It’s hard to argue against the benefits of having a digital customer engagement strategy. This is especially true when it is conceptualized to complement existing offline efforts. For pharma, biotech, and med device leaders, this isn’t news; the list of benefits surrounding the enablement of their commercial and medical field teams with more than a few digital capabilities is fairly long, yet face-to-face (F2F) paired with an iPad and some rep-triggered emails have remained the primary channels enabled in the last decade, even with all of the technological advances.
The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic made it abundantly clear that leveraging digital channels to provide a better customer experience is no longer a luxury, it’s a necessity. Just a few weeks into the pandemic, most medical and field teams were no longer welcome nor willing to travel to HCP offices. With the sudden shutdown of F2F visits, the industry had no choice but to react and react swiftly. Unlike all previous attempts at transitioning to more digital approaches, this one worked and digital was implemented quickly… at least at first glance.
Introducing Remote Engagement Globally
According to the NextPharma COVID-19 poll, more than 60% of the healthcare industry was able to move their reps to digital in less than 10 days.‘ When was the last time you ran a 10-day project in this industry? Most would say never!
HOW FAST DID YOU MOVE YOUR REPS TO DIGITAL?
While these stats are impressive, they can be misleading. In most cases, the “move to digital” was a simple switch to an off-the-shelf and “turn on the switch” remote engagement tool such as Zoom, or in some cases, Veeva Engage. It wasn’t like a full digital engagement strategy was considered to enable multiple new and sophisticated channels that can take the digital experience offered to a whole new level.
After launching remote engagement globally and overnight, many life sciences organizations woke up to the realization that they are still struggling to maximize their digital efforts and are nowhere near providing that “great customer experience” they were hoping some of these remote tools would provide. So, is it time to go back to the drawing board to find a more customer experience-centric platform provider, or is it just a matter of revisiting the execution of the change management? Let’s see if we can help!
Why Does Digital Matter in the First Place?
Time and Cost Savings
- Save the time reps, MSLs, and KAMs spend on the road or in waiting rooms (UX-first)
- Significant cost savings: Travel expenses, parking, and car allowances
Shorter Response Time
- Answer physicians quickly (CX-first)
- Make inbound/on-demand requests from HCPs possible (CX-first)
- Get responses from customers more quickly (UX-first)
- Eliminate the need to meet only during the specified office hours (CX-first)
- Conduct meetings anywhere, even at the back of an Uber! (UX-first)
- Ease of sharing content through various channels at a click of a button
Quality of Engagement
- Enhanced and connected customer experiences
- Longer meeting durations than F2F (both UX and CX)
- Increased brand affinity (or Net Promoter Score)
Doing It Right Through Leadership
Be it selecting the right tools, partners or platforms, slow implementation time, complex change management buy-in, or simply adapting to new technologies, implementation of an organization-wide digital strategy is easier said than done.
Amidst this transition, a heavy burden lies on the shoulders of managers, who are not only forced to change their familiar work habits but also be the advocates of this change and the earliest adopters of a new digital mindset. One of the more immediate challenges is mastering the art of remote engagement with HCPs. Below are the 9 tips team leaders can use to help set up their teams for successful digital engagement.
“Before anything else, preparation is the key to success.”Alexander Graham Bell
A surefire way to leave a bad impression after a video conference is to be underprepared. Not knowing how to operate the software, taking time to locate relevant medical information, or having annoying background noises during the call will inevitably lead to a bad experience for the physician, compromising future interactions. Hence, it is crucial to stress the importance of preparation to your team and encourage them to take appropriate actions before their meetings.
The good news is preparing for a remote call is easy to do, and to teach. Take the liberty to share the infographic below with your team, which contains the steps to take before and during a meeting to ensure a seamless experience during every call.
2. Perfecting Virtual Meetings
In the same way that sales training improves F2F calls, commercial and medical reps would benefit tremendously from training on how to conduct effective remote engagements. While many of the same sales principles apply to video calls, some nuances need to be addressed. Knowing how to set up the camera, the background, or the lighting, how to build and maintain rapport without being in the same room, and on-camera best practices can elevate the quality of a call and increase the confidence of reps during a meeting.
For that reason, the manager must ensure his/her team has the right tools and techniques in place to conduct effective remote calls. Offer training or guides to your team on how to best conduct themselves during a call. We have listed numerous tips that can help reps have better meetings in the infographic below that you can share with your team.
3. Digital Etiquette
When it comes to digital interactions, it’s hard to gauge the reaction of the person you are interacting with. Take emails for example; when a rep-triggered email is sent, you have no way of telling what the physician’s reaction was unless they reply with clear feedback, which is rarely the case.
To ensure that your team’s efforts are not inadvertently causing discomfort, share with them ground rules. Here are a few tips that can help improve your team’s digital etiquette:
- Choose an approved email template for the meeting invite that is short and to the point
- Always send an email reminder ahead of your meeting to reconfirm interest
- Select your slides and revisit your talking points prior to the call and assume there may be a delay in participants joining the meeting
- Always send a templated follow-up email after the meeting, that is reflective of the topics discussed to keep engagement high
- Don’t forget to allow adequate time for questions
- Send any information or resources requested by the physician as soon as possible
4. Inter-team Communication
During a significant change, much like during a crisis, clear and continuous communication is critical. These are new times and things are rapidly changing, which can be very confusing to commercial and medical teams, and that’s why managers must take the responsibility of keeping reps well informed. In addition, allowing the team to share their challenges and inquiries, and then addressing them should also be a priority.
Regularly scheduled team meetings can be a perfect venue for reps to voice their concerns with their new digital channels. In fact, starting the day with a team meeting where the team shares customer insights and the latest updates might prove to be very beneficial. You should also aim to dedicate time for members to share their thoughts and acknowledge accomplishments to maintain morale during this stressful period.
It’s also good to identify your “change management” champions. That is, members who are doing the best with the new technology, and let them lead the team toward making use of their new digital tools by letting them showcase some of the best results they have generated from early uptake.
5. Coordination with Marketing
We all know how annoying it is when we receive countless emails every day from the same brand, and the relief we feel when we unsubscribe knowing we will never again receive another email from that company. To prevent this from happening to your team, it is extremely important to coordinate all communications with customers.
A closer alignment between sales and marketing teams should be established to prevent the 2 departments from working in silos. Even with F2F detailing, it is still possible that multiple reps from the same company could show up at a physician’s office on the same day. For this reason, strong coordination between all team members should also be implemented to prevent the risk of overwhelming physicians with too many messages.
6. Hidden Objections
It’s important to tackle unexpressed concerns or objections your team might have that would impact their performance. After all, F2F visits were at the core of what medical reps do, and suddenly transitioning to digital interactions and remote engagements was not a choice they willingly made or are entirely comfortable with.
A common objection is that remote meetings take away from one-on-one interaction and might weaken the relationship between a rep and a physician. Another concern would be that physicians are not comfortable with this new technology or that the learning curve is an issue. In reality, it is quite the opposite. It is estimated that almost 70% of HCPs will be digital natives by the end of 2020, and 85% of physicians want access to reps through “virtual services” such as online meetings.2,3 Hence, it is important to address these concerns early on so that reps feel more confident when digitally engaging with their customers.
“Customer experience better be at the top of your list when it comes to priorities in your organization. Customer Experience is the new marketing.”Steve Cannon, CEO of Mercedes Benz, USA
7. Digital Content Strategy
Now that your team is moving to a remote engagement strategy, your content should be optimized for digital. For example, virtual meetings with HCPs tend to last longer than typical visits, which gives reps more time to effectively deliver their message. However, this also means that they must be provided with longer forms of content, which should be updated to an appropriate format, all while complying with rules and regulations that govern these interactions
Additionally, reps now have sufficient time to document all the details about their calls with physicians. This type of data can fuel insights that, when shared with the marketing team, can help create a truly personalized experience for physicians that life sciences organizations were unable to provide previously. Valuable information such as what digital channels physicians prefer, topics they find most important, or the challenges that doctors are currently facing can help personalize customer interactions and develop an overall better customer experience across the customer journey.
It is also vital to enhance the content creation process; making it possible to produce, approve, and distribute content as fast as possible. This requires revisiting the content review and creation process at your company. One way of speeding it up is by allowing different levels of reviews for different types of content in parallel. For example, allowing a faster or less restrictive review for reused or repurposed content, while keeping stricter procedures for new content would help expedite content creation. Likewise, looking at better tools to manage content creation is a must. Newer platforms, such as CXMs, have advanced features built into the platform to expedite the approval workflow, version control, and comment tracking to reduce the burden on review committees, and improve the speed of the release cycle to the field.
8. Embracing Digital
While the current pandemic has imposed multiple restrictions on interactions with HCPs, remote engagement offers unique opportunities. For example, while in-person group meetings held frequently with physicians are not possible, they can be substituted with digital group meetings or webinars if your meeting platform supports it, such as through a CXM.
Similarly, intelligent chatbots and self-service portals for physicians or patients are new ways of engaging with customers. Instilling a culture that helps all stakeholders embrace the digital tools at hand will help elevate your customer experience and distinguish your team from the competition. Challenge your team to come up with new solutions to old problems and reimagine customer engagement. A great example would be leveraging digital communication to connect with physicians who were hard or impossible to reach in their office because of visitation restrictions or non-flexible office hours.
9. Choosing the Right Technology
When was the last time you used fax to reach a business or to conduct a personal transaction? Probably not in a very long time. Yet, it is very common for physician offices to rely heavily on fax machines for day-to-day operations even to this day. HCPs have their own unique workflow that needs to be accounted for when planning for interactions. That’s why having the right tools at your team’s disposal is extremely valuable for your digital engagement efforts.
While current widespread tools offer a short-term option to conduct remote meetings, they are not optimized for the physician workflow. For example, most doctors do not manage their own appointment schedules or their office’s emails, so even if they agree to hold a meeting with a representative, how likely are they to open the invitation when the time comes? Not very likely, especially during normal working hours. This is where the importance of choosing the right technology provider becomes evident, one that knows how physicians work and provides solutions to show what successful remote engagement with HCPs looks like.
The imposed shift from F2F calls to remote meetings can become a blessing in disguise if leveraged correctly. Team leaders face the difficult task of adapting to the changing workflow and ensuring their teams are well equipped to handle the new circumstances. In that respect, having the right technology to usher in this transformation is pivotal. Platforms that enable compliant video calls with physicians, ubiquitous device functionality, omnichannel marketing, and streamlined content production and distribution capabilities can be the X factor in accomplishing the transition into digital engagement.
Talk to us to see how we could transform your customer engagement channels with our next-gen omnichannel CXM platform.
- Next Pharma. “How fast did you move your reps to digital?” April 2020. LinkedIn Web site. https://www.linkedin.com/posts/next-pharma-summit_free-webinar-online-will-medical-reps-activity-6655408595401797632-rHsX. Accessed 13 May 2020.
- Across Health; Harbour, B. E. (2018, March 1). Across Health Web site. https://www.across.health/blog-article/how-to-help-hcps-swim-in-an-ever-faster-current. Accessed 13 May, 2020.
- Information Week; Terry, K. (n.d.). Information Week Web site. https://www.informationweek.com/healthcare/mobile-and-wireless/doctors-prefer-online-drug-info-to-rep-visits/d/d-id/1112924. Accessed 13 May 2020.