Quite rightly, we in the healthcare communications industry put a lot of emphasis on customer service – clearly, it’s little good delivering the goods if the way we do so fails to meet expectations. As part of this, it will not be anything new to people reading this that the first impression you make in any relationship is massively important.
Quite how important is illustrated in an amusing case study I saw in a presentation that Rory Sutherland gave at the European Zeitgeist 2011 meeting, Rediscovering a Lost Science. The whole presentation is worth watching, as he talks about how companies should look far more to integrate the science of behavioural economics as part of business planning. However, in it Sutherland relates how a hotel’s customer satisfaction ratings across the board correlated directly with the check-in experience:
The implication this example has for everyone in the pharmaceutical industry – beyond the obvious need to make sure that our activities and materials are as high quality as possible – is just how much the perception a new customer has of your company or product may end up having due to a first impression outside of your control. With so much information now available online, including peer review on social media, quite often your potential customers will be having very negative first impressions of you or your brands without you even being aware of it. Their opinion having been made, changing it will be difficult – if not impossible.
What does this all mean for medical communications? Well, for a start, it is no longer sufficient to host satellite symposia at major congresses, publish your Phase III data in journals, do a bit of CME and – if you are perhaps more advanced – set up an ongoing KOL-led educational programme. Posting a few Tweets and pimping your meetings with augmented reality eye-candy may earn you kudos from Senior Management, but won’t increase your RoI…
As just one example, if you have recently run a satellite symposium at a congress (which in today’s increasingly challenging environment is a significant drain on the annual budget) then ask yourself:
- Did you really think about when, where and how your target audience will become aware of your symposium (either as a stand-alone entity, or in the context of your ongoing brand activities)?
- Did you monitor how word of your event spread among your target audience, and what was said about it? More to the point, did you actively promote / gain advocates for your meeting at all?
- What real commitment to action to you get from the people who attended?
- Did you monitor and facilitate the post-meeting discussion of the event (beyond the hastily filled-in questionnaires from the few people in the room who weren’t from your competitors)?
- Did anyone of your audience go back to their practice and become an advocate for your brand as a result of what they saw? Would you even know if they had?
In summary, our approach is that you need to be pro-actively communicating with your audience all of the time – not just whenever you have some data to present or an issue to manage. If you or your advocates don’t make the first impression, someone else will do it for you, and you may well not like the long-term outcome…
If any of the above has got you thinking, then get in touch!