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  • Writer's pictureKarsten Schmidt

Fundamentally dissecting omnichannel engagement effectiveness to improve customer experiences

A theme that I am hearing repetitively in recent conversations with people from my network is that the technology to enable omnichannel customer engagements is well advancing, but field forces are still not fully embracing the new technology yet. There is resistance to adapt omnichannel as field representatives still prefer face-to-face interactions, deeming them to be the most effective customer engagement channel. Hence, we have invited Neil Rees, Performance Insights Director at TPW, for an interview to shed some more light on this highly relevant topic. Neil has spent more than 20 years working in Market Research sector leading companies to conduct UK, European and Global research projects across a variety of therapy areas.

Karsten: Thanks for dedicating time to this interview, Neil. I would like to start off with the question as to whether you sympathise with field forces still rating f2f as their preferred channel for interacting with customers?

Neil: Thanks for inviting me to this interview Karsten, it’s a very relevant subject matter.

Sympathy? Definitely, and you can understand why they would rate face-to-face as their preferred channel. Face-to-face to contact is embedded in human nature, we are a social species. We utilise many non-verbal cues when engaging with others face-to-face, all of which is part of the salespersons armoury, irrelevant of industry. However, the impact of the pandemic has created a significant change in how people, especially Healthcare Professionals, want to engage. They’ve identified they do not need the same level of face-to-face contact with field teams they historically had, this has encouraged them to explore other channels to gather the information they are searching for, whether it’s virtually with a field team member, or through another channel that is more suitable to their needs based on preferences such as time, convenience and ease of access.

Karsten: What are ways for Life Sciences companies to develop a better understanding internally of underlying issues of their field forces with the adoption of omnichannel?

Neil: Organisations need to engage with their field forces to better understand how they are communicating and connecting with HCPs. This goes beyond the 1-2-1 contact, whether in-person or virtual, but actually generating a deeper understanding about their HCP communication needs and preferences, feeding that through to shape omnichannel activity. This knowledge can help drive a more targeted and personalised approach. We use our Performance Align tool to do this, it seeks to understand whether there is unified view across the organisation towards HCP engagement, and if not, highlight areas for development. Gathering the views of the field team is crucial, after all they are one of the key HCP touchpoints of the organisation, helping to generate insight on HCP engagement preferences for the content they want and by which channel. It’s important to gather field force insight about the HCPs they engage with to help shape a tailored, more personalised, omnichannel approach to the HCP.

Our Benchmark data, illustrated below focussing on the Digital Skills engagement parameter, demonstrates that more can be done from the field force perspective to better understand HCP digital preferences, scoring 3.45 (on a 5-point scale), considerably below the Engagement Index (EI) Performance Score (‘what good looks like’) of 3.87. Opening up the discussion between field team and HCP, will generate better insight and engagement from field teams towards adoption of omnichannel.

Benchmark data related to digital engagement parameters

Karsten: Which channels do you normally assess for your clients?

Neil: When we create our Omnichannel Tracker studies, we first seek to identify what are the channels HCPs are engaging with, whether that’s through an individual, a digital tool, a group meeting… this gives us a wider understanding of what the HCP finds useful. We then drill down into which channels and activities they have engaged with from the organisation. Once identified, we assess this against key criteria such as credibility, value and impact. This provides guidance on not only what channels are providing cut through to the target audience, but also value to them, whether that be generating awareness of a particular topic, through to seeking action for further contact with the organisation.

Karsten: How do you measure the channel impact with customers over time?

Neil: Traditionally the industry has taken a snapshot approach to measure the brand or field force impact over time, typically through studies such as ATU’s (Awareness, Tracking and Usage) or DFU’s (Detail Follow Up). However, the frequency, speed and volume of tools and activities that can now be developed and executed, providing the HCP with multiple touchpoints, means the organisation needs to have their ‘headlights on’ continuously. By taking a tracking approach, generating monthly insight, it provides us with an evolving longitudinal data set on which channels are getting cut through and what content is of value. As time progresses, needs change, tools change and touchpoints change. By monitoring this change, it allows the organisation to adapt to, and even guide, the needs of the HCP, creating a more personalised approach to meeting their information needs.

Karsten: What are ideal panel sizes of HCP when different specialty types are relevant?

Neil: It’s a good question, one we commonly get asked. There is no set number or formula to determine the ideal number. It depends on a number of factors, it’s good to have a robust sample size with consideration given to the universe of the target audience. It’s also useful to consider HCP segments or user personas that have been generated by the organisation to identify how channel & content works across the HCP target audience, identifying which types of activities need to be dialled up or dialled down, to which target sub-group.

Karsten: What is the best way to utilize the omnichannel tracker to drive behavioural and mindset change with field forces?

Neil: The changing communication dynamic from face-to-face to virtual and hybrid, aligned with the evolution of omnichannel approaches has created a greater need to understand where to direct investment in the communication paradigm. Speaking to the target of the communication, the HCP themselves, will determine how the communication activity is landing and what impact it is having. By triangulating outputs from Omnichannel Tracker with data from our organisational alignment tool, which gathers views of the field team - we can help to identify disconnects between organisational views and customer need. We can identify what support is required to help the field team leverage omnichannel tools to support their engagement with HCPs, and in turn develop a more personalised journey for the HCP and their contact journey with the organisation. This also supports field team involvement in the omnichannel activity design process, ensuring they understand their role is a key and how best to utilise assets created by head office.

Illustration: Triangulating internal omnichannel alignment and external tracking

Karsten: Thanks for sharing your valuable insights on this subject, Neil. This will certainly be interesting food for thought to our audience that is facing similar challenges.

In summary, we can say that the first step to deploy omnichannel customer engagements strategies successfully is to assess if there is a unified view in the organisation toward effective HCP engagement and if this is not the case, highlight areas for development. The internal view needs to be combined with the external one of customers whose detailed feedback gets tracked in terms of how well different channels are performing against key parameters such as value, preference, clarity and engagement effectiveness. Triangulating internal and external data helps to shape and adjust the right customer engagement approach.

Which other elements do you consider to be essential for ensuring effective omnichannel customer engagements? Please feel free to comment below. If you find this article interesting, please share it.

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Xeleratio Consulting Ltd.

We help Life Sciences executives improve sales performance with innovative best-in-class Business Excellence tools and methodologies . Expertise in Business Excellence has been gained with over 12 years of working in different global and regional roles in the Life Sciences industry.


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