[Sponsored Views] QuintilesIMS weighs in on pharma customer engagement

FirstWord spoke with Richie Etwaru, the chief digital officer of QuintilesIMS, about the need for orchestration – or coordination - within the pharmaceutical industry's customer engagement model.

Customer engagement can be hindered by operational silos and lack of collaboration between departments, limiting a pharmaceutical company's growth and even draining the bottom line.1 However, transforming an organisational culture with vertical silos so that it is more horizontally aware is not an easy task with the rise of empowered consumerism and informed customers who know exactly what they want and how they want to be engaged with.

In addition, the number of stakeholders that can influence a prescription decision is high, and the types of messages being conveyed to customers are diverse; medical, commercial and clinical data is communicated by various messengers to the same customer at different times in an increasingly cost-constrained world. According to Etwaru, "it's such a multi-faceted swirl of madness that is going on within customer engagement, that you have to step back and ask, 'what's our message, who do we get it to, how do we make sure it's consistent, how do we do it in a meaningful way, and how do we make sure the timing is good?'"2

Due to the complexity of customer needs and messages that must be synchronised via multiple channels, coordination - or orchestration - is needed between departments in efforts to present each customer segment with a unified message that is relevant, contextual and well timed. Etwaru described the moment he realised the critical need to orchestrate silos to deepen customer engagement: "when I looked at the problem, I saw a disease I call 'multiplicity.' The sales representative, marketing teams, events management, medical affairs and the home office call centre all have multiple methods of engaging a single doctor," he said, adding "it looked like a series of instruments played by a bunch of kids in a garage, all making tons of noise from different but similar song books, and while there was music playing, it was hard to hear the song. It needed to be more orchestrated."

It is Etwaru's view that orchestration is critical to engender trust and build rapport with different stakeholders, including healthcare providers such as physicians, pharmacists and the insurers, who are intermediaries to the patients. "When you have to influence multiple stakeholders at the same time, from multiple departments in your organisation, you start to get inconsistency in messages," Etwaru explained. "Every time you have variation in messaging, your trust falls. We need orchestration to stitch all that together so that trust can be built with simple messages that are consistent, timely, and meaningful."3 In other words, by not bombarding a single customer with multiple repeat messages, customers are more likely to perceive that the company truly cares about their needs, rather than simply wanting to sell a product (Figure 1).

Figure 1. Coordinated customer engagement and communication between departments can build trust with healthcare professionals (HCPs) and patients, facilitating prescription decision-making 

Source: QuintilesIMS

To promote effective orchestration between vertical silos, a key element is robust data management and building an integrated industry-specific tool, in contrast to the awkward amalgam of digital and analogue formats frequently seen today. With the current ill-fitting blend of digital and analogue systems, pharmaceutical companies are likely to observe a mismatch between information formats. "We need to stop 'CRM'ing' customers," said Etwaru in relation to the traditional customer relationship management (CRM) tools many companies use, adding, "today, most digital marketing systems can detect when an email that was sent to a customer is read, but very few attempt to share the data with other stakeholders who may interact with that customer, such as a sales representative. And for the very few that attempt to share this 'digital data point,' it is done in batches, sometimes a week later and many times after a month has passed."

It is vital to integrate the digital and analogue data to better inform commercial decision-making. An integrated software system can facilitate orchestration by connecting various data assets within the organisation to remove barriers to collaboration between customer-facing departments, so that interactions between teams can also occur much more seamlessly in real time. By linking data assets in a centralised manner, different customer-facing teams can have a consistent profile of the same customer while accessing data that is highly relevant to them (Figure 2). "Those delivering messages to customers can see what messages were sent before," Etwaru explained, adding "this prevents teams from broadcasting messages that vary from one another, which can confuse customers and negatively affect long-term profitability." QuintilesIMS is attempting to address the issue of data integration through the development of an IT suite called Orchestrated Customer Engagement (OCE), a system that gathers all customer information into a common data warehouse and provides various departmental teams with access to the information that is relevant to their organisational role.4

Figure 2. Orchestrated Customer Engagement IT architecture

Source: QuintilesIMS

For pharmaceutical companies interested in orchestrating customer engagement to build rapport and trust with customers, Etwaru suggested that orchestration should not be implemented all at once, but rather that companies should build on their current skills and existing systems. "It's a way of personalising your commercial strategy. It's definitely not a one-size-fits-all type of approach. It's not something which you roll out and go 'wow, this goes out to my entire organisation,'" he stressed.5 Consequently, each company must learn from their internal pilot tests and thoughtfully consider their own market segments, types of therapeutic products, and the product life cycle when trialling orchestrated customer engagement. Etwaru further elaborated, "I think implementation of an orchestrated approach to customer engagement has to be done thoughtfully, and it has to be done in an iterative way, where every next step is based on lessons learned from the step before."6

The ultimate goal of full orchestration is to improve operational efficiency and long-term commercial success by effectively engaging with key stakeholders. With orchestration, silos will not merge but rather converge; the barriers to communication between various customer-facing functions will be removed and the distances between the departments will be reduced, leading to greater operational efficiency, lower costs, and faster time to market for new therapies. Here, orchestrated customer engagement plays a key role in what is of most important to all stakeholders - patient outcomes. The horizontal alignment of vertical departments also enables the company to maintain a single, consistent view of the customer and broadcast a unified message that is crucial to establishing trust, building brand loyalty, and deepening customer engagement – ultimately, boosting return on investment.

1 Smith, J. 2013. Overcoming operational silos in pharma revenue management [Online]. Available: http://pharmaceuticalcommerce.com/business-and-finance/overcoming-operational-silos-in-pharma-revenue-management/ [Accessed 27 June 2017].

2 QuintilesIMS. 2017. Why is there a need for orchestrated customer engagement in the life sciences industry? [Online]. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ElJEkFl_cOg&list=PLbAr7MAaEbwPBpBCrOhmAmipZf9NfDtWE&index=3 [Accessed 30 June 2017].

3 QuintilesIMS. 2017a. Why is the "trust factor," which orchestration promotes, so important? [Online]. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T8QpvdEYe5c [Accessed 30 June 2017].

4 QuintilesIMS. 2016. Orchestrated Customer Engagement: Build customer trust and loyalty through more effective engagement [Online]. Available: https://www.quintilesims.com/-/media/quintilesims/pdfs/orchestrated-customer-engagement-build-trust.pdf [Accessed 28 June 2017].

5 QuintilesIMS. 2016. How does a company go about implementing orchestration? [Online]. Available: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GvHyUCB408E [Accessed 27 June 2017].


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