Why All the Bad Buzz? - Pharmaceutical Executive

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Why All the Bad Buzz?

Pharmaceutical Executive


Service and Relationships: The Path Forward

So why are physician relationships weakening—and what's driving the uptick in anti-industry sentiment?

There are several theories, including the Presidential election, which shone a spotlight on the industry, as well as the publicity around tightening promotional controls on pharma. Additionally, slashing sales forces may be disrupting relationships and weakening morale, which in turn may be hurting the quality physicians believe they are getting from their reps.

Whatever the case, our research confirms the strong connection between word-of-mouth and customer relationships. The US, which shows the greatest increase in negative word-of-mouth, also has the greatest decline in its TRI*M score—a significant three points over the last year. Conversely, Spain, the only country experiencing a substantial decrease in negative word-of-mouth, is also the only country to see its physician relationships grow stronger.

Among the most common questions pharma companies ask is: "Do corporate and brand reputation—positive or negative word-of-mouth—drive customer relationship strength, or does customer relationship strength drive whether word-of-mouth is positive or negative?"

The answer is that each drives the other. Strong relationships and positive sales experiences certainly enhance positive word-of-mouth and reputations. On the other hand, the investment companies make in creating a positive reputation can pay off in better relationships and higher sales results. However, as the results of this study show, companies still have far to go in providing many services—and in providing the things that doctors want.

Although physicians acknowledge that companies have made major strides in many service areas, increasingly negative word-of-mouth and eroding relationships around the world show there is still much work to be done. The companies that succeed will be those that remember that service models are, first and foremost, about building relationships. In addition, they will integrate new metrics, such as Brand Commitment, to support the relationship-building behavior they want to encourage, and they will set performance objectives around their relationship-building goals.

A key takeaway from the TNS Healthcare research is the realization that even the best performers have weaknesses in some markets and are not uniformly effective in moving to a service-model approach. Those weaknesses are, in fact, key opportunities to improve performance on the sales and service experiences most important to customers—opening up powerful chances to differentiate themselves and drive results. Success depends on sales and marketing joining forces to tailor the right mix of services to strengthen relationships and maximize outcomes in every target audience and geography.

Mark Sales is Global Practice Leader, Stakeholder Management. He can be reached at
. Andrew Brana is Senior Global Consultant, Sales Performance Optimization. He can be reached at

Pharma's Service Channels

  • Rep conduct
  • Rep knowledge and expertise
  • Sales visit quality
  • Patient management, education, and support programs
  • Physician education and information services
  • Practice and staff support services
  • Web-based services for doctors
  • Web-based services for patients


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