4 Actions For Pharma to Remove Damaging Barriers with Customers

Ernan
Posted: 02/13/2018

Ernan Roman explores recent research showing that pharma and biotech companies make expensive mistakes by neglecting the power and necessity of customer experience strategies. 

“A bad customer feeling is like a hole in an airplane. That one small hole can suck out the pressure and down the plane. One can’t underestimate the power of bad feelings in the tight knit world of a lab or campus.”

Those are the words of Mike Lucero, Product Fellow, 10x Genomics, regarding the fact that many life science companies do not apply the same rigor to developing their Customer Experience (CX) strategies that they apply to developing new products.

Findings from thousands of hours of in-depth interviews conducted by our research firm, ERDM Corp.,  for clients such as 10X Genomics, IBM, Microsoft, and HP, indicate that poor customer experiences hurt customers in terms of their professional and personal political capital and thus impact their willingness to advocate  a company’s products.

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Aligning with customer expectations and removing barriers

By prioritizing product development over CX strategies, life science companies are focusing on their internal needs. As a result, they invariably create barriers  with their customers because they are prioritizing their own needs regarding manufacturing, distribution, sales quotas, etc.

This applies to all customers, i.e. those who are PI’s, researchers and patients.

The result; “breaking glass” with customers and their colleagues!   

Paul Conley, Managing Director, Paladin Capital Group, provides this important insight, “Companies spend lots of money on technology and products, but they overlook the ‘soft elements’, such as customer experience and instilling empathy for the customer and their environment.

“This results in mistakes which are very expensive to fix. 

“Too many companies focus on building products. They should be focusing on building a culture which focuses on what it takes to make their customers successful.”

This sentiment is echoed in our Voice of Customer (VoC) research interviews with life science professionals and researchers. They expressed frustration with companies who do not see things from the customers’ perspective.

Some of the comments we heard:  

·  “I think the issue at hand is what I call political capital, and how I choose to use it. So, when we find ourselves unfamiliar with the technology, it becomes really hard and quite a risk for us to expend our political capital to advocate for the purchase of a product. A company has to do everything they can to reduce the personal and professional risk we face in advocating for them.”

· “Personalized engagement forges strong ties with your company that serve as a ‘grace account’ upon which to draw when there is the inevitable problem or outreach from competition.”

Actions:

1. In this hyper-competitive environment, it is critical for life science companies to prioritize development of competitively differentiating CX strategies.

2. If, in the past 12 months, you have not done deep research to understand your customers’ rapidly changing needs, you risk being dangerously out of sync with your customers.

Engage with customers post-sale and understand the ongoing and evolving needs of researchers

In the West Monroe Partners Survey it was noted, “Companies that quickly evolve their capabilities to drive new value to customers can create an ‘adaptive advantage’. To do so, they need deep understanding of the issues customers are trying to solve or, better yet, the ability to foresee future issues and help customers in the areas they don’t even know they need help.”

Certainly, in the pharma and biotech arena there’s pressure to generate sales and make the numbers. But, to get those repeat orders, it requires taking care of customers post-sale.

Per Mike Lucero, “Customers feel that they are being loyal to a company by buying their products and recommending them. They feel betrayed when a company does not reciprocate by listening to their evolving needs and personalizing recommendations based on the specific type of research they are doing.”

Representative statements from our VoC 

· “Some life science companies do not have a reputation for engaging customers post-sale. So, their advocates feel abandoned"
· “Personalized follow-up and communications are proof points that the company cares about me after they made the 
· “They should be checking in with me about any concerns or needs and to see what’s new. Then they’d show that they were still thinking of us after we bought the technology. Otherwise, we feel forgotten and completely off their radar.”

Actions:

3. Companies must align with the needs of customers versus just selling products. They need to feel the heartbeat of customers’ labs and their needs.

4. This level of customer focus cannot happen at only one level. The entire company needs to be on board. Critical for sustaining the growth of a company is alignment throughout the company. This requires; visible and engaged executive leadership, widely shared and transparent goals and metrics, and frequent interactions between executive leadership and all levels of employees to ensure alignment regarding this vision.

Final observations from two thought leaders;

Per Paul Conley, “Too many companies focus on building products. They should be focusing on building a culture which focuses on what it takes to make their customers successful… Customer commitment has to come from the top. The CEO has to live it and demonstrate it daily in their people and business decisions.”

Mike Lucero sums it up well, “Trust your customer. Customers invariably tell the truth. Also, perception is reality. If they feel that they are not appreciated, understood or kept up to date, that is their reality and impacts their customer satisfaction and willingness to advocate and recommend.

Ernan
Posted: 02/13/2018

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