Sometimes, reporting on the UK pharmaceutical industry feels a bit like Bill Murray’s Groundhog Day. In the late 1990s, when I edited my first title for UK pharma, all the talk was of the move from GP Fundholding and the imminent introduction of Primary Care Groups.
By 2000, New Labour’s NHS Plan promised a revolution in healthcare built around delivering improvements in ‘partnership, performance, patient care and prevention’. The politicians were about to ‘modernise the health service’.
Fast forward almost 12 years and we’re still being read the same script; new politicians, the same old lines. Four Ps – partnership, prevention, productivity and patient care – continue to dominate airtime, only this time, of course, it will be different.
Different? Some hope. This is Groundhog Day. So how is the UK pharmaceutical industry responding to change? Its customer-base, meticulously redrawn through 10 years of implementing the NHS plan, is yet again being reshaped. PCTs are on the way out. CCGs and Clinical Senates are on the way in. Keeping track of decision-makers and influencers is critical. Getting in front of them in the right volume, at the right time and with the right message is life and death.
The industry is currently pinning its hopes on Key Account Management (KAM), supported by a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) philosophy that promises to enable the field force to have a more detailed understanding of individual customer needs across a diverse and complex landscape.
The tools to support the CRM approach are impressive, established and evolving in time with the modern technological advancement. They also provide huge value to medical sales professionals, and the ability to enhance customer interactions.
But, as ever, this is Groundhog Day. Twelve months ago, Pf’s annual survey into field force attitudes revealed an apathy amongst some sales professionals towards the use of CRM. A year later and it appears that, despite its many advantages, the value message for CRM is still not being heard by all of those who can undoubtedly benefit from it.
This year, 90% of Pf’s survey respondents have access to a CRM system – but only 43% of these find time to use it in the field, and more than a fifth admit that they fail to record post-call reports accurately.
In a fast-moving, dynamic marketplace, generating, sharing and maximising real customer insight is one of the best ways for sales professionals to achieve competitive advantage. CRM tools provide the perfect mechanism for this. Only the foolish would pass up the opportunity.
I feel like I am repeating myself. But then again, this is healthcare Groundhog Day. Next month: more NHS reform.