In the beginning consumer marketing was clearly customer centric. It replaced product orientation with customer orientation, determining what should be sold, to whom and how, based on customer need. Despite this, it came to be seen by many as synonymous with promotion but more recently marketing has redefined itself. The new goal is to optimise the customer experience, moving the focus from a transaction to a long-term relationship. How an organisation delivers therefore becomes as important as what it delivers.
This change, which makes the product part of a service, aims to solve customers problems. It is driven by the perception that today all products are good and by the rise of digital. The latter has empowered customers. At the same time, it has facilitated both improved understanding of them through data and analytics and enabled more precisely targeted communication.
Pharma is not immune from this change. Similar drivers apply, in particular the rise of the empowered patient. For some pharma companies, this has led to a more customer centric approach focusing on the experience of all customer types, whether they be payers, prescribers or patients.
Patient centricity is a particularly hot topic. In pharma it means involving patients from drug discovery and development through to arrival and use in the market. It also affects everyone else involved in the delivery of healthcare, not least, very busy HCPs who are faced with increased patient demands, providing numerous opportunities for pharma to help.
A good customer experience for prescribers may therefore involve programmes which enable a more patient centric approach. However, improved customer experiences can also be realised by better meeting their broader needs. Extensive research across several countries shows that prescribers expect promotion but want initiatives to go beyond that to include other things apart from the product that help them to do their jobs better. For such initiatives, including promotion, to be effective, the information content needs to be trustworthy, relevant and simple, respecting their time and preferred channels. Certainly, positive customer experiences appear to pay dividends. These include forming a more positive opinion of the product and company, sharing information with others and engaging more readily on digital channels*. All factors which should serve to strengthen the brand and improve the business outcome.
That said, the move from simply promoting a product to making it part of a service that delivers a great customer experience requires a change of attitude throughout the organisation. To do it well and tailor it also requires analytics. As a result, many companies in pharma remain uncertain on what to do and how best to do it. Change can be uncomfortable but the drivers behind it seem likely to make the need for a customer centric marketing approach increasingly attractive!
*How can pharma excel in customer experience pharmaforum May 16th 2019