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

Executive Summary

In the US, pharma customer experience (CX) is approaching an inflection point. Pharma firms have made major investments in CX but rarely measure the effects in any structured way. This business-as-usual approach to underperforming channels means that firms waste money on financing activities or building things for their own sake. This is unsustainable, and the reckoning is looming on the horizon. To maximize the value of CX, US pharma companies need to measure it by harnessing data and insights in ways that are not yet normal practice for the industry.

The Current State of the Pharma Customer Experience in the US 

Since 2017, DT Consulting has measured the Customer Experience Quotient® (CXQ®) of interactions between healthcare professionals (HCPs) and the pharma industry. The 2022 study was the largest yet: from July to September 2022, 6,270 HCPs in 14 countries across the globe rated a total of 12,540 recent experiences with a pharma company. This report, our first evaluation of US-specific CXQ®, features insights from 900 HCPs in the US who had a total of 1,806 interactions with pharma firms. The results show the current state of the customer experiences that pharma companies provide to HCPs in the US, how digital and non-digital channels compare, and how CX differs in some of the industry’s most important therapy areas. Our study shows that, in the US:

  • CX recovered after COVID-19. During the upheaval of the pandemic and the rapid changes that pharma had to make to its marketing mix, the CXQ® score for the US sat at 53—perilously close to a fair ranking. The return of face-to-face channels has since boosted the score to 64 (see Figure 1). While this is solidly in the good range, it means that the industry is still some distance away from being able to deliver the excellent experiences that HCPs should receive.
  • Digital channels continue to trail non-digital engagement… Non-digital channels, including face-to-face meetings with sales and medical reps, extended their collective four-point advantage over digital channels in 2021 to five points in 2022. As with the overall CXQ® score for the US, the performance of both non-digital (65) and digital (60) channels in 2022 was solid but less than stellar.
  • … but video calls from sales reps outperform all other channels. US HCPs bucked the global trend towards educational channels and content.[i] In the US, sales rep engagements were the three channels that provided the best CX (see Figure 2). Video calls from sales reps was the clear leader here; its CXQ® of 72 put it within striking distance of a coveted excellent score. The CXQ® of sales rep video calls was more than 25 points ahead of the lowest-scoring channel: reading a medical journal languished at the bottom with a CXQ® of just 46.
  • Cardiology, dermatology, and hematology experiences come close to delighting HCPs. The eight therapy areas in our 2022 study all ranked as good (see Figure 3). Cardiology (CXQ® of 71), dermatology (71), and hematology (70) each came close to an excellent score. However, the 15-point difference between the top- and bottom-scoring therapy areas reveals the lack of consistency in the CX that pharma provides HCPs. Pulmonology/respiratory and oncology HCPs are the least satisfied with their current pharma interactions.

[i] See the January 10, 2023 report “The State Of Customer Experience In The Pharmaceutical Industry, 2022: HCP Interactions”.

Figure 1: US healthcare professionals had good customer experiences overall in 2022

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Figure 2: Sales reps using technology provided the best CX in the US

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Figure 3: Pulmonologists and oncologists are least impressed by their experiences

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Three Companies Lead the CX Race in the US

Competition for the top spot from pharma companies in the US is fierce. While no firm has yet achieved customer experience excellence, three companies are closing in on it (see Figure 4). The gap of nearly 20 points between the top- and bottom-ranked companies means that there is still much for laggards to do to improve the CX they provide HCPs and take advantage of the industry-level post-pandemic lift in CX. Our data shows that:
  • For pharma’s CX leaders, excellence is within reach. Firm A and Firm B rode the wave of post-COVID CX recovery across much of the industry to overtake Firm C, higher ranked than both in our 2021 survey (see Figure 4). In 2022, Firm C’s CXQ® score put it in third place, whereas a similar score in our previous report gave it a significant lead over its rivals. Competition is much tighter now; Firm A’s CXQ® of 72—with an excellent score for relevance compensating for a lower one for trustworthiness—edged it past Firm B’s score of 71 to put it into the lead for HCP CX in the US.
  • The industry struggles with CX consistency in non-digital channels. As the CX provided through non-digital channels by some companies tilts towards excellence, the laggards are still significantly far from those at the top of the ranking. Leading the pack, Firm A’s use of non-digital channels enabled it to do what no other company could: attain CX excellence (see Figure 5). Its CXQ® of 76 was boosted by particularly high scores for relevance and the simplicity of access to its content. Hot on its heels and within striking distance of that coveted ranking was Firm B, with a nearly excellent CXQ® of 74 in non-digital channels.
  • One pharma firm achieves excellence in personalization. When we asked HCPs to rank the personalization of the interactions that individual companies provide, Firm A’s score of 76 made it the clear leader (see Figure 6). But while that company shows that excellence in personalization is possible, it remains a challenge for the rest of the industry in the US. Although the majority of scores were good, they skewed towards the lower end of the scale.

Figure 4: A few pharma companies are approaching CX excellence

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Figure 5: CX laggards face a significant gap in their use of non-digital channels

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Figure 6: Excellence in personalization is possible, but still a challenge for most companies

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Reliance on Face-to-Face Channels Yields Content Challenges

The industry has been heralding “the death of the sales rep” for more than twenty years, accompanied by regular rounds of job cuts. Despite this, non-digital channels are still the mainstay of pharma engagement in the majority of the countries in our survey. The US is no exception: Customer engagement centers on in-person HCP visits by sales reps, which account for 45% of all interactions. This is only slowly changing and has ramifications for companies that already right-channel the right content to the right customer. We also found that:

  • Prescription information is not meeting customer expectations. Prescription and dosage information is one of the most commonly received types of pharma content, but its overall CXQ® score of 57 shows that it struggles to meet HCPs’ needs. This is primarily due to a digital deficit: the CXQ® score of prescription and dosage information in non-digital channels is 62, significantly higher than the CXQ® score of 51 when this information is provided via digital channels (see Figure 7).
  • Digital delivery improves the CX of trial information. HCPs felt that digital channels provided better customer experiences for certain types of content. The most notable of these is clinical trial information, which gets a nearly excellent CXQ® score of 72 when provided via digital channels, compared with just 63 for non-digital delivery. HCPs also got slightly better experiences when accessing samples via digital channels.
  • Non-digital channels best meet HCPs’ needs for new information about existing drugs. Among the various types of content we examined, new indication information provided the best customer experience, receiving an excellent CXQ® score of 79 when accessed via non-digital channels (see Figure 8). New clinical data took second place, with a good CXQ® score of 69.
  • Digital channels are in the minority, but their use is increasing. US HCPs told us that just 33% of their most recent interactions with the industry involved digital channels. While this is slightly up from 29% in 2021, digital remains a small part of pharma’s marketing mix in the US.

Figure 7: Digital and non-digital delivery of content yield mixed results

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Figure 8: In non-digital channels the delivery of new indication information excels

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Commercial Generalizations Don’t Serve HCPs

Digital channels are critical but aren’t a silver bullet that will optimize the experiences that HCPs want from pharma companies’ people, information, and services. This year’s study again shows that generalizations across therapy areas, channels, and content types are great at keeping marketing budgets in check but poor at meeting customer expectations. In almost every scenario, commercial teams must view customer experience excellence through the lens of meeting customer expectations, as this is what creates positive perceptions of a manufacturer and brand among HCPs. Beyond that, pharma companies in the US should:

  • Stop making digital noise with email newsletters. The use of email newsletters increased markedly post-pandemic, overtaking video calls with sales reps as the digital channel that accounts for the most interactions. But the CX that email newsletters deliver doesn’t match its relatively heavy use. Customers will eagerly anticipate an email newsletter that provides useful, interesting content —but the channel’s low CXQ® score suggests that it’s currently just digital noise and requires much more thought about how to provide value to recipients.
  • Increase scientific engagement to improve HCP trust. All but one of the pharma companies in this study saw their CXQ® ranking held back by below-par scores for the trustworthiness of their interactions. While our global study found that medical reps provide more trustworthy CX than sales reps, that was not the case in the US. In 2023, commercial teams’ CX efforts need to focus more on the medical and educational in order to right-channel scientific exchange and more commercial discussions.
  • Rethink established norms for sales rep deployment. The world pivoted to digital during the pandemic, but today’s pharma engagement model looks suspiciously similar to its pre-COVID setup. Face-to-face meetings with sales reps overwhelmingly dominated HCPs’ interactions with the industry despite the fact that the CXQ® scores of in-person meetings were matched by phone calls from a rep and clearly outpaced by video calls. This should make the industry question whether all of those hours on the road for so many of its reps are really necessary.

Methodology

DT Consulting’s US Customer Experience Quotient® (CXQ®) study of HCP interactions was conducted from July to September 2022 as part of DT’s global CXQ® study of HCP interactions. The email-initiated online CX survey involved 900 HCPs working primarily in cardiology, dermatology, endocrinology/diabetology, gastroenterology, general practice/family medicine, hematology, oncology, and pulmonology/respiratory medicine. Each of the US-based respondents rated two recent experiences with a pharma company on their trust, relevance, and simplicity to produce a CXQ® score that that covers the 26 channels most used by the pharma industry and the 22 types of content (information or services) it most frequently provides.

Related Research

Companies Researched In This Report

Abbott, AbbVie, AstraZeneca Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol Myers Squibb, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen, Lilly, Merck & Co, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer, Sanofi, Takeda

Authors

Dominic Tyer crc

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.
Tim van Tongeren crc
Hannah Price crc

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.

New CXQ® Global HCP Data Report​

For the first time, DT Consulting has produced an extended CXQ® data set that is being made available for purchase. The 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, offering a unique level of insight into the nuances of CX in pharma.

It will offer:

  • Company benchmarks by relevance, simplicity, and trust
  • CXQ® scores for all digital and non-digital channels
  • HCPs’ channel preferences for different types of content
  • And much more…

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

About DT Consulting

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