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Become customer-centric by knowing who your customer is
There are different strategies for becoming customer-centric depending on whom your product benefits most. Although sometimes the interests of different stakeholders can be aligned, market prioritization remains important.
In the discovery and development of any new medicine you always have to keep in mind what level of customer prioritization would be most suitable. This means being aware of what your product’s contribution to the market is: are you creating a drug that will bring a fundamental change to the healthcare system itself, or are you rolling out a treatment that will make a difference to the patient’s way of life? Depending on the answer, you need to develop a thorough understanding of your priority customer, build partnerships with other stakeholders, and ensure that you’re a trusted partner to all parties involved.
Let’s take HIV as an example. If you are launching a new HIV drug that will allow patients to take one pill a day, it directly benefits the patient, but not necessarily the system, meaning the patient becomes your priority customer. On the other hand, if you’re bringing to market a novel antipsychotic with a depot delivery system, meaning the patient only needs to take it once every three months, it benefits the system directly by increasing compliance and reducing the cost of treatment, making the healthcare professionals your primary target.
“Strategies for becoming customer-centric differ per stakeholder and their requirements,” said Stephen Whitehead, Chief Executive of the Association of British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI), who spoke to us ahead of his presentation at Value Added Services. “If you’re talking about the system having to administer the medicine once every three months, which leads to significant savings, the real benefit is to the system and the healthcare professional. Although the patient is a member of that decision, he or she is not the primary target,” he added.
Build a network of partnerships
Overall, a customer-centric approach means that the value of a drug is communicated to all stakeholders, which includes the value-assessment bodies, e.g. NICE. Unlike other industries, pharma goes through a lot of assessment processes, which means that by the end its value proposition might be very different from what it was originally because institutions like NICE might determine where they want a product to fit in a portfolio of products. This means you have to work in partnership with all the stakeholders.
“To build a customer-centric model, you need to build a network of partnerships. Because the patient is not the paying customer and is not the key determining factor in what prescription will be given, the range of stakeholders that needs to be involved in a decision about how a product is positioned is wide, which might alter the company’s views on where the product fits", Whitehead explained.
Customer-centricity requires trust
Designing an effective strategy is only one piece of a complex puzzle. To become truly customer-centric, pharma must overcome its negative image amongst its customers, and learn to become trustworthy, which is a big challenge.
“Trust is delivered through transparency", Whitehead asserted. “We must be transparent in data and in our relationships with healthcare professionals. Since 2008, clinical trial data must be disclosed under the ABPI code of practice in the UK, and we’ve also announced that we’re going to be disclosing individual payments to healthcare professionals from 2016 in the UK,” he elaborated.
Despite their bid for transparency, the ABPI didn’t sign All Trials, an initiative launched by Ben Goldacre campaigning for trials to be registered and published. “Since 2008 our code of practice stipulates that trials need to be disclosed. We currently have a mid-90% compliance with that, and companies found in breach will be dealt with under the code of practice. In addition to that, as of 2015 the EMA will require disclosure",Whitehead explained, recognizing, nevertheless, that All Trials “has done good work in raising awareness and attaching significance” to the issue.
There are no longer trips to the Caribbean, they haven’t existed for years, and I think there is a popular perception that they’re still happening. If it turns out that people don’t like it when doctors receive payments for giving lectures, or taking part in clinical trials, then society will make that decision and we will respond accordingly".
Regarding payment disclosure to the healthcare professionals, the ABPI will require declaration of payments to individually named physicians from 2016. The Association declared that “transparency of financial relationships between industry and healthcare professionals is an important priority.” Under the Code of Practice, fees for consultancy services and sponsorship to attend third-party medical education meetings must be declared. In addition to that, the ABPI is leading on the development of a searchable, centrally-hosted register for payments from industry to individual healthcare professionals in 2016. Is that enough?
“It will be for society to judge. My view is: make it transparent! There are no longer trips to the Caribbean, they haven’t existed for years, and I think there is a popular perception that they’re still happening. If it turns out that people don’t like it when doctors receive payments for giving lectures, or taking part in clinical trials, then society will make that decision and we will respond accordingly. But let’s get the data out first. To be trustworthy, you have to be transparent,” Whitehead summed up.
Building a customer-centric model requires market prioritization, stakeholder partnership, and transparency. Those three aspects must work in synch to create an environment in which customer-centricity is possible.
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