The State Of Customer Experience In The Pharmaceutical Industry, 2018: HCP Interactions

Executive Summary

The concept of providing a positive customer experience (CX) by meeting or exceeding customer expectations is neither new nor exclusive to the pharmaceutical industry. Yet new research indicates that many life sciences companies aren’t fully leveraging CX to differentiate themselves in the market and gain the trust of key audiences—especially physicians. Firms that work to align their offerings with their audience’s channel and content preferences will be better positioned to deliver the kind of relevant, valuable content that increases brand affinity and loyalty over the long term.

Companies Researched For This Report: AbbVie, Amgen, AstraZeneca, Bayer, Boehringer-Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen, Lilly, Menarini, Merck/MSD, Mylan Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Roche, Sanofi, Takeda, and Teva.

Great Customer Experiences Create Business Value

Last year, we found that trust, relevance, and simplicity are the key expectations that healthcare professionals (HCPs) have for their interactions with pharmaceutical firms (see Figure 1).1 We used these three drivers to develop the Customer Experience Quotient® (CXQ®), which measures the extent to which firms meet or exceed these expectations. To understand the current state of CX, we’ve repeated our study this year. We collected data on more than 3,300 interactions that the 2,653 physicians we surveyed had with pharma firms in different countries and channels; these HCPs represented various customer types receiving different types of content (see Figure 2). To understand the effect of exceeding a customer’s expectations, we asked HCPs what they did directly after their interactions. We found that great customer experiences unlock additional value for a pharmaceutical firm’s business; specifically, they:
  • Increase the number of customer engagements. Great customer experiences are twice as likely as poor experiences to lead to further engagement around the product (see Figure 3-1). Customers who are satisfied with their interactions are more likely to save materials about the product or service for future use. They’re also three times more likely to share information that they receive from others. This form of word-of-mouth marketing correlates strongly with sales in industries such as retail and telecom.
  • Create a more positive view of the product and company. Forty-four percent of the time that an HCP rated an interaction as great, it significantly improved their opinion of the firm’s product (see Figure 3-2). Positive positioning of the product in the minds of the customer can change current and future prescribing behavior.
  • Whet the appetite to engage more deeply in digital channels. HCPs who rated their most recent interaction as great on all aspects of their desired customer experience are more willing to engage with that pharma company in digital channels. This unlocks the opportunity for firms to rebalance their mix of communications between more effective personal channels and less costly impersonal channels.
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Few Firms Get The Customer Experience Right

A firm’s CXQ® score reflects the number of customers who rate interactions highly as a proportion of all customers with a very positive or negative experience. Despite the business opportunities that firms can unlock by managing the customer experience, not one firm received a score in the good to excellent CXQ range, which is where firms start to capitalize on these opportunities (see Figure 4).2 Boehringer-Ingelheim’s score of 91 came closest. Behind Boehringer-Ingelheim, eleven companies cluster within seven points of each other in the fair to good range. This raises the question of why firms aren’t managing CX effectively and earning higher scores. Diving deeper into our data, we found that there are two main reasons: firms fail to take customer preferences into account in their planning and execute poorly by delivering irrelevant content.

Most Firms Don’t Base Their Plans On Customer Preferences

Our data reveals that firms are not fully acting on their customers’ communication preferences, primarily regarding what types of information and services (content) they want to get and where they prefer to get it (channels). Content and channel preferences vary by country and specialty area, but pharma firms tend not to address those variations, leading to gaps that result in low customer engagement at best and dissatisfaction at worst. We found that physicians:
  • Prefer education and data, but firms focus on product awareness. Both GPs and specialists want medical education; specialists also put a high value on new clinical data (see Figure 5-1). Pharmacists prefer patient support materials and drug-related information. But firms aren’t adjusting their approach by country or type of customer, instead focusing on promoting their products. The lack of content relating to clinical practice—like guidelines, patient support, and clinical cases—contributes to low customer experience ratings.
  • Prefer a mix of communication but mostly get meetings with sales reps. If physicians’ most recent interactions are representative of all interactions, it’s clear that pharma firms rely on sales and medical reps to drive their overall strategy (see Figure 5-2). A wide variety of communication types comprise the rest of the mix, with websites taking the largest share. While physicians do value rep activity, firms appear to underutilize digital channels and likely rely too much on face-to-face meetings. While physicians prefer roughly a quarter of their interactions with firms to be such one- to-one meetings, they’re actually getting twice that many. To realign the communication mix with HCP preferences, firms need to complement—or replace—sales rep touchpoints with group meetings, virtual events, recorded events, and useful mobile experiences.
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Firms Are Executing Poorly, Mainly By Delivering Irrelevant Content

The best firms impress physicians by careful planning and excellent execution. By doing so, they deliver relevant information, make that information easy to access, and build mutual trust. However, the reality is that many firms let themselves and customers down in planning and execution.

  • Content creation: drug information disappoints. Materials promoting specific drugs are the content that pharma firms most often provide to physicians—but its impact is very low (see Figure 6). With average relevance and trustworthiness scores of 74 and 73, respectively, the ratings for product information ratings are ten points below those of new clinical data or formalized medical education, indicating that firms expose customers to lots of product information despite their preference for other content. Notably, none of the content types pharma firms currently deliver gets an average rating of “excellent”.
  • Channel development: impersonal channels don’t meet expectations. In contrast to the small variation in the CXQ of various content types, physicians’ ratings of the experience they get in different channels vary widely. Face-to-face events with multiple physicians get top marks, followed by similar events held virtually and in-person visits from medical reps. Considering the investment required, congress booths disappoint, and websites—the second most used and third most preferred channel—only earn average CXQ scores of 69 (see Figure 7). Other digital channels, such as eNewsletters, emails from reps, and mobile phone apps get better scores but still don’t manage a “good” rating.
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Three Ways To Boost Your CXQ Score

Whether it’s a single brand touchpoint, a multichannel marketing campaign, or a global brand strategy, pharmaceutical firms need to improve their customer experience. Based on the insights derived from our study, three strategies stand out. To boost their CXQ score, pharma firms should:
  • Capture and execute campaigns based on customer preferences. Market research can indeed help marketing teams become more relevant. But firms can greatly enhance their planning and execution excellence by generating insights from individual customers’ content preferences, channel preferences, and behavior and applying these insights to their outreach efforts. This will improve the quality of interactions and ensure that the firm delivers the right message at the right time and in the right channel.
  • Increase content relevance. As our data suggests, pharma needs to readjust the balance between product awareness and educational and data services. While firms can determine how to do this and improve their relevance by collating research data or simply asking their customers, they’re increasingly turning to analytics. Analytics helps firms create customer profiles based on content consumption patterns (or lack thereof) across the channel mix. Understanding what drives certain customers to learn more about your product or clinical practice can predict its relevance to other customers. But such intelligence can only work if teams create the content or service physicians want in the first place and have a fair amount of that content already out there.
  • Review and improve interaction design. Even when firms systematically work with customers to plan their interactions, they should assess whether those interactions still meet customer objectives. The company’s goals may have shifted, competitors may have ramped up their efforts, or customer expectations may have evolved. Firms can employ a variety of methods to determine the current state of their CX and use that knowledge as a valuable input into making the right improvements. Two methods stand out: Embed CXQ to understand the impact on experiences from the customer’s perspective or conduct an expert review to benchmark against set CX evaluation criteria if the need is more immediate.


DT Consulting’s Customer Experience Quotient® Survey, HCP Interactions 2018 is an online survey fielded in August and September 2018 to 2,653 European and US healthcare professionals in general practice, retail pharmacy, and six specialty areas: cardiology, dermatology, endocrinology, gastroenterology, neurology, oncology/hematology, pulmonology, and rheumatology. Via email, we invited members of Univadis—the world’s largest healthcare professional community platform, run by Aptus Health—to take the online survey. Respondents came from Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, the UK, and the US. To keep our sample statistically significant, we excluded from the CXQ® rankings pharmaceutical firms represented by fewer than thirty responses. Please note that respondents who use online networks, are triggered by email, and participate in online surveys have more digital experience and are more likely and confident to interact with companies digitally than those with less experience.

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Tim van Tongeren crc

Tim van Tongeren

Managing Partner

Tim has worked for more than fifteen years 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.

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