new ideas and thinking. Let me know! Love to hear your comments. 

Thanks for letting us share,

Dorothy