Knowing what your customer really wants and whether you are meeting those needs are two fundamental blocks that underpin everything that we do in medical information or medical affairs. This session addressed the issue from the standpoint of both healthcare professionals and patients. It was all about VOC – the Voice Of the Customer, a recurrent theme for the conference.

Richard Shapiro, President, The Center for Client Retention, gave a great talk on feedback from customers and methodologies that companies could implement. Richard brought over 20 years of wisdom and experience, coupled to knowledge of different industry sectors to the audience. His research was based on data from 8 different customer contact centers. Each year the healthcare professionals and patient satisfactions scores have been slowly increasing as companies recognise the important of meeting needs. He believes that it is getting harder to exceed service expectations, as companies improve. Sometimes the simplest of actions can make a big difference – turning the answer “I’m sorry I can’t help you” to a patient into “The way I can best help you is to encourage you to talk about your situation with your doctor…..”. Patients are usually dissatisfied with MI services if they are not listened too or don’t receive something they thought they were going to get (e.g. letter, PIL etc)

The most important value measurement that you can collect is what happened after the call or you sent out a letter. Using IVR (interactive voice response) telephony, you can automate your system to collect qualitative customer feedback. Feedback can be collected through IVR, reply paid cards, phone or web based surveys and structured interviews. Each have their place and value. One tip to keep a customer on the phone to get feedback at the end of the call – get them to agree first, before you’ve answered their question. Reduces the selection bias too. Benchmarking is important both within pharma and versus other sectors. The 64 million dollar question is “would you recommend this service, based on your interaction, to your friends?” The results give you a Net Promoter Score (NPS), a key measure. Customer delight is achievable – predominantly by giving out useful information over and above what was needed.

Want to know more? Check out “Good to Great” by Jim Collins or look through the website

Two industry speakers then gave us their stories about identifying and meeting customer needs. Vince Kochert, The Lilly Answers Center, talked about working with the internal organisation. Contact centers bring enormous value to the company as they are the only part that speaks directly to the patient as a neutral voice between the brand, HPC and pharmacist. Contact staff see all aspects of the product (materials, websites, literature etc) so can identify where there are gaps in meeting customer needs. So how do you gain ground with your internal colleagues? Find common ground, explain those gaps, talk about your business goals and identify who would value VOC data and link it to their business goals. Help solve your business partners problems and thus sell your service value!

Lee Houser, Ortho-Mc Neil Janssen, explained processes put into place to take VOC data to synthesize information and then knowledge of customer needs and wants. She gave us a new word for our role – we are an infomediary (like intermediary) between the doctor or healthcare professionals and the patient.

This informative and thoughtful session gave great insight into how we can more effectively measure customer satisfaction and bring our knowledge of their needs and wants into our companies to help make better decisions making and brand development.