Why pharma needs to start closing the Customer Experience loop

Friday 5th of May 2023

To many pharma companies, the channel and content preferences of HCPs are still one big mystery. There is a huge gap between what pharma thinks are relevant sources of information for HCPs and what their channel preferences actually are.

A recent study showed that 82% of HCPs consider global independent medical websites as a critical to very important source for scientific information, whereas the number drops to 40% for sales reps. Yet, pharma companies rate it 46% and 94%, respectively, in terms of importance1.

This doesn’t mean the field force is ancient history, but merely reinforces what was already predicted: the pandemic has caused an unseen digital acceleration that has drastically increased the need for customer centricity and top-notch Customer Experience (CX). Although Customer Experience is high on the agenda for most pharma companies, the road to an end-to-end CX proves to be long and challenging. Why is that?

Closing the loop

The rule of thumb when it comes to CX, is that customers want their experience to be frictionless, personalized and memorable. However, when looking at the digital journey of an HCP, friction is all they get. The reality is that numerous pharma companies are trying to get their e-mail opt-in, it’s not always clear what can be found on pharma login websites, social media aren’t used a lot due to the strict regulations, … and the list goes on.

If pharma companies want to move to the next level of CX they need to start tying loose ends in their journeys and close the Customer Experience loop. Meaning that investments in CX need to happen on all channels and throughout the whole customer journey. Having a revolutionary eLearning tool, but failing to guide your HCP there and provide a personalized follow-up, is just another drop in the ocean.

But where to start?

At the basis lies a solid content strategy on the one hand and a smooth application of marketing automation on the other. We often observe at our clients that content is created in silos, data isn’t connected across channels and no automation tools are used to gather customer insights (or they are not effectively implemented). If pharma companies would invest in developing pull content (in close collaboration with HCPs) and use marketing automation to discover channel and content preferences, this will lead to a more optimal Customer Experience.


Steal with pride

At Pharma Collective, we strongly believe in borrowing expertise and best practices from other industries that are in the forefront of digital innovation. Let’s not forget that an HCP is a person – just like every other customer – with a set of beliefs, emotions and preferences that guide their behaviour. So why wouldn’t the same tactics from other industries work for pharma?

Take banking companies for example, who constantly innovate to make the “payment journey” as frictionless possible. They partner-up with other apps like itsme and Payconiq so that paying easily becomes something you can do anywhere, anytime. Or look at how a big player like Nike succeeds in providing a digital ecosystem that offers a better experience that outperforms the one from alternative platforms where their products are also offered.

Even though other industries differ in type of customers and regulations, they can inspire your search in taking away friction and creating memorable, personalized campaigns.


“At the end, we still have a product to sell”

This is one of the biggest pitfalls. Although the mindset of pharma is shifting towards customer centricity, we still frequently observe the tendency to push the product to the HCP instead of pulling them in. We get the same questions at most of our clients: “How will disease awareness and unbranded content make HCPs prescribe our product?”. The very basis of that question is wrong because it neglects that an HCP doesn’t go from acknowledging an unmet need to prescribing a product overnight.

When asked to which type of content they need more or better access to, 72% of HCPs rate disease and diagnostic information as a high priority, whereas that number drops to 48% when it comes to product and prescribing information1. Thus, pharma companies need to stop banging on HCPs doors – together with 10 others – but work towards being invited in.


Entrepreneurial mindset 

What we observe that hampers (digital) innovation is the lack of internal capacity. 1/3 pharma companies believe they are poorly resourced for digital engagement but only 40% believe it should be outsourced1. In one of our previous articles about organizational design in pharma, we pointed out the importance of hiring digital and cross-industry profiles within your marketing team in order to boost HCP engagement.

However, aside from hiring the right (digital) profiles, pharma needs to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset when it comes to their partnerships. The more they step away from the siloed content & channel approach towards co-creation with HCPs and medical platforms, the more their Customer Experience will level-up.

This doesn’t mean that owned platforms have become irrelevant. Rather, partnerships with independent platforms and service providers should become equally part of the HCP engagement strategy.


Keep exploring

We want to end with one more piece of advice: don’t stop exploring. The experimenting mindset is crucial in creating a Customer Experience that is not only powerful, but also memorable!

Need for suggestions? Try other channels like WhatsApp, Twitter and Clubhouse, explore the waters of influencer marketing, set up a growth marketing project, implement agile working, … The possibilities are endless and there should be no reservations in making mistakes. Fail fast, learn quick.

We can imagine that you might think, this all sounds nice but how to start or implement this in my company? At Pharma Collective, we have tackled the above challenges already at numerous pharma companies with some very interesting results! If you are curious to learn more, drop me a message!




  1. EPG Health – The Gaps Between HCP Demand and Pharma Supply of Medical Information
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