The State Of Customer Experience In The Global Pharmaceutical Industry, 2022: HCP Interactions

Executive Summary

In 2022, we expanded the scope of our study of customer experience in the pharmaceutical industry beyond Europe and North America and found companies struggling to meet the needs of healthcare professionals (HCPs) in several key markets. The shift to a global scope shook up the list of pharma’s top-performing firms, with just one company retaining its top-tier position from 2021. Our Customer Experience Quotient® (CXQ®) metric makes clear that the types and levels of customer engagement prevalent today are merely table stakes for large pharma firms. The industry can differentiate its customer experiences by discovering how it can right-channel HCPs’ unmet needs for information and services.

The Current State of Global Customer Experience in Pharma

This year’s Customer Experience Quotient® (CXQ®) study of interactions between healthcare professionals (HCPs) and the pharma industry is our largest yet, extending the research we have conducted annually since 2017 beyond North America and Europe to make it truly global. In the survey, which we conducted in fourteen countries from July to September 2022, 6,270 HCPs rated a total of 12,540 recent experiences with a pharma company. This report analyzes the results to rank individual firms, the content they create, and the channels they use to paint our first post-COVID picture of the CX that pharma provides. We reveal HCPs’ most pressing unmet content needs and which pharma firms best provide personalized experiences. HCP channel preferences and content needs are adjusting to an increasingly post-pandemic landscape, and the demand for pharma to meet the needs of its stakeholders has never been greater. Our study shows that:

  • Overall CX is average. Globally, pharma companies fail to give HCPs excellent experiences. A CXQ® score of 59 for all countries in our study gives the global pharma industry a good rating (see Figure 1). However, this is table stakes and shows that excellence remains out of the immediate reach of the industry. We did see pharma firms in our traditional research grouping of the US, Canada, Germany, France, Spain, Italy, and the UK recovering from their COVID dip in CX performance; that cohort’s CXQ® score fell from 61 in 2018 to 57 in 2021 before rebounding to 61 in 2022.[i]
  • China is level with Germany and France. While questionnaire response styles are not uniform around the globe, our research does reveal substantial differences between countries: 26 points separate joint leaders Brazil and Italy from bottom-ranked Japan (see Figure 2).[ii] The industry’s investment in and sales and marketing focus on China—the world’s second-largest pharma market—looks to be paying off, as China’s CXQ® score of 58 puts it on par with Germany and France, Europe’s two largest developed markets (see Figure 2). However, the overall CXQ® score of 52 for Asia Pacific (China, Japan, India, and Australia) puts that region well behind the 61 achieved by the North American and European group that our CXQ® reports have traditionally focused on.
  • Dermatologists are most satisfied with their pharma experiences. HCPs specializing in dermatology reported receiving the best CX; the CXQ® score of 64 for their interactions is solidly in the good range (see Figure 3). At the other end of the scale, experiences received by HCPs working in general practice were least impressed by their experiences; their aggregate score of 54 ranked last among the therapy areas. Looking exclusively at secondary care specialists, pulmonologists said they received the worst CX from pharma, with a CXQ® score of 55.

[i] See the April 2, 2019 report “The State Of Customer Experience In The Pharmaceutical Industry, 2018: HCP Interactions” and the February 28, 2022 report “The State Of Customer Experience In The Pharmaceutical Industry, 2021: HCP Interactions”.

[ii] Source: Hans Baumgartner and Jan-Benedict Steenkamp, “Response Styles in Marketing Research: A Cross-National Investigation,” Journal of Marketing Research, 2001.

Figure 1: 2022’s Customer Experience Quotient® shows that HCPs have good customer experiences overall

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Figure 2: Around the world, pharmaceutical firms provide customer experiences that are fair to good

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Figure 3: Pulmonologists and general practitioners are least impressed by their experiences

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UCB’s Debut Pushes Novo to Second Place, While Gilead Rises

None of the pharma companies in our study has achieved the desired excellent customer experiences—and no single firm sets the pace for the industry (see Figure 4). Instead, CXQ® scores taper off gradually; only at the bottom of the table do we see larger gaps between company scores. This indicates that pharma firms are making incremental, but marginal, progress. Notably, there is little to differentiate this year’s leaders; a single point separates the top-performing company from its two nearest rivals. Our data shows that:

  • UCB, Gilead, and Novo Nordisk lead in CX. UCB appeared in our rankings for the first time in five years of customer experience research thanks to the broader reach of this year’s survey and shot straight to the top, aided by a strong showing for its simple, relevant content. In doing so, the Belgium-headquartered company pushed traditionally well-placed Novo Nordisk into joint second with Gilead. The latter’s second-place showing is a considerable advance over the sixth place it attained in last year’s CXQ® study of HCP interactions.
  • Bristol Myers Squibb, Boehringer, and Merck are edging ahead in digital. Bristol Myers Squibb turned around its dismal next-to-last showing in 2021’s rankings of digital interactions, driven by an excellent score for its medical reps’ use of digital channels, to take the top spot in 2022 (see Figure 5). Boehringer Ingelheim and Germany’s Merck also had above-average content provision via channels such as live videoconferencing, company websites and portals, and email to round out the top three in this category. Note, however, that small sample sizes prevented some firms, including UCB, from appearing in more specialized rankings like this one.
  • Novo Nordisk, Gilead, and Pierre Fabre are top in non-digital channels. Although only in ninth place for digital channels, Novo Nordisk’s use of non-digital channels impressed HCPs, topping that ranking ahead of Gilead and Pierre Fabre (see Figure 6). This year’s expansion of the survey gave more midsized firms the chance to feature in our CXQ® rankings, and 2022 is the first year that Pierre Fabre has appeared; the Paris-headquartered company’s third-place showing in non-digital channels was facilitated by its rating as the most trustworthy pharma company in this year’s survey, where its score of 70 has it approaching coveted excellent territory.

Figure 4: The gap between the industry’s customer experience leaders and laggards has widened

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Figure 5: Digital channels provide solid customer experience, but excellence is elusive

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Figure 6: Non-digital channels have a slight lead in customer experience maturity

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Pharma Customer Experience Must Face Up to a Hybrid World

The pandemic-induced pivot to digital has been followed by an inevitable course correction. During the COVID period, in-person meetings with sales reps inevitably suffered the most, with 88% of HCPs reporting that these had decreased.[i] We conducted this year’s research at a time when face-to-face interactions were widely allowed. But although COVID restrictions have been significantly loosened or discarded altogether, it’s unclear whether face-to-face interactions will regain pre-pandemic levels over the long term. We broke down customer experiences by how sales and marketing channels are used and found that:

  • Human use of technology provides the best CX. HCPs judged direct online videoconferencing with a medical rep as providing the best customer experience (see Figure 7). The channel was popular with HCPs during the pandemic, when it placed second for CX; it has since built on those gains. Its CXQ® score of 69 brought it closer than ever to an excellent rating and stave off a strong challenge from the return of the sector’s much-missed face-to-face meetings and events.
  • Virtual events are coming back to earth after their COVID bounce. HCPs are reassessing pharma-sponsored virtual events—the channel they most appreciated during the pandemic. While pharma proved itself capable of running online meetings quickly and effectively during the acute phase of COVID, the steady increase in virtual events thereafter left firms struggling to make these relevant. As opportunities for face-to-face interactions have returned, HCPs’ perception of the CX that virtual events provide has barely changed and is now surpassed by better-performing channels.
  • Purely digital channels don’t pull their weight. Channels that only have a digital element, like websites, mobile apps, and online video, are among the lowest ranked. Collectively, these pull channels have a fair CXQ® score of 48; only one—pharma company websites that require HCP login—rated as good, perhaps aided by the possibilities to provide more personalized experiences that a customer identification step enables. Other types of websites—from company sites with no login requirements (with a CXQ® of 48) to sponsored information on a third-party website (with a CXQ® of 46)—rated only fair.
  • Social media struggles to meet expectations. As a channel for pharma information, social media posts provide the worst CX of any of the activities we measured. There was a gap of nearly ten points between the CXQ® of social media (37) and the next-lowest-scoring channels (mobile apps and sponsored information on a third-party website, each with 46). While channels like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram have become mainstream pharma marketing and communications tools over the past decade, those years of experience don’t seem to have produced a commensurate level of maturity, particularly as firms often try to meet a variety of stakeholder needs in a single channel. This should give the industry cause for concern, particularly with the recent upheaval at Twitter.

[i] See the February 28, 2022 report “The State Of Customer Experience In The Pharmaceutical Industry, 2021: HCP Interactions”.

Figure 7: Digital CX is the top performer but is less consistent than non-digital channels

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Solid Content Performance Masks Notable Misses

The information and services that pharmaceutical firms provide HCPs are generally well-received. Apart from a single fair rating—for formulary information, whose CXQ® score of 47 really should be improved—all other content types are in the good range. However, these scores camouflage a more complicated picture that has some troubling implications for pharma’s desire to be more customer-centric. Our data shows that:

  • The most common content delivers subpar experiences. Prescription and dosage information is the content received by the most HCPs; 58% of respondents in our survey reported accessing or receiving it in the past three months. But this high volume produces experiences with a CXQ® score of just 55—a good rating that falls to a fair score of 45 when focusing on content delivered in digital channels only. Novo Nordisk (63), AbbVie (61), and Lilly (59) lead their peers with how they approach prescription and dosage information.
  • HCPs lack the clinical data they need. HCPs said that new clinical data is the content that is most relevant for their jobs, but only 50% reported receiving it in the past three months. But the need is there: 91% of those who hadn’t received this information said they want to in the future (see Figure 8). When asked which channels the preferred to access new clinical data in, HCPs’ top three were in-office visits from sales and medical reps and in-person meetings sponsored by pharma companies.
  • HCPs are clear about how often they want to engage with pharma. The level of contact that HCPs in our survey want to have with a pharma firm was strikingly similar regardless of the type of information or services the company provides (see Figure 9). Nearly 80% of respondents don’t want to hear from any given firm more than twice a month; about half of those want to see an individual pharma company less than once a month. This again shows how important it is for every interaction to provide the highest CX it can if firms are to maximize their time with HCPs.
  • Competition in personalization is fierce. HCPs rated three-quarters of the pharma firms in our survey as good for personalization, but little separates those that best differentiate the information and services they provide based on customer needs (see Figure 10). UCB, Novo Nordisk, and Gilead tied for top spot with a score of 62; the rest of the top ten all scored between 59 and 61, suggesting that improvements here could help lift their overall content performance.

Figure 8: Healthcare professionals have significant unmet content needs

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Figure 9: Healthcare professionals do not want to be overloaded with any type of pharma content

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Figure 10: Passable personalization could penalize poor performers

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Customer Experience Requires Constant Contextual Adjustments

All pharma companies must take an omnichannel approach to CX planning and engagement, but each firm needs to find its own optimal alignment of digital and non-digital channels. Perfecting the channel balance and tuning it to the particular context of different countries and therapies is both an art and a science. Firms must use the science to form the basis for these artful decisions by completely immersing themselves in customer needs, preferences, reach conditions, and what comprises “personalized content”. Data-savvy pharma firms are already able to generate data sets that can compare these dimensions before, during, and after COVID. Less advanced companies should emphasize their data and technology roadmap and operations to get to this point faster. In the meantime, all companies can use this year’s data as a guide and implement the following recommendations to augment human planning technologies and processes:

  • Stop overinvesting in unwanted content.For years, we have seen “medical” content outperform “commercial” content from a CX perspective. Recent evidence indicates a stark contrast between what HCPs want to receive and what they actually get. This shows that pharma needs to re-evaluate its content assumptions and fill gaps in these areas, ensuring that it gives HCPs what they want, when and where they want it, and in the form they prefer. Companies should shift spending away from their own preferences and towards better-performing on-demand channels.
  • Continue reconciling high-tech with high-touch interactions.The hybrid environment in which sales and medical field-based representatives increasingly operate adds considerable pressure to omnichannel orchestration. While data and insights can guide channel and content mix decisions, the right rep input enriches the model. To ensure that they’re protecting the right experience, firms should implement a continuation of rep training and development that focuses on enabling reps to embrace digital capabilities and understand continuously evolving customer engagement models.
  • Start anticipating the future of customer engagement planning.Pharma must create concise campaigns that are more personalized to its stakeholders and double down on segmentation and targeting. This requires a solid data foundation that allows you to better understand HCPs’ changing preferences and the shifting relevance of different channels and content types and to use this understanding to take a predictive approach to customers’ changing wants and needs. Bolster this by harnessing a CX planning framework to further absorb the risks from externalities.

Methodology

DT’s global Customer Experience Quotient® (CXQ®) study of HCP interactions was conducted between July and September 2022. The email-initiated online customer experience survey involved 6,270 HCPs working primarily in cardiology, dermatology, endocrinology/diabetology, gastroenterology, general practice/family medicine, hematology, oncology, and pulmonology/respiratory. Respondents were drawn from Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Turkey, the UK, and the US. Each HCP rated two recent experiences with a pharma company, based on their trust, relevance, and simplicity to produce a CXQ® score that that covers the twenty-two channels most used by the pharma industry and the twenty types of content (information or services) it most frequently provides.

Related Research Companies Researched In This Report
AbbVie, Allergan, Amgen, Astellas, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Biogen, BioNTech, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol Myers Squibb, Celgene, Daiichi Sankyo, Eisai, Gilead, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen, Lilly, Menarini, Merck, Merck & Co, Moderna, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Pierre Fabre, Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi, Servier, Takeda, Teva, UCB, Viatris

Authors

Dominic Tyer

Director

Dominic has more than 20 years of pharmaceutical publishing experience at leading industry titles and is an influential author on the digital transformation of the healthcare sector. In his current role at DT Consulting he is responsible for defining and executing the company’s expanding publication agenda and peer networking event schedule, both of which address the needs of pharmaceutical companies and their leaders.

Tim van Tongeren

Managing Partner

For more than fifteen years, Tim has worked with commercial leaders to navigate their strategic and organizational transformations required to thrive on digital technology change. In his current role as Managing Partner, he leads DT’s Solutions and Consulting offerings to advise the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms on how to best achieve customer experience success through digital transformation. He also directs DT’s ongoing effort to provide the pharma industry with the most relevant insights on digital strategy, digital health, and organizational change.

Hannah Price

Senior Director

Hannah has more than a decade of experience working with commercial and technology leaders focused on digital and customer experience transformation. She advises organizations on how to evolve their customer offering to take advantage of digital capabilities and develop the internal competencies required to effect this transformation. In her current role as Director of Customer Experience, she leads DT’s customer experience practice, guiding the world’s largest pharmaceutical firms towards creating deliberate, holistic experiences for customers that leverage digital channels and deliver business value.

Eleni Lee

Manager

Eleni has been working as an advisor and dedicated thought partner to senior customer experience, marketing, and digital leaders globally for more than eight years. Her experience spans multiple industries, which has given her a valuable perspective on how to identify and creatively solve both unique and shared business sector challenges. Eleni has worked closely with clients to help improve their customer outreach capabilities to drive retention and growth and develop effective internal mechanisms through cross-functional collaboration, communication, and governance. She is passionate about supporting leaders in their quest to solve challenges and inspiring them to drive change and ROI in their organizations.

New CXQ® Global HCP Data Report​

For the first time, DT Consulting is making an extended CXQ® data set available for purchase. Our new CXQ® Global HCP Data Report provides an extended look at the themes covered in The State Of Customer Experience In The Global Pharmaceutical Industry, 2022: HCP Interactions report and offers a unique level of insight into the nuances of CX in pharma. It will offer:

  • Company benchmarks by CXQ® driver: relevance, simplicity, and trust
  • CXQ® scores for all digital and non-digital channels
  • CXQ® scores for different information and services items
  • Customer preferences for different types of content and channels

For more information on the new CXQ® Global HCP Data Report, email enquiry@dt-consulting.com

About DT Consulting

We help life sciences companies lead their large-scale digital transformation efforts for continued customer experience success.

DT Consulting brings deep industry expertise and focus you expect from a strategic consultancy and combines it with Indegene’s recognized strength in building, scaling, and managing digital-first operations for the life sciences industry. With 5,500 employees, 20 offices, and operations in 10 countries, we can support your organization from strategy to execution throughout the digital transformation life cycle. Working together as a single unified global team enables us to get at the real issues, make practical recommendations, and deliver tangible results. 

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For managers and directors of marketing and brand; heads of digital, multichannel marketing, customer engagement, and commercial excellence.

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