Chris Ross, Pf Editor, explains why pharma companies need to stop focusing on products and start thinking about their customers.
It seems everybody these days is talking about ‘customer-centricity.’ As the saying goes, if you’re not thinking about the customer, you’re not thinking. Marketing guru Philip Kotler goes further, saying that companies need to stop focusing on their products and start focusing on their customers instead. “Products come and go,” he says. “A company’s challenge is to hold on to its customers longer than it holds onto its products. It needs to watch the market life cycle and the customer life cycle far more than the product life cycle.”
The recent NICE conference made a powerful case for customer-centricity in healthcare – and the need for the NHS and life sciences industry to work together more effectively to improve patient health. Patrick Valance, Senior VP, Medicines Development, GSK, said the industry must address the gap between discovery and invention, and to develop medicines in areas of unmet need. To achieve this, companies must develop a better understanding of their customer-base and work more closely with them, not only to identify patients’ and customers’ needs, but also to deliver solutions that help meet them.
Field-based pharma executives – from both sales and marketing – can play an invaluable role in improving companies’ customer insights. The sales force provides the industry with its biggest collective reach into the marketplace – but it still needs to do more to maximise the benefits of such exposure. For sales professionals, the key is to ask the right questions, capture the essence of the answers and, crucially, share this vital information with colleagues right across the organisation – in medical, marketing and sales departments.
This approach is the definition of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – and tools to support this information exchange have been in place for many years. But fulfilling the promise of CRM is largely dependent upon the willingness of customer-facing professionals to use the technology. A 2007 UK survey found that the biggest challenge for 80% of senior executives was getting sales people to engage with the CRM systems they had installed. Commentators say that issues around adoption may rest with the instinct of the sales person – and that many don’t like sharing information.
But in the era of customer-centricity, sharing is not an option, it’s a necessity. Remember the cliché: if you’re not thinking about the customer, you’re not thinking. Are you thinking hard enough?
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