Ecosystems always existed in businesses, but the importance of collaboration across ecosystems dramatically increases today in the effort to create new value. However, the underlying software architecture – traditional database technology – that supports collaboration was built for a siloed, boundaried approach to business, not a networked approach among multiple enterprises or even multiple industries.
When banking and financial-service firms invest in technology, IT firms usually laugh all the way to the bank.
Aaditya Jain, Practice Director, Everest Group, an IT consulting firm, cited the recent long-term and strategic partnerships between banks and cloud-service providers such as Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft’s Azure and Google Cloud.
With the world facing an unprecedented health crisis, one group shouldering the brunt of the challenge is our healthcare workers, who are battling the threat from the front lines. Under the circumstances, their interactions with pharma sales representatives have naturally taken a back seat, with many healthcare providers closing down access. This reality is accelerating pharma firms’ shift toward a virtual sales organization, and not only for the short term.
The amount of time, access, and influence hospitals have been willing to grant pharma sales reps has been dropping for quite some time now, and face-to-face engagements have declined significantly over the years. According to a survey from DRG’s 2019 annual ePharma Physician Report, 54 percent of physician respondents said they saw pharma reps in person in 2019, down from 67 percent in 2018.
DRG ePharma Physician Report 2019 – % of physician respondents on pharma rep interactions
Source: ePharmaPhysician® US 2019
Today, given the COVID-19 pandemic, healthcare providers, including hospitals and clinics, are increasingly refusing in-person visits from pharma sales reps, and pharma companies such as Biogen and Global Blood Therapeutics have themselves suspended face-to-face meetings. In turn, virtual interactions between reps and healthcare providers are increasing, with BMS, GSK, Pfizer, and Sanofi – to name a few – scaling up the use of remote technology to ensure continued engagement with healthcare professionals. We expect this progress to continue even after the pandemic’s threat has abated.
However, not all pharma firms are well equipped for this shift; there’s a wide degree of variance when it comes to the maturity of their virtual healthcare provider engagement capabilities. Not surprisingly, the many digital solutions that exist in the current market can help them. Several software vendors and IT services providers have developed innovative CRM solutions, such as around personalized engagement, interactive detailing, and live video through intuitive mobile apps and web portals, in order to effectively engage healthcare providers virtually.
In response to the crisis, many vendors have recently begun to enhance product functionality. For instance, Veeva recently introduced new capabilities for remote drug sampling in Veeva CRM Engage Meeting. The company also announced several alliances for digital field engagement.
Yet, going forward, getting virtual sales right could be a major deciding factor for whether or not pharma firms are able to convert extensive R&D efforts and patent wins into commercially successful therapies.
Here are our suggestions on how pharma firms can successfully pivot to a virtual sales :
Realign budgets Drive C-suite endorsement of initiatives whose goal is improving virtual engagement with healthcare practitioners. Money saved on aspects such as travel and organizing marketing conferences/gatherings should be diverted to investments in IT and content creation.
Engage technology partners to have the right solutions in place Assess the landscape of solutions from Independent Software Vendors (ISVs) and IT services providers. Look for verticalized CRM solutions meant particularly for healthcare provider engagement. Prioritize quickly implementable and scalable solutions that give the assurance of little downtime and offer omni-channel (email, web, mobile, etc.) and personalized engagement.
Create compelling content Rethink marketing strategies. Content delivered virtually needs to be all the more engaging, detailed, and easy to consume. Such content could include live videos, webinars, intuitive brochures, and web/mobile portals. Generating personalized content can improve conversion rates. Finally, content needs to be such that healthcare providers can consume it in their own time and follow up on as needed, minimizing the need for live interactions.
Train representatives to effectively engage and deliver information in virtual settings Facilitate a cultural shift in sales operations from being in-person to virtual through dedicated training programs. Representatives need to utilize the time saved on travel to draft strategies for more engaging interactions. They also need to be trained on using specific technology tools for provider engagement.
While healthcare workers are bound to be overburdened and under tremendous stress in these times, this is also a tough time for pharma sales representatives. Assertive sales behavior might come across as being insensitive, but at the same time, healthcare practitioners need to be kept aware of new therapies for ailments apart from COVID-19. Shifting to a virtual model represents a huge change. Engaging with empathy and showing flexibility in working around physician schedules will be paramount in the near term, as pharma enterprises come to grips with what could potentially be a new, or next, normal.
Let’s talk WFH, the new ‘Work from Home’ concept that has gripped corporates in India and the rest of the world, as businesses progressively embrace this new, forced phenomenon in a world crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic and its inscrutable death-grip on companies and economies. Here again, there have been two distinct huddles in industry sectors worldwide — the corporate haves and the have-nots. The ‘haves’ include sectors such as information technology and IT-enabled Services (ITeS), creative writers and journalists, communications agencies and bloggers, etc. They can function, albeit on crutches and at a slower pace. For the ‘have-nots’, the battle is going to be long and gory, for airlines, the hospitality sector, travel and tourism, real estate, automobile manufacturing and ancillaries, and so on. For them, the writing is on the wall. There will be no quick-fix or succour available for a long time.
Companies, while letting go, are getting their own back as well. As stated, desperate times call for desperate measures. ‘Quartz’ recently reported that some Indian IT companies have implemented employee productivity trackers like webcam-based movement capture, hourly time-sheet entry and of keyboards to ensure that employees at home are, indeed, working. Yugal Joshi, vice-president at Texas-based consultancy Everest Group, was quoted by Quartz: “This indicates a deep-rooted malaise in Indian IT & ITeS industry where the senior management generally mistrusts people,” he added.
The last thing the world needs is another “hot-take” on COVID-19, but the biggest fallacy I see as people think/talk/write about the post-COVID-19 economic scenario is to compare it to previous economic recessions.
Why is this different?
The 2008-09 crisis couldn’t be more different than what we are seeing today, and the post-COVID-19 world is going to be wildly different across dimensions. The genesis of the 2008-09 crisis was badly crafted financial instruments, which impacted developed markets more than others and necessitated select bailouts to resuscitate consumer demand.
COVID-19 is much more broad-based in impact. Not only will it reshape business, but it will reshape intrinsic human behavior and consumer preferences. At this point, I would disregard any economic projections of this pandemic’s impact. We don’t know enough at this stage, nor how long it will take to play out (is the current stimulus enough? when do we recover, if at all? – you get the drift).
What do we know?
So, what we can say with a degree of certainty at this point? This pandemic will have wide-ranging implications:
Asset ownership will need a rethink – nobody wants to “own” risks on their balance sheets
CX will be paramount and essential for productivity – consumer expectations will never be the same
We will see a fundamental transformation of how and where work gets done – there’s a new recognition that a remote and distributed model works, if done right
Enterprises will try to conserve cash and look for self-funded transformation – no, it is not an oxymoron
Piecemeal digital transformation doesn’t work – go big or go home
Sourcing will not be linear and needs a rethink – organizations will truly need to rethink how and where they derive value
We are continually monitoring the situation to help our clients understand how this situation plays out. Our COVID-19 resource center has our latest and evolving thinking. Short-sighted and clickbaity takes do us no favors in this effort to understand the post-COVID-19 world. Please stay safe and curious.
This is one blog of many that explore a range of topics related to COVID-19 issues and will naturally evolve as events unfold and facts reveal themselves. The blogs are in no way intended to provide scientific or health expertise, but rather focus on the implications and options for service delivery organizations.
These insights are based on our ongoing interactions with organizations operating in impacted areas, our expertise in global service delivery, and our previous experience with clients facing challenges from the SARS, MERS, and Zika viruses, as well as other unique risk situations.
Every day, new and more rigid social distancing and quarantining measures are put in place to address growing global concerns over COVID-19. The rising number of people under lockdown around the world is leading to huge shifts in customer demand, behavior, and expectations.
Some industries are being hit harder than others. For example, travel and hospitality is struggling with huge drops in revenue while trying to meet skyrocketing customer service demands for cancellations and date changes. Demand for luxury goods is declining as consumers cut back their consumption. E-commerce is booming with in-store shoppers moving to home delivery. Supply chains are under pressure, and healthcare is transforming with increasing adoption of telemedicine.
Near the end of 2019, we conducted a market survey on key enterprise issues and enterprises’ global services plans for 2020. As you see, survey participants believed customer experience (CX) would be their top priority investment area even if the economy weakened.
It’s true that the severity and impact of COVID-19 is higher than what organizations expected when they thought about a possible economic downturn. But we believe that enterprises that continue to focus on their customers and invest in CX have an opportunity to emerge after this crisis abates with a running start.
And one of the key levers they should pull to help satisfy their customers’ needs and expectations is their customer-facing talent.
With the health and safety of the agent workforce top of mind, organizations and their contact center leaders, across industries and geographies, are leveraging the work-at-home agent (WAHA) model as an immediate response to the COVID-19 crisis. Social isolation edicts mean that agents can no longer report to work at brick and mortar centers, so enterprises and service providers alike are scrambling to ramp up their work-at-home capacities, asking their existing brick and mortar agents to keep the lights on by working from home. Understandably, they’re facing multiple challenges while ramping up, including procuring laptops and headsets, moving desktop computers from centers to agents’ homes, ensuring security and compliance measures, and training and upskilling agents for a work-at-home environment.
Enterprises and contact center providers that are outperforming their peers in transitioning their agent workforce to a work-at-home model are excelling in three areas:
Level of preparedness: Organizations with experience and protocols around WAHA operations, access to prospective agents, and requisite technologies have been able to cope with the transition better than others
Foresight and planning: Organizations that reviewed the COVID-19 outbreak statistics regularly and worked with their partners to understand agent availability, technology, and environmental constraints were much better positioned to react appropriately and plan for the transition
Speed of execution: Organizations that have been able to make the swift decision to migrate to a work-at-home delivery model (even if the model did not exist in their business previously), work with government agencies to obtain necessary sign-offs and waivers, and develop out-of-the-box solutions to challenges during the transition have had greater success in delivering CX consistently during these uncertain times
Accessing more talent
Organizations may well need more agents to help them deliver the best CX during this pandemic. And because the economic downturn is displacing a lot of people, particularly in service-oriented jobs, there’s an opportunity to access a large pool of newly available talent. This gig economy-oriented model matches the needs of millennial customers and employees who are digitally-savvy and belong to the ”anywhere, anytime” philosophy toward which the world seems to be moving rapidly.
While global economies are grinding to a halt, some businesses will come out of this crisis better than others. During this period of extreme uncertainty, companies that take speedy action to adopt flexible staffing models and shift to newer ways of working are more likely to succeed.
In subsequent blogs, we’ll be discussing other levers that organizations need to adopt to drive sustained success, such as digital channels, self-service, and chatbot solutions.
Software services exporter Infosys is looking to win deals from insurance companies to assess the cyber infrastructure of potential clients before they firm up contracts.
While analysts say the market for cyber security services in insurance is growing, Indian service providers are facing competition from global players in this space. “It is unclear that there is a large cyber security TAM (total addressable market) for Indian service providers. It does, however, provide them with a nose under the tent if they can utilise it to engage clients and their cyber security organisations as aresult of the need for this insurance. But I feel this is a clever trick shot, not a fundamental component of a successful cyber security channel to market,” said Peter Bendor-Samuel, CEO of research and consulting firm Everest Group.