By Richard Schwartz, Life Sciences Industry CX Practice Lead, Medallia

Over the past nine months of the year, I have attended and contributed to a dozen industry events focused on the evolving customer experiences with Pharma.

I hear the notion that people do not know what they want until we show it to them, and the opposite that we do not know what people want until we listen to them.

In customer engagement, rising and falling tides are inevitable forces we see. They can be good (raising all boats) or ominous (receding and revealing leftover muck), but to be sure – they are the product of gravitational pulls, and they are happening.

Somewhere between the high and the low tides is the reality and the promise of understanding needs and reactions revealed within seamless engagements.

Undercurrents are movements beneath the visible surface, flowing in an opposite direction from the currents above.

Somewhere beneath the surface are undercurrents. They are not binary—bad or good—we do not see them, but when we are immersed—we feel them.

The Changing Tides

(Rising) 1010101010 / XOXOXOXOX

The companies that are leading in this post-digital era are those who never lost site the 1s and 0s were just new and better ways to enhance Xs and Os. That is Customer trust, love, and admiration potential byproducts of the efficiency and ubiquity of digital.

Great digital is just great engagement and care born from a compassionate intent to understand and help people fighting and managing disease. It is beautiful when it is invisible and empathetically woven into the on and offline life stream at the speed of need. It is an extension and alignment of experiences had and desired.

(Receding) Speaking Experience

We are lacking a unified definition of customer and employee (AKA human) experience and how we should treasure and unwrap the gift of the voice of the customer (VoC) in the life sciences industry. Without it, the whole movement of omnichannel takes on a feeling of more powerful push messaging.

Customer Experience is not omnichannel. It is not omnichannel any more than a great dining experience is the collision of a Yelp review, reservation phone call, restaurant website, enticing photos on Insta, driving directions on your smartphone, or the QR code on the table.

These channels, when connected, are a part of the experience enablement, but they are not the experience nor are they the understanding and optimization of it without VoC heard and acted upon.

Omnichannel discussion rarely involves the identification and resolution of issues.

I feel I may take some heat on this one, and I welcome it.

“I don’t want to die without any scars.” – Fight Club

I have seen the pundits and the well-intentioned stop just short of VoCinforming and validating omnichannel activities. In fact, my colleague with a gift for insights and brevity, Mike Debnar, recently shared guidance for retailers in the post-omnichannel era. His piece focused on what to do when omnichannel is here, present, and activated. It provokes the question, “does connectivity matter without experience optimization driven by customer feedback?”

Our intent must be the harmonization of signals – letting customers and colleagues know they are heard and valued.

According to my other colleague, Be Customer Led Host, Bill Staikos, VoC is a case for change, “quantifying for leaders how they will make or lose money, or how they can be more efficient, by making the requisite changes their customers are asking for.”

This is about people in need and, make no mistake, it is about business. When we can understand how and where people need support and resolve shortcomings we may have tighter agency over if they do better, and if we do better.

(Receding) Your Words Become Your Actions

I encourage people to mind their language. When omnichannel enters the room, there is often a host of statements about ‘customers getting Our messages consistently, opening Our emails in Our CRM stream, and the dreaded being in Our journey.

That language leans toward a focus on separating a person from a dollar. Understanding Their journey, how They want and feel about information and brand and the enveloping experience will drive that sales and another one.

That is the Fred Reichheld and Bain Net Promoter System® in action.

(Rising) All Eyes on KPIs and ROIs

Before our investments in staff, tech, time, and organizational change begin to pay dividends – newer Cx efforts delivered via omnichannel excellence must constantly focus on KPIs. I am talking about Keeping People Interested, Intrigued, and Involved, and that requires direct links to business growth, and business efficiency along with the shifting sentiment of customers. Revenue can move decimal points and customer stories can move our hearts—both are Intriguing.

These milestones enhance the organizational understanding of ROI. I am talking about – the Risk Of Ignoring, of course. More organizations are getting their executives involved from the onset and throughout experience efforts.

Visibility into fluid channel experiences and real-time journey orchestration helps leaders understand this is not just better push marketing.

(Rising) Tie Breakers: Pharma’s Experience Era 2.0

In business, it has long been true, accepted, and valid to have profits break ties in decisions for the actions we will take – or not. It has worked. Knowing where and how money is made is a solid foundation on which to base next moves for growth. I do not advocate that we stop this. Profits Break Ties.

I do encourage a lens on another means of breaking ties against which we must also measure the value of profit-based decisions—your customer. When customers break ties (2.0), decisions on product, marketing, resources, services, research, and supply all come from the most important person in the equation—the one who can repurchase, refill, and recommend.

The Undercurrents

From Battle Ground to Common Ground

We will compete with one another on Cx and Ex. When science is on the side of competitive brands, the one who makes the experience to access, advocate and adhere easier, more empathetic, and more effective (Forrester’s 3Es) wins.

But the strongest undercurrent running through each industry event I have attended is the common ground. The openness to share, outright invitations to lock arms, and put a stake in the ground that we will all be better and help each other is happening.

I think Genentech’s Laurie Meyers says it best when she shares, “One of us can’t be good at optimizing customer experiences. We share customers. We all have to be better.”

This one will rise to the surface if we immerse, feel, and accept it!


Trust and Capital-T Truth

I am seeing trust as an undercurrent because the pull is strong, but it is still just beneath the surface. I was asked recently if I believed trust was anything more than a soft measure. My view then as it is now . . . try doing business without it.

The common ground is rising to the top because we all have to focus on the experiences customers have with all of healthcare. The T-Truth is when confronted with an illness, we all want the best experiences on our path to healing and being healed.

The capital-T Truth is about life BEFORE death – David Foster Wallace

The red thread running through a leading Pharma Cx gathering of leaders this month in Zurich was about industry collaboration, knowledge sharing, and cross-company consortiums to advance the experiences we provide in the interest of better care and more trusting relationships. Hearing it again and again restores faith.

Disaster = Faster

“May you live in interesting times” may seem to be a blessing of sorts, but the origins are believed to have been a curse. Well, between a pandemic, a war, famine, and some violent natural disasters—the past few years have been profound.

Through it all, we saw incredible innovations, the broken shackles of ‘how things have always been done,’ and approaches to support healthcare professionals and the people they serve, from the discovery of vaccines to the realization that telecare is really just care. Roche found ways to get patients in war-torn Ukraine essential therapies that were no longer within reach through usual means. That effort was all sparked by a powerful question, “where are our patients?”

What we take away from this when the masks come off, peace wins, and the storms pass is the notion that now that we know we can, we are out of excuses for why we don’t.

Now that we know we can, we are out of excuses for why we don’t.

If disaster helps us move faster and better, there should be no turning back because of habit. But, do we need to wait for disasters to turn VoC, direct and passive, into essential actions and change?


Waves of Change: Moving Minds & Mountains

When we listen to customers—directly and passively—and we immerse in that feedback and subsequent resolutions as fellow humans, we experience Grinch-like transformations. The human on the receiving or prescribing side of our therapy has a need, sometimes dire.

Experiences understood and adapted across channels of choice provide an opportunity to have the constant pulses of a million customers coursing through our organizations and literally become the lifeblood they run on. Dramatic? Hyperbolic? I don’t think so. This is the mental musculature needed to navigate the rough seas of healthcare.

I’ve had the gift of spending my career in close proximity to the industry’s end customers (patients and clinicians) and have always run on feedback. Now, I see hundreds of pieces of feedback a day and the resolutions around problems inside the dashboards of our many life sciences customers. The calls for help are being met with the relentless resolution to restore faith in what we stand for as an industry.

I believe Experience is medicinal. I believe compassion and trust are hard measures that provide advantages to people in the human experiences of healthcare, to therapeutic solutions, and to the positive outcomes intended.

I look forward to the upcoming conferences, gatherings, and evidence of Life Sciences Experience Era 2.0.

Be Well, Do Good / Rich