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  • Writer's pictureKarsten Schmidt

Strategically Focussing on Comprehensive Digital Transformation to Significantly Improve Customer Experience

A January 2023 survey conducted by DT Consulting has provided valuable insights into digital transformation efforts of Life Sciences companies. It is evident that this thematic complex is a top priority for many companies. However, it is crucial to understand the approaches and strategies to be employed to overcome challenges and achieve the intended objective. To gain deeper insights, we interviewed Dominic Tyer, Research Director at DT Consulting.

Karsten: Thanks for taking the time for this interview, Dominic. To get started, we have seen in your study that the Customer Experience Quotient (CXQ) in the global pharma industry had a good rating, yet excellence remains out of immediate reach. What feedback have you received from the industry after they have seen these results?

Dominic: We’ve been running these studies for some time now and they always get a lot of interest from the industry. But this time around the report has caught pharma’s eye even more than normal, perhaps because this is our first global CXQ® study, and perhaps because it’s the first to take place as we return to a ‘steady state’, after the pandemic – a period where we saw pharma accelerate many of their digital transformation efforts.

It’s obviously nice to hear from those in the industry that have hailed it as an important and valuable piece of work, but similarly gratifying was being told by another pharma company that the findings aligned to their own internal research.

We’ve also been told that the report is a goldmine of insights for those working on HCP engagement strategies and have already had enquiries about next year’s version of this study. 

Karsten: We would like to dive a bit deeper into some of your recommendations given in the study. How can an optimal alignment of digital and non-digital channels be achieved?

Dominic: It’s a great question, though there’s no single right answer for it. I think every pharma company will need to find its own optimal blend of digital and non-digital channels that works for its own therapeutic priorities, stakeholders, and resources.

The level of variety in the study, from country to country and from therapy area to therapy area, means that fine-tuning digital and non-digital choices will have to be both an art and a science if pharma firms are to get it right. 

As they map out their own individual paths, having a strong grasp of customer needs and preferences, as well as what comprises ‘personalized content’ to them, will be key. We certainly believe that companies can design a differentiating experience for their customers, much like Apple did with the iPhone, but they need to get the fundamentals right, with regards to usefulness and usability. 

Karsten: How much effort is required cross-functionally to build content that is truly personalized?

Personalization was another area covered in our study, where HCPs rated pharma companies based on their perception of how well their interaction had been personalized to their needs. We saw a high level of competition between pharma companies, but no firm was able to distinguish itself and certainly no company was close to providing an excellent level of personalization.

If you break down the design process related to a channel or content experience, you will quickly find there are many parties involved – legal, regulatory, medical, commercial, and sometimes even across the dimensions of local and above country. We often see internal hurdles like structure, culture, and ways of working get in the way of creating a very good experience to customers. Cross-functional collaboration is one of the key principles when it comes to successful customer experience design and management. 

Karsten: How important is it for Life Sciences to choose the right technology as an enabler for orchestrated omnichannel customer engagement?

Dominic: Companies have choices and, obviously, choosing the wrong technology can have a serious impact. You and I could have a whole separate conversation about this. Very often it is not about the technology itself, but how organizations are thinking about its adoption by its users, how it fits in best practice workflows, or how it connects to other systems. In other words, the real power of technology for organizations is in how it enables its people in a simple way to do something differently. 

Karsten: How can sales and medical field-based teams cope with the increasing pressure to orchestrate omnichannel?

Dominic: That’s a very interesting question. Firstly, all stakeholders in omnichannel orchestration must feel the same pressure because it originates at the customer level as well as coming from the external state of technology change - that is to say, there is not necessarily role-specific pressure. But if we would look at those teams specifically, we always recommend they speak up, share perspectives, and actively collaborate in omnichannel orchestration efforts. Equally, there must be a sense of responsibility to keep up with technology - so having a curious mindset as well as being open to change is very favorable. 

Karsten: What is the importance of change management in the digital transformation journey of Life Sciences companies?

It’s hugely important. Digital transformation cuts across the people, processes, and technology involved, and you can’t make a success of the latter if you are not also laser-focused on bringing your people with you by having constructive processes in place.

In a separate piece of DT research on the state of digital excellence in pharma, we found that effective communication about the vision of what digital can do for customers was an area in particular need of improvement.

That study also found that, while the backing for ‘digital’ from senior leaders was strong, functional buy-in for their company’s digital road map often lags. So, the industry still needs marketing, sales, and medical affairs leaders to be quicker to throw their weight behind the digital team.

Karsten: What are good ways for Life Sciences companies to measure their success in digital transformation? 

Dominic:To some extent that will depend on a commercial organization’s strategic priorities. But, generally speaking, the best place to start is with the essential characteristics of the digital organization and compare elements such as ambition, road map, and responsibilities against its peers. Here the big question is: How efficiently do you run your digital transformation program? 

Moving onwards, organizations should develop an understanding of how mature their digital capabilities are and look at adoption by customer-facing teams specifically. It not only gives you an understanding what might be hindering adoption, but it is a simple way to define and track digital excellence maturity. 

Then, and we’re back to priorities again, if the organization’s ambition is to be more customer-centric, it will have to measure how well best practices are embedded and put in place a way to measure the customer experience it provides to different stakeholders.

The ultimate measurement is to prove that maturity in digital or omnichannel orchestration behind-the-scenes links to some kind of customer experience metric, ideally given through a voice-of-the-customer program.

Karsten: What are the implications of medical outperforming commercial channels from a Customer Experience (CX) perspective?

Dominic: Interesting it was only in digital channels that medical reps (medical science liaisons) outperformed their counterparts in sales, with video calls from medical reps providing the best level of customer experience of all in our global study. In video calls and direct one-to-one emails, we saw a pronounced gap between the CX medical reps provided and those delivered by sales reps.

Meanwhile, in non-digital channels there was parity between the two when it came to face-to-face meetings with HCPs, while telephone interactions were very close to being equal, so we can’t simply say that medical is ‘better’ than commercial.

However, if we have to talk about outperformance, I think the implication is a re-balancing effort of content and communication channel. In certain markets there is no perceived difference by the HCP between the two, and in other markets such different roles don’t even exist. From the perspective of the physician, what matters is to address their questions and concerns, in a timely and effective way, when that is needed.

Karsten: Can you elaborate a bit further on the final recommendation to harness a CX planning framework to further absorb the risk from externalities?

Dominic: We still find that true CX thinking is an afterthought in many companies and teams. Where it does happen, we see teams taking a strong inside-out approach characterized by a brand positioning and targeting approach. Applying certain CX disciplines, anchored into an overall framework, such as enhanced customer understanding, design thinking, or customer-centric process improvement, allows customer-facing teams to balance brand objectives with customer objectives. This opportunity starts by having such framework, and a framework like this gives additional advantages such as cross-functional alignment, as we discussed before, clarity on roles and responsibilities, but also external opportunities because these disciplines are outward-in focused and therefore have an eye on an ever-changing customer landscape.

Illustration: CX planning framework

Karsten: We greatly appreciate your time and expertise, Dominic, in providing us with valuable insights on digital transformation and customer experience in the Life Sciences industry. Your perspectives have shed light on challenges that companies face and on key strategies for their pursuit of improved customer experiences through digital transformation.

As decisive takeaways we can summarise that Life Sciences companies are prioritizing digital transformation to enhance customer experience. To achieve success, they need to align digital and non-digital channels based on personalized customer needs. Cross-functional collaboration is crucial in building personalized content. Choosing the right technology and actively participating in omnichannel orchestration are important for sales and medical teams. Change management and effective communication are essential in the digital transformation journey. Success can be measured by comparing digital capabilities, tracking adoption, and measuring customer experience. Medical outperforms commercial channels in digital interactions, prompting a need for content and communication channel re-balancing. Finally, harnessing a CX planning framework helps absorb external risks and ensures customer-centricity.

We would love to hear your thoughts! After reading this interview, what key takeaway resonated with you the most or surprised you? Please feel free to comment below. For further reference please contact or


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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