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Companies now have a unique opportunity to rethink their customer engagement strategy and find new techniques to serve healthcare professionals more effectively.
In 2020, pharma sales teams experienced approximately three years’ worth of digital transformation in just a few months. Yet many organizations have yet to maximize the impact of their new digital capabilities. Some still regard the changes that came about during the pandemic as a temporary fix rather than a new way of working.
Companies now have a unique opportunity to rethink their customer engagement strategy and find new techniques to serve healthcare professionals (HCPs) more effectively. By harnessing data, analytics, and key insights, they can more quickly deliver tailored content and communication through the channels that HCPs prefer. In short, striving for digital excellence must be a priority for life sciences brands that want to stand out from the crowd.
As the pandemic drove reps to engage remotely with HCPs, the number of emails they sent rose by a factor of five,1 while their use of virtual meetings increased sixfold. Physicians have responded positively to digital engagement with reps, just as they have adapted to providing telehealth to their own patients. Two-thirds state that they now want fewer in-person engagements with reps than pre-COVID times, and that they want far more digital contact.2
Perhaps surprisingly, the move to digital has improved the quality of engagements. HCP-rep interactions across Europe have increased in length from three minutes for a face-to-face meeting to 18 minutes in an online meeting on average. This allows more time to deliver in-depth and meaningful information.
The use of email has also changed. Before the pandemic, brands were primarily using it to send high-level product-related messages from headquarters, but doctors increasingly want to receive more detailed clinical data from pharma medical teams and to hear more about patient support services. Today’s empowered and informed patients want access to the most recent treatments, so physicians need to be able to offer them the most up-to-date information available.
To make the most of digital communication channels, sales teams need to deliver information that is pertinent and tailored to an HCP’s requirements in a timely manner. They also need to be 100% confident that all data is up to date, approved for use, and compliant with relevant regulations.
In terms of technology, this means three things. Firstly, reps need a way to customize content quickly and easily to meet the needs of individual HCPs on specific topics. A modular content approach3 is a flexible and scalable way to do this, since pre-approved chunks of information can bemanaged centrally and assembled as required to meet the needs of a specific audience.
Then, sales teams require a 360° view of the customer journey, something only 10% of companies currently say they have. When teams integrate their marketing automation tools with CRM systems, they improve collaboration between marketing and sales around individual customers. By aggregating real-time insights across digital channels, companies gain a complete picture of activity that can drive more personalized engagement with each customer.
Finally, an insight into customer preferences and behaviors will enable reps to adopt the best channel to engage with a particular HCP. Data analytics can provide visibility into which strategies are working, which channels their contacts prefer to use and how receptive they are to digital interactions. By grouping customers based on common traits and preferences reps have a clear understanding of the best channels to use for specific contacts.
Even with the most sophisticated technology and an HCP cohort who are increasingly digital natives, there will always be a place for face-to-face meetings. For reps, this means paying even more attention to the individual requirements of physicians in order to identify the right mix of channels for each customer. Those that evaluate customer preferences across all touchpoints can offer the perfect blend of virtual and in-person channels.
Reps with access to clearer insights and improved analytical tools are better equipped to get HCPs the information and services they need on their own terms — through any channel, any device, at any time. By carefully navigating this new hybrid environment and adopting evolved content and engagement strategies, companies can deliver the best possible customer service. This also makes a direct contribution to achieving better patient outcomes, and that’s what digital excellence is all about.
Sebastien Noel is Director, Multichannel Strategy at Veeva.
The Power of Sales and Marketing Collaboration for Omnichannel Engagement, Whitepaper 2020.
 PM360, “Solving the Speed vs. Risk Dilemma with Modular Content,” June 2021.