The IT Factor
The IT Factor:
how honest is your ETMS reporting?
By Chris Ross, Editor, Pharmaceutical Field
Virtually all modern-day representatives have access to an ETMS. Yet despite its almost total uptake across the industry, honest and accurate use of it among sales professionals remains the exception rather than the rule. As Pf’s 2005–6 survey shows, you can take a horse to water, but you cannot make IT sink in.
THIS YEAR’S Pf Company Perception, Motivation and Satisfaction Survey, conducted independently by the Royal Statistical Society, proved conclusively that pharma is embedded in the e-age. While electronic territory management systems (ETMS) have been in existence for well over a decade, it is perhaps only in the last few years that they have become a major part of the representative’s toolkit, with the paper-based operations of some of the more traditional companies almost totally extinct. The Pf study showed that 95% of survey respondents had access to an ETMS of some description, whether laptop, PDA or desktop. However, it would appear that the full benefits of the technology are yet to be realised by representatives. Large numbers seemingly view ETMS as Big Brother-like surveillance designed simply to monitor their performances. Despite being equipped with such valuable tools, usage levels among the field force remains lower than the industry’s ROI gurus would like. Perhaps even more worrying is the fact that fewer than half of the survey’s respondents claim to report their findings accurately 100% of the time. Only 45% of the sample claimed to be totally honest in four major areas where they are called upon to report their visits: the number of customers seen face to face, the number of customers sold to at meetings, the number of products sold and the delivery of key messages for every product sold. A quarter of respondents the admitted that they ‘sometimes’ or, worse still, ‘never’ provided honest reports of their visits.
Table 1 – Accuracy of reporting
Respondents were asked to indicate how accurately they recorded information in four key parameters. Were they always, mostly, sometimes or never accurate?
The repercussions for sales force metrics are significant: how can current sales force strategies be measured and improved if the information gathered and inputted in the field cannot consistently be trusted as accurate?
Likewise, usage among representatives remains sporadic. Respondents were asked to reveal how frequently they used ETMS to file a post-call report, and also how often they set appropriate pre-call objectives on ETMS. Across the board, only 45% of respondents said that they always filed post-call reports, while 13% admitted that they never bothered. In the area of pre-call objective setting, the figures were even worse: only 26% always set their objectives on ETMS, only a marginally higher figure than the 20% who said they never did.
Table 2 – Frequency of reporting
Respondents were asked how often they filed appropriate post-call reports and set pre-call objectives on ETMS.The IT girls
As in previous years, fractionally more women completed the survey than their male counterparts (53% vs. 47%). However, this relative willingness to provide information is not wholly reflected when it comes to filing call reports. Survey analysis reveals that while women are marginally more honest in the accuracy of their reporting, there is no discernable difference between men and women in their overall usage of ETMS.Table 3 – The Battle of the Sexes (part i): Reporting accuracy
Table 4 – The Battle of the Sexes (part ii): Frequency of reporting
Midlife crisis? Another interesting comparison can be made between the use of ETMS among older, more experienced representatives and younger users. The most commonly represented age band in the survey was, as in all previous Pf studies, the 25–34 band. Analysis of the ETMS behaviour of those beneath the age of 34 and those over the age of 45 actually dispels the myth that the younger generation is more accepting of technology. Though still low, usage in these two groups is largely very similar in the area of pre-call objective setting on ETMS. The under-34s appear more willing to submit post-call reports, though the figure of 51% who always file reports is hardly a ringing endorsement for the age group.
In terms of honesty, the younger group holds a clear edge over its more experienced peers in one of the key parameters: 69% of the under-34s claim that they always accurately report the number of face-to-face visits they have, which is well above the survey average (50%). With 57% of the over- 45s also stating that they always report face-to-face customers accurately, it is clear that the mid-range age band of 35–44 are underperforming in this area. Critically, however, performance in the other three parameters remains disappointing across all age bands.
Table 5 – The Generation Game (part i): Accuracy of reporting
Table 6 – The Generation Game (part ii): Frequency of reporting
The industry has, over many years, earned a reputation for being a late adopter of technology. While this may be the case, the Pf survey clearly shows that ETMS or similar systems are a core part of representatives’ weaponry. However, the study also demonstrates that there is still some way to go before medical professionals see beyond simple ‘monitoring’ and recognise the true value of the technologies at their disposal. As articles elsewhere in this issue show, CRM and ETMS can make a significant and positive difference to a customer call. Success depends on two IT factors: greater use of the technologies available and more honest call reporting. IT could make the difference between success and failure.