Direct to Consumer: The Not-So-Cold Call

Think telephone outreach is out of touch? Think again. The phone is making a comeback.
Mar 31, 2007


Alexandra Drane
Phone-based marketing might not offer the wow factor of its newer Web-and text-based cousins; however, proposing that a computer handle calls offers an innovative twist. But this concept begs the question: Who wants to speak with a computer about his health?

Before you hang up on this approach, consider how a number of pharmaceutical companies are using phone-based, speech-enabled outreach to build share and to drive brand recognition and loyalty. A well-designed outreach program enables you to craft, deliver, and support one-on-one interaction with your target consumers—in their homes, at a time that's convenient for them. It's like a TV ad that comes alive and speaks directly with the person—learning as it goes so the next call can be that much more informed.




Let's say a young man is to receive a call about his new asthma medication because he hasn't filled his prescription yet. How can you get him to talk about his condition, when he'd really rather be out playing ball? Be respectful—explain up front why you're calling and let him guide the conversation. If he's ready to fill his medication but just hasn't had the time, offer to transfer the call to his dispensing pharmacy. If he's concerned about costs, tell him about free offers available on a drug-specific Web site. And if he says he's decided he doesn't need the prescription because he's been feeling better, offer feedback on the importance of staying on top of his condition.

Reach Out and Cure Someone

Some pharmaceutical companies have started integrating the phone into their multilayered consumer-marketing strategies through inbound-call screening programs that help people with a condition to self-identify, and with outbound-call efforts that target, assess, and refer those at risk to resources in real time.

Initiating a potentially sensitive conversation about a person's health can be tricky. Successful outreach is possible only when the underlying structure is designed to respect and engage the consumer. That means blending the science behind a flexible speech-recognition technology with a humanistic quality that recognizes that a real person—idiosyncrasies and all—is on the other end of the phone.


Prevent a Chilly Reception
The key is to provide relevant information that's put in accessible language and designed to be heard—not read. It also means respecting people by letting them control the conversation.

Since organizations are relying on a speech-recognition engine to act as the face of their brand, they had better pick one that's up for the challenge. Engines that are tuned specifically to the healthcare industry are better able to accommodate unique functions like communicating with the hard of hearing or even adjusting the pace of the call based on the patient's age and need.

It all adds up to outreach that respects, engages, enables, and ultimately inspires people to actually change their behavior.

Find the Undiagnosed

Pharmaceutical companies have long pioneered the use of innovative acquisition strategies to expand market share and build brand recognition. A major part of this effort, of course, is focused on helping people who have not yet been diagnosed with a condition to self-identify and take action.