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Improving Customer Engagement: Why Your Data Could Be Letting You Down


While it is foundational to commercial operations, most European life sciences companies are not getting what they need from their customer data, writes Guillame Roussel.

  Quality customer data is foundational to commercial operations, and yet most European life sciences companies are not getting what they need from their customer data. That’s why 78% of organizations have a data quality initiative or will within the next two years, according to a new survey. But as the industry seeks to improve customer engagements through personalized multichannel interactions, the pressure is on for better quality, more granular customer data.   In the era of personalized medicine and rapid drug innovation, sales and marketing teams are challenged to get the right information at the right time through the right channel to healthcare professionals (HCPs). At the same time, rep access to HCPs is changing. For example, Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which comes into effect in May 2018, will place much greater emphasis on consent to receive marketing data. Life sciences companies are constantly navigating evolving regulations to stay compliant. The result is that the ability to reach, educate, and inform HCPs is getting more complicated and more difficult.   Consequently, the industry is focused on improving engagement with HCPs through more personalized interactions. Delivering relevant content, in a timely manner, via the right communications channel is the new imperative. Of course, detailed, up-to-data customer data is crucial: the right customer data in the right people’s hands means more effective and more efficient pharmaceutical sales teams. But across the industry, that remains a challenge.   In fact, 87% of respondents in the recent Veeva 2016 European Customer Data Survey say they face customer data quality challenges. Sales reps often have wrong addresses, don’t know which HCPs to contact, or have outdated data about a physician’s specialty and license status. More importantly, incorrect data leads to compliance risks.   With quality customer data as the key to effective commercial execution, the need to improve data quality has climbed to the top of the corporate agenda. Nearly three-quarters (78%) of life science respondents say they either have customer data quality initiatives in place or will do so within the next two years. A greater emphasis is being placed on customer data quality to deliver clean, complete, consistent information that the entire company can leverage. Starting with complete and accurate customer data is one thing, but maintaining customer data so that it is continually complete and accurate is quite a challenge. For years, the industry has had access to a proliferation of customer data from a range of sources – internal and external. However, very often it is quickly dated. Physicians frequently move practices or hospitals, which is difficult to keep up with if companies are not leveraging modern technology to maintain current customer data. Today it takes around 10 days for customer data changes to be processed; most companies say four days would be acceptable.   Less than half of the life science companies surveyed say they are satisfied that their customer data provides a complete and real-time view of the customer. The satisfaction in having a complete and real-time view is lower for respondents within commercial operations, where less than a third believe their customer data is complete and up-to-date. Incomplete customer data is not only a commercial hindrance, but also a compliance risk. For life sciences organizations, having a complete, real-time view of their customers is critical for meeting European physician payment transparency requirements stipulated by the European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations (EFPIA). Companies without streamlined, Europe-wide systems to track and aggregate spend at the HCP level will struggle to accurately report regional and local HCP engagement activity.   The problem is twofold: volume and infrastructure. In today’s hyper-connected world, customer data is everywhere. Every department – from sales to medical affairs to marketing – routinely collects customer data. But not only is the volume of customer data growing, so is the number of stakeholders and channels used to engage them. Accurate, quality customer data is crucial, yet all too often the industry struggles to efficiently consolidate and analyze it. There is simply too much information for even the most experienced operator to absorb, comprehend, and quickly take action on.   Added to the complex the current infrastructure – a patchwork of disparate data systems and siloed organizational structures – and it’s clear to see why maintaining complete and accurate customer data is an issue.  With multiple systems working in isolation from each other, and the most recent information and intelligence not shared evenly across the company, there is no single version of the “truth” about each customer.    From a customer engagement perspective, that’s no recipe for success. Without complete, up-to-date customer data accessible from one source, different departments of the same company might inadvertently contact a customer several times, leading to brand fatigue at best and damage to the company’s reputation at worst. For sales and marketing to be truly effective, it is vital to precisely coordinate outreach and determine what message to send, when, and through what channel to each individual HCP.   However, across the industry, life sciences companies still rely on a variety of methods to source and manage their customer data. Just less than half of organizations still self-source and manage their customer data, while just over a third a third rely on a blend of in-house and third-party sources. But the complexity of business models across life sciences is making it more and more difficult for organizations to manage customer data themselves. Companies need to focus on their core business, without the added burden of sourcing and maintaining customer data.   Outsourcing of customer data requirements is becoming increasingly commonplace, with 57% of life sciences companies now relying on third-party vendors. Outsourced customer data – when seamlessly integrated with their Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems – enables reps to focus on what matters the most: engaging with HCPs.   However, customer data expectations are higher than ever.  The need for very dynamic, real-time customer data management is fast becoming a priority – and cloud technology is providing the solution. Cloud-based customer data management platforms with seamless CRM integration provide real-time access to accurate, up-to-date customer data,fostering greater CRM adherence and usability.   The industry is at a tipping point. Life sciences companies realize that their existing customer data systems are not sustainable if they wish to increase personalized multichannel communication with HCPs. A new, more holistic approach to customer data – in which information is shared equally across the organization – is the way forward.   And as companies seek to leverage the power of digital communications channels, the need for ever-more powerful and more granular customer data is only increasing. Digital engagement means life sciences companies can increase reach and deliver more relevant, tailored information. But that of course relies on more detailed customer and email data. Currently, less than half of life science companies can uniquely identify customers across systems and geographies and More than two-thirds of respondents say they need greater segmentation in the future, and more than half cite customer email data as key future requirement.   Across the industry, the drive is on to improve customer data quality. While the desire is to improve customer engagements through multichannel communication, there is still a gap between where the industry is and where it wants to be. Life sciences may well be in the process of digital transformation, but customer data still lags behind.  

Guillaume Roussel is Director of Strategy for Veeva OpenData in Europe. Veeva Systems Inc. is a leader in cloud-based software for the global life sciences industry. For more information, visit veeva.com/eu.

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