Pfizer's Customer Approach: Change and Deliver
“Our primary focus is the on-going evolution of the delivery of our customer-facing operating model, increasing our relevance with our customers in the most effective and efficient manner possible,” says Matt Portch, VP Commercial Model Innovation at Pfizer.
The traditional model of monolithic delivery practices employed by the pharmaceutical industry is being rapidly replaced by tailored delivery models designed to improve quality and decrease cost. As a result of this shift, the skills, knowledge, and behaviors that previously served commercial professionals in the market will not necessarily ensure the future success of their respective firms. Because the healthcare market is changing so dramatically, the key component is to stay on top of those changes with regular monitoring and analysis, says Portch.
“One of the keys we’ve learned is that the pharmaceutical industry in general has moved from a ‘one size fits all’ model – which previously worked because there wasn’t such a heightened variation of needs in the marketplace,” he says, “Now we ensure that we analyze our marketplace at least twice a year, employing strategic customer targeting and segmentation.”
Because resources are much leaner than they ever have been, this groundwork is essential for many Pharma companies battling in the competitive market. Deploying the wrong model in the wrong place at the wrong time could spell disaster for the firm’s commercial team – and the company’s P&L. In order to ensure placement and release at peak time therefore, Portch maintains that the launch is customized and tailored to the value proposition rather than pharmaceutical product itself. “The launches of different services and value propositions are the main priority. Essentially, we target where the customer is in their trek towards healthcare reform,” he says.
Taking ‘customer’ to embody any purchaser from individual physician right up to a large health systems, the scale and needs of Pfizer’s target audience will naturally vary considerably. In that sense, a customer that is part of a very advanced market will require a much more sophisticated and progressive solution than a relatively smaller, traditional client. The product itself won’t change but the value proposition and how it meets the customer’s needs is adjusted towards where they stand in the market, explains Portch. “Some of our more innovative customers actually use precise support tools to drive the provider behaviors. In that scenario, we then know that they are very focused on quality outcomes and total costs of care so we make sure that the value proposition around that particular product includes some relevant, and compliant, economic messaging as part of the solution.”
“We must ask two things of ourselves: are we flexible enough to adapt that model? And perhaps more importantly, do we actually have the right people and capabilities in place in that market to deliver that different need?”
So while the marketplace needs continue to evolve so too must the delivery model – and flexibility is fast becoming a main requirement as part of the commercial team’s new skillset. Having the right people in place with the appropriate capabilities to adapt to and effectively deliver a new model whenever necessary is an area that is receiving much focus, reveals Portch. “In some of our marketplaces, demand calls for a more business to business (B2B) model versus a representative/ prescriber model so we must ask two things of ourselves: are we flexible enough to adapt that model? And perhaps more importantly, do we actually have the right people and capabilities in place in that market to deliver that different need?”
Moving from a model based on general representative against individual prescriber to a B2B practice where boardroom level negotiation may often be required, someone that can deliver better skills and bring more of an account management capability to the table is highly sought, according to Portch. “We have actually created a different role expectation, and we are now actively training people up to meet and fulfill those roles to meet the growing demands of the industry.”
As mentioned above, part of the initial capability required of this new improved commercial team is the ability to diagnose the marketplace through customer segmentation and prioritization. Determining who the right customers to call on with this new capability is also a major part of the risk mitigation strategy of the company, says Portch. “You don’t want to move away from your core capability before it is necessary so what’s carried out is a precise targeting of customers to determine who needs something different and what that different need is.”
Customer is key
“We want to learn with our customers rather than forcing things at them”
Another changing dynamic is the evolution of the relationships between the commercial teams and the physicians and health executives that they are involved with. They must accommodate new practices, protocols, and decision-making processes so they can position themselves to bring continuous value, regardless of which healthcare delivery model they’re working with. Portch reports that his team are currently looking at a number of different avenues in furthering and improving communication with Pfizer’s customers. “The first thing that we use is the quantitative approach – looking at our performance and determining if our message and strategy are actually resonating with the customer,” he says.
“More importantly, however, is having an open dialogue with the customers either directly or through third party customer surveys in order to discern if we are meeting customer needs in a more meaningful way than we were previously.”
In addition to using a combination of quantitative and qualitative feedback, Portch agrees with the pilot approach – if one customer of forty with a similar need (determined by accurate segmentation) reports product and value proposition success, it can be rolled out on a larger scale. Key performance indicators (KPIs) are also leaned on by the team to ensure the high target standards are met. But one fairly accurate representative of how well the team are performing can be gauged by tracking business collaborations on CRMs, according to Portch. “We want to learn with our customers rather than forcing things at them. If you’ve got two to four major collaborations going on with the customer, and they’re willing to partner with us on certain things and put some of their own resources in, we feel like we’re really hitting the mark before we even get to the performance indicators.”
In such a business union, a written document is signed by both healthcare provider and pharmaceutical firm that outlines, not only the goals of the partnership, but also the resources that each side will actually dedicate to the partnership. Such a partnership minimizes miscommunications and keeps expectations on track, according to Portch, but the ultimate goal, as always, involves delivering a better quality or cost-effective outcome for the patients. “It all eventually comes back to providing better patient care and that has to be the basis of all the different collaborations along the way. That’s the fundamental base of the philosophythat all of our work stems from,” he says.
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