Will AI Kill Pharma Rep Jobs?

August 5, 2019

By the end of 2020, it is predicted that AI will create more jobs than it is taking. Should reps be concerned, asks David Logue.

Gartner predicts that by the end of 2020, AI will create more jobs than it is taking. At the same time, 1.8 million jobs will be lost to automation.1 Pharma field forces have seen a lot in the last few years, from face-to-face interactions and Excel sheets to multichannel engagement and mobile devices. Now there’s AI. Should reps be concerned? What is the future of the pharma rep in the era of AI?

Life sciences companies are already testing or using artificial intelligence. AI is transforming the way reps are engaging with healthcare providers (HCPs), enabling them to personalize interactions based on more precise and targeted customer segmentation. AI can provide recommendations on relevant content for reps to share or what the next best actions are based on previous calls and interests. 

Done properly, AI delivers higher rates of engagement and allows you to allocate your sales and marketing resources to maximize your return on investment. And because your data is continuously updated with new interactions, you can adapt your strategy along with customers’ changing needs - to provide the best customer experiences.

Companies who accelerate this AI mental shift within strategy, marketing, and sales force effectiveness will leapfrog the industry.  

Intelligent customer engagement starts with making sense of your data

To be more digitally effective and create tailored engagement for every HCP leveraging AI, life sciences organizations need a customer engagement strategy built upon data-derived insights. This insights-driven strategy is referred to as ‘intelligent engagement.’ 

When we think of intelligent engagement, we usually consider all the different channels to interact with HCPs based on their preferences and insights from past interactions. But before all that, you need to build the foundation. If the data isn't right, nothing else matters. Data sources must be cleaned and organized in a standard way. A commercial data warehouse can uniformly connect and organize all of your important data sources. With organized engagement, organized content, and organized data, you can engage HCPs in a more relevant and targeted way. 

Personalizing the journey with AI 

The next frontier for AI in commercial life sciences is bringing more personalization to interactions between sales reps and healthcare providers. Between multichannel interaction data, claims information, demographic data, and detailed customer profiles, life sciences companies know their customers in depth. The challenge is unlocking this information from silos and making it actionable. This is where AI comes in.

Based on rich customer information captured in CRM and other systems, AI can not only provide recommendations on the next best follow-up action and channel - but also provide customized content such as a tailored sales aid. Knowing that a physician is interested in a specific disease, presented a session at medical symposium, and tends to click on links in educational emails in the afternoon in-between patient visits, it will be possible to automatically generate the right piece of digital content and deliver it at exactly the right time. Once companies are ready with a data foundation, providing highly relevant customer experiences will depend on having compliant content available to fuel the AI engine.

Using AI for smarter segmentation

With the use of AI, companies can conduct advanced segmentation of their customer data to tailor engagement. Based on individual behavior, commercial teams can deliver highly personalized information to improve engagement. 

Getting the right content

Content speed to market is a critical issue for the life sciences industry. Companies can create evergreen content that is ready to deploy at any time. Key areas to prioritize include medical information, FAQ responses, and digital sales aids: materials companies are likely to be in the process of creating but may need to think about differently. And before content even gets approved, AI can intervene to speed reviews while reducing compliance risk.

You can’t do AI without reps

We’ve established that organized and standardized data is the foundation for AI. But you cannot get quality data from face-to-face or virtual interactions with HCPs if you don’t have a strong connection with them. You can only achieve this connection if your reps have already developed these relationships in the field. Machines are not going to replace reps, after all.

David Logue is Senior Vice President of commercial strategy at Veeva. The Veeva Commercial & Medical Summit, Europe takes place 3-5 December 2019 in Barcelona, Spain.

[1]www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2017-12-13-gartner-says-by-2020-artificial-intelligence-will-create-more-jobs-than-it-eliminates

[2]www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2019-01-21-gartner-survey-shows-37-percent-of-organizations-have