In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the importance of getting the right medicines and therapies into the hands of patients has never been clearer. As pharmaceutical leaders, we are also facing a rapidly evolving commercial landscape. The path forward will be defined by innovative strategies and technologies to navigate product, customer, and pandemic-driven disruptions across the industry.

On the product side we feel pressure from the introduction of new products, increased competition, or loss of exclusivity. We are also witnessing the consolidation of customer types—from providers to payers and complex customers—all of whom have expanding data needs. Not to mention the ever-growing role of the patient in managing their own care. Lastly, pandemic-driven disruptions such as reduced patient visits to the doctor and consolidation of providers have rippled across the industry, forever altering how we approach our customers.

We will continue to see evolution and disruption on these fronts and must strengthen our commercial practices to address these changes. To meet our customers where they are and deliver maximum value, data and technology-enabled engagement models must be central to our approach. I recommend focusing on three areas that will accelerate a strategic approach to successful customer engagements.

Carefully Orchestrate Customer Engagement

Moving from a multichannel to a true omnichannel model requires new tools and skills to help orchestrate, and improve, the customer experience. With up to 80 percent of the customer journey taking place online, this technology play is imperative for pharmaceutical companies.

By using data analytics and machine learning, we can up level up our customer engagement strategies and meet our audiences where they are online with effective, high-impact messages through targeted channels. With more stakeholders involved in decision making and a boarder set of channels available, the coordination of touch points across channels and functions becomes increasingly important.

Having a tool, or set of tools, to help orchestrate customer engagement breaks down silos between teams that touch the same customer—from account managers to sales representatives to marketing teams—and facilitates a deeper understanding of customer preferences.

Engagement tools are the technology play, but at Ferring we focused on our engagement strategies as the starting point on this journey. We reviewed customer insights, created specific goals for each customer type and aligned on channels to engage these customers. Next, we assessed and addressed skill gaps to build training programs for our commercial teams to adapt to the new world.

Deliver a Strong Customer Value Story

Customer values continue to be redefined by each type of customer, including patients, providers, and payers. The increasing role of the patient in their care is pushing manufacturers to move beyond providing patient education to offering patient solutions. Through strategies such as the alignment of brand strategy and customer strategy, access to hospital de-identified patient data, remote monitoring or diagnosis and patient support programs, pharmaceutical companies can remain agile and provide a strong value proposition across customer sets.

One example is the shift in the last decade from hospitals following policies stating that sharing de-identified data was unethical, to now realizing the potential of this data to better understand disease progression, treatment efficacy and complications. There is a new focus on sharing data and targeting drug discovery to improve future care.

Another example of delivering added value are programs such as our Fertility House Calls, a virtual platform that allows patients to search, select and request an appointment with a fertility specialist at an established clinic in their area. Individuals and couples are often hesitant to make the first visit to a fertility clinic due to a variety of factors including the belief that treatment is not needed, or they are not “ready,” along with a mix of emotional and physical fears, anxiety or financial barriers. This virtual resource helps make the first step on the fertility journey a little easier.

Pursue actionable insights with artificial intelligence and machine learning

Artificial intelligence (AI) is the backbone to deploying true omnichannel customer experiences. By offering a 360-degree view of customers, machine learning can inform KOL engagement, drive modeling for regional approaches and ultimately provide actionable insights for pharmaceutical companies to fold into their commercial models.

However, AI integration is not a one-size-fits-all approach. The efficacy of the technology, and how exactly it can serve life sciences commercial teams, will differ between companies. So, the first step we must take is to understand AI and the value it can bring to our specific organizations. Then, we will be well positioned to identify the exact problem we are looking for AI to solve so we begin the process of implementing it into our operations.

So, where to start?

It’s not too late to begin. Assess where you are, inventory the data you can use now and map out what skills you have in-house or will need to outsource for the future. The leaders don’t know it all, but they have a continuous improvement mindset. So, test, learn, adjust, and scale what works.