Customer Experience for Medical Brands

“For most pharmaceutical companies, this represents a major shift in thinking. It requires putting the customer, as opposed to the medicine, first and addressing customers’ emotional, social, and behavioural needs, as well as their clinical ones. “

Dr Pratibha Karande 

A few weeks ago, the little daughter of my building’s caretaker had a minor accident.  She upset a pot of hot water and it scalded her leg. After administering first aid, I directed them to a nearby clinic. As there was a possibility the clinic was closed, I also prescribed an ointment for them to pick up, just in case. The mother being rather hyper anxious, this little incident would later lead to some interesting exchanges with both the chemist and the doctor at the clinic. 

According to UNESCO statistics, “there are still 773 million illiterate adults around the world, most of whom are women.” Of course, the situation is worse in developing countries. The ability to use the mobile phone is no indicator of literacy and the problem is compounded by a steady stream of confusing and misleading videos, the staple diet of people like my friend, the anxious mother.  

What does Medical Affairs have to do with this? 

More about customer than about medicine 

Yes, the Medical Affairs team must know your HCPs the best. What are the chances they also know a patient like my friend, the mother? Really! Why should they bother, you ask? They need to because being customer-centric in the healthcare industry is also about knowing the customer’s customer.  

Digitalization is the buzzword today. However, technology is no substitute for strategy but an essential tool. 

white paper from the Medical Affairs Digital Strategy Council points out that HCPs are beginning to expect from pharma an Amazon-like experience, in terms of ease and speed. “For most pharmaceutical companies, this represents a major shift in thinking. It requires putting the customer, as opposed to the medicine, first and addressing customers’ emotional, social, and behavioural needs, as well as their clinical ones. “

“With science becoming more and more complex, HCPs are looking to pharmaceutical companies for high-level non-promotional scientific content and engagement. The focus on personalization of healthcare experiences delivery and characterization of individual patients also means there is an increasing need to differentiate based on outcomes and to optimize care delivery,” the white paper states. Yes, the medicine matters, so does the brand. Both must follow a good customer experience (CX) and customer satisfaction strategy. 

Customer Experience for Medical Brands

The other day I received a call from the chemist. Apparently, the mother had lost the prescription and was insisting on the medicine that “doctor madam” had prescribed and that had made “my baby better.” The chemist desperately wanted to know the brand name before her hysterics drove the other customers away. 

The last time I met the doctor from the clinic, he thanked me for taking care of “that mother and child.” Apparently, she had very many questions because she was scheduled to return to her village. The doctor had the answers but not the time to sit with her and explain all that in detail. So, I had done that, much to his relief. 

It occurred to me later that neither the brand name nor the name of the maker featured in the experiences of any of those customers—the patient’s mother, the HCP and the chemist. 

Steps to improve customer experience in healthcare systems 

The white paper prescribes three steps to deliver a good customer experience.  

Human-centered design 
Inspired and co-developed by the users; intuitive, seamless and effortless; aligned with the user’s workflow with easy, omnichannel access. 

Individualization 
For each user, based on rich data and customer journey; responsive and sensitive to diverse needs. 

Trust 
Gained through credible, accurate, and evidence-based content delivered across all channels; transparency in sourcing and using data; fast and reliable response and attentive patient experience (customer service). 

Hurdles along the way 

Most pharma companies face the same hurdles during their journey towards content-rich, technology-driven, rewarding customer experience. 

There are regulatory constraints. Many companies lack the patience to work towards improving the whole customer journey stretch and settle for short-term goals. It requires focus without losing sight of the human connection. It is easier for social media to spite you with misinformation than spread accurate information to educate and reassure (that latter being something you must do). The entire organization must be reoriented towards delivered a re-engineered customer experience rather than limiting it to a marketing project. These are all challenges that have been overcome by several companies and can be by others too. 

I imagine a scenario, where the chemist gives the illiterate mother the medicine she wanted. He shows her how to place her mobile camera over a pattern on the carton. Then he taps the mobile screen, and it starts talking. In a language she can understand, she gets to hear the basic precautions she needs to take and how to use the medicine. She looks at the chemist as if he has performed a magic.  

She still does not know the brand name; but the chemist and her grateful doctor would never forget it. It was a wonderful experience for all three of them.  

Does that sound like science fiction? Science does have the habit of making fiction a reality today and a routine tomorrow. Making healthcare organizations more customer-centric and attentive has numerous long-term benefits that can very well result in a larger market share for the brand. Being involved in the patient journey and operating closely with healthcare professionals through engaging content is the secret recipe. We can make it happen.  

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Dr Pratibha Karande heads the digital communication function at Ethosh Digital, which designs and develops pharma communications. Ethosh partners Veeva, the CRM platform trusted globally to drive intelligent engagement.   

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