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  • Writer's pictureKarsten Schmidt

How to markedly boost productivity in complex post COVID-19 times

astutely applying comprehensive hybrid customer engagement models.

The McKinsey article published in April referring to COVID-19 and commercial pharma, cites the Sermo Sentiment Study of the same month in which over 1.000 HCPs from 10 countries participated. The physicians’ expectation is that overall in-person meetings with Life Sciences representatives will decline postcrisis, to be partially compensated by remote meetings.

Healthcare professional engagement of pharma companies is significantly declining during the crisis and is not expected to recover completely thereafter

Even though the graph above refers to US physicians only (n = 355) the Sermo Study suggests that the impact will be similar in other geographies as well.

From the perspective of in-field teams, this phenomenon will increase the complexity of their workload as they will have to organize activity planning of in-person and remote meetings in a more agile and prudent way. 

Normally, field reps plan their activities well in advance in order to ensure that both a certain regularity and frequency number of customer engagements are met according to the segmentation and targeting approach defined by Commercial Excellence functions. They also must take into account the physical location of their targeted HCPs in order to maximize travel efficiencies when planning their daily routes.

It is to be expected that HCPs in the new normal following COVID-19, will be more demanding to receive relevant content and to engage with Life Sciences companies at the time they consider most convenient. This also means that in-field teams need more flexibility to quickly rearrange their activity planning to accommodate both remote and face-to-face engagements in their already established activity plans.

This is where innovative heuristic tools can play a particularly important role as they are able to rapidly reorganize the activities scheduled in the calendars of in-field representatives. Such tools can process a multitude of variables to adjust the individual activity plan of blended face-to-face and remote interactions in the best possible way.

Variables to be considered for reoptimizing activities include

  • travel times between customers,

  • incoming fixed appointments (remote and f2f meetings),

  • cancellation of same,

  • visiting hours of customers,

  • working hours of representatives,

  • expected engagement rhythms,

  • overdue appointments to be prioritized,

  • duration of customer engagements,

  • maximum distance between customers,

  • times off territory.

 Taking all mentioned variables into account can also help perfecting the number of overnight stays while travelling in remote parts of the territories.

Impact and benefits of activity planning tool for the future hybrid in-field rep

As illustrated below such tools will prioritize fixed appointments highlighting them in special colours and at the same time they will accomodate other appointments around the fixed ones in the best possible way. This means that a new route planning will be a combination of planned face-to-face and virtual meeting. The latter represents a route “interruption” as the location is irrelevant for engaging remotely with customers. The representative in this case just needs to ensure a quiet location and stable internet connection in order to deliver his interaction via his mobile device.

Illustration of agile activity and route planning tool taking multiple parameters into account

Such approach will alleviate the administrative burden of activity planning for the representatives. It will also increase the overall agility of in-field teams to respond to spontaneous requests coming from their customers and it will lead to an overall increase of productivity in terms of number of customer interactions delivered in a given time period. Experience shows that by applying such an approach, the productivity increase in terms of numbers of executed engagements can easily be double-digit. Additionally, a positive impact on the CO2-footprint can be expected as travel efficiencies will improve significantly. The activity plan shown above, of course, also needs to be made visible in the calendar view of the Customer Relationship Management system which the Life Sciences company uses. This can be achieved by adjusting the application program interface resulting in a seamless synchronization of the two systems.

When we first discovered such activity and route optimization tool we were very much impressed by its ease of use after fully understanding the positive impact it can have in the daily operations of field teams. Therefore, we decided to share this in a LinkedIn article. Surprisingly, we got the idea from one of our customers. We had proposed to run a typical sales territory alignment process when he told us that actually his main concern was to optimize the daily activities of his newly established sales team. After some research within our network we were able to find a solution and after a short training his sales team now has enthusiastically started all activity planning utilizing the recommended tool.

Have you ever measured how much time your in-field teams spend in planning their activities for the next week or month ahead? How agile are they in incorporating changes coming in at short notice? What if a powerful, versatile software could take care of a needs-based, comprehensive, and flexible activity planning replacing manual methods outdated by new challenges? Which in-field teams do you think could benefit most from such a tool: Pharmacy teams, sales teams, MSL teams? Please feel to comment below.

If you find this article interesting, please like or share it. If you have further questions with regard to this topic, please do not hesitate to reach out to us at


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.


Please feel free to reach out and request a free strategy session whenever convenient.



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