This Pharmaceutical Marketing Society article is based on a recent discussion between three members of the Digital Interest Group:

  • Debbie Young, Multichannel Strategy and Customer Insights Director, Otsuka
  • Samuel Pygall, IT Regional Lead Europe and Canada, MSD
  • Chris Bartley, Client Strategy Director, Lucid Group.

If you are interested in taking part in future discussions, you can find details about how to join the PM Society at the end of this article.


Q1: What is an ‘omnichannel rep’ – isn’t it just a fancy way of saying reps who use email and video calls as well as visiting HCPs in person?

Sam: “[Laughing], That’s a wonderfully simple way to view it. However, while those are the main technologies there is process and training needed around email permissions, pre-approved email content, and CRM use before you even get to best practices around making the customer experience feel as seamless as possible.

Debbie: “One of the other important aspects in delivering omnichannel, as opposed to multichannel, is ensuring the field sees the value of the technology to them and their customers. If CRM systems are seen as field tracking tools adoption is slow and use can be sub-optimal. If, however, the field sees video calls and emails helping them reach senior doctors who are now working more remotely themselves everyone benefits.

The same goes for data collection and informing interactions with customers. If you can demonstrate the touch points customers are having with web content, emails, and webinars can help the field have more, more valuable conversations they will embrace omnichannel.”

Sam: “I think that’s exactly right. One of the big opportunities for teams implementing and optimising omnichannel approaches is to consult and include the field more in the goal-setting and planning phases of content and platforms. If they see the focus is clearly on supporting them in achieving their goals, then success is much more likely.


Q2: Why doesn’t anyone in agencies or pharma companies want to measure anything meaningful?

Debbie: “[Smiling] We always need to start with why the industry has introduced new systems and technologies over the last 15 years. We’ve invested heavily to deliver insights that improve the experiences customers have when they engage with us as an industry.

With that in mind, I don’t see the challenge as a lack of desire to use data to deliver customer engagement excellence. I see the challenge more being one of aligning objectives across medical, commercial, omnichannel, leadership, and 3rd parties like agencies. Take agencies, they often have measures they like to push. These might be great in isolation but if they don’t align with other objectives or measures across our business, they soon lose their actionability.”

Sam: “I agree about the need for alignment on objectives and their measurement. Several companies are shifting to setting key measures up above country and above function. That creates a level of transparency that ensures the actions being taken, and the tactics being invested in, are focused on moving the right numbers.

This sort of approach can really drive alignment through the organisation with field, marketing, medical and omnichannel teams all seeing what their contribution is adding to a brand’s success.”

Q3: What frustrates you most about the discussion of ‘omnichannel’ in the industry?

Sam: “I think it’s more you who gets frustrated with it than us. However, there is a lot of noise out there generally and often it’s understandably focused on cutting-edge solutions. That’s fine but I suspect many companies have unsexy but critical issues such as first-party data management, and how everyone understands the word ‘omnichannel’ vs ‘multichannel’, that they need to resolve before implementing Next Best Actions or other AI-driven tools.

I suspect it’s a bit niche but expert content on GDPR, privacy policies, and terms and conditions of use delivered in the context of pharma customer journeys would be more helpful than another general talk on right customer, right time, right channel.

Debbie: “For me, the conversation is often conducted in a siloed way which in turn can amplify siloed thinking when teams introduce new tactics or technologies. There are lots of great people out there with great ideas and great products – seeing more of those ideas is part of why I joined the Pharmaceutical Marketing Society – however, omnichannel relies on connection to be effective. I think the onus is on all of us to think more about how everything we do, or advocate for, connects to enhance the experience HCPs and patients have of life science companies.


Author: Chris Bartley, Client Strategy Director, Lucid Group

Contributors: Samuel Pygall, Regional IT Lead Core Europe & Canada at MSD and Debbie Young, Multichannel Strategy and Customer Insights Director, Otsuka

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  • Support organisations and people in healthcare
  • Recognise excellence and promote best practice
  • Provide education and development.

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