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5 minute read

How Can Pharma Businesses Implement a Lean CX Strategy?

We draw on insights from a recent research project to explain why pharma businesses should adopt a lean CX strategy, and how to do this successfully.
Lean cx blog header
22 July 21
  • Customer Experience
  • Pharmaceutical

Graphite recently surveyed a group of marketing and digital pharma industry professionals to get first-hand insight into what they were thinking when it came to building digital products and delivering first-class digital customer experiences.

It came as no surprise to us that 100% of respondents agreed that digital customer experience is a high priority for their business in 2021. 

When asked what the biggest specific challenges they’re facing in the digital space in 2021, the top 3 identified were 

  1. Creating engaging digital content 
  2. Engaging HCPs
  3. Implementing a lean CX strategy 

Here, we’ll focus on the third challenge by looking at why pharma businesses should identify and adopt a lean CX strategy, and how they can do this successfully.


Why implement a lean strategy?

Adopting a 'lean’ strategy means that you will validate each iteration of any new digital product with your customers and plan your resources accordingly to deliver the maximum value per release.

"Businesses that succeed are those that manage to iterate enough times before running out of resources" — Eric Ries, author of the best-seller "The Lean Startup

Whilst traditional strategies often lack the flexibility to adapt to the market as it evolves and new insights are unraveled, having a lean strategy will allow you to connect further with your audience. 

Health and pharma industries are increasingly embracing digital technologies and embarking on exciting new projects in order to improve and enhance their digital products and improve the end experiences of their patients or HCPs. 

Whilst the demand for digital innovation in pharma is clearly there, time and time again we are hearing of the barriers and delays that digital drivers within pharma organisations face when trying to deliver their products and solutions.

Through our first-hand research, we identified 3 main causes of delay:

  1. Regulatory and complex sign-off: delays faced in obtaining approval in terms of legal and compliance and due to slow and complex internal review and sign-off procedures. 
  2. Influencing to generate internal buy-in: getting buy-in from the wider organisation can often be difficult due to a lack of understanding of digital solutions and change-resistant mindsets. 
  3. Internal collaboration: a lack of shared understanding and vision between internal departments, for example, sales and design.

Adapting a lean strategy can help to alleviate these delays and expedite the delivery of digital products in a variety of ways. 

When using a lean approach, you are only pushing for what matters, meaning you’ll have fewer regulatory hoops to jump through. Many pharmaceutical companies will try to get a lot approved in their first release which can then get stuck in a sign-off loop and cause significant delays. By reducing the number of features you are seeking approval for, you are reducing the risk of getting push-back by regulatory. 

In terms of obtaining internal buy-in, through methods such as rapid prototyping, internal buy-in, understanding, and shared vision can be increased through having a viable solution to present to decision-makers at an early stage. Even experienced regulatory and medical teams will be able to better understand a product with prototypes, and the room for assumed edge cases is reduced. 

In addressing delays linked to internal collaboration, by adopting a lean strategy and involving regulatory early on in the process, you are giving them a chance to voice their concerns from the outset. This in turn will help your design teams to design with regulatory in mind. It will also give a sense of shared ownership in the product, again making sign-off at a later stage easier — “I recognise this, I was part of it!”

How can pharma businesses implement a lean CX strategy?

With a lean strategy, your aim is to learn what works and what doesn’t before wasting too much time and resource. We’ve come across businesses that have spent millions of pounds and 12+ months working on developing a digital product, only to find out that their users didn’t understand, need, or trust it. Being lean ensures constant validation and iteration to keep users at the centre of your strategy. 

The Effort vs. Value Matrix

This tool allows you and your team to prioritise your resources in a meaningful and outcome-focused way. You’ll assess the effort needed against the potential value-added for your end-user to ascertain which projects to prioritise. 

In this context, value refers to how well any new features and ideas will serve your KPIs and user needs. Effort refers to the level of resource and output that will be needed to make things happen. This may be a technological effort, but also considers content, time, money, and people.

Features and developments that are high value and low effort are considered to be “low-hanging fruit” that you and your team should seek to implement as quickly as possible. Examples of these could include the introduction of a ‘request a rep callback’ feature, the re-editing of existing video content for portrait mobile viewing, or the creation of a podcast. 

High-value and high-effort projects may involve a higher level of risk and a bigger undertaking in terms of the scale of the job in hand, but in turn, have the potential to maximise added value for your end-user. These projects can be approached by initially validating the project and ensuring all involved parties are on board and aligned, before breaking the overall project down into lower effort tasks. An example of this may be the introduction of a dosing calculator — whilst it requires technical expertise and research to develop and build, the potential value of a project like this could be huge in terms of the impact on the day-to-day life of your HCPs. 

Your team should generally steer away from low effort and low-value ideas. These may be seen as small wins or please some egos, but also have the potential to cripple your team in terms of its productivity and output for little meaningful gain. For example, adding links to make it easy for a health care professional that ends up on your patient site to get through to the HCP site is very low cost and effort. Whilst this adds a little in terms of convenience for the HCP, it is unlikely to make a big impact on your HCP site ROI alone. It also has implications on the customer journey, and may entail additional regulatory issues. 

High effort and low-value projects can often become draining both in terms of output and financial resources. These may sometimes be expected features for the users of your product, but ones for which you won’t get high recognition or added value. An example of this may be the introduction of an Advanced Search feature — deemed necessary in order to match up with industry standards, but time-consuming to develop and maintain. 

Achieving success through a lean CX strategy

Following the sale of part of their business, one of our clients inherited a large set of content that had a focus on hospital-based consumers, in particular, the Procurement Pharmacist persona. Whilst it would have been possible to take all of this content and simply rebadge it and put it back online (as it had already been approved for use in a similar context), we worked with the client to: 

  1. Audit what had been inherited through the lens of the customer and the specific personas
  2. Sort the content by customer value based on our discussions with customers
  3. Prioritise efforts into re-contextualising the highest value content to make it suitable for use
  4. Take the highest value content and develop a service to make it more accessible

In this instance, the data deemed to be of the highest value was stock data, which we took and developed into an interactive service that allowed customers to see regular updates on when products would be coming back into stock, receive alerts, and cut down on paperwork. 

Working with the client, we agreed to abandon the rest of the content as it didn't offer anything for this customer and use case. Repurposing this content was deemed a high effort, and low-value project. 

Working agile under a ‘lean strategy’ and prioritising work based on the needs of the customer is a great way to save money and effort by only doing things that will actually impact your relationship with them. The stock tracker tool is a superb example of how the strategy can be applied practically — it now has the highest engagement amongst their HCP community of any of our client’s digital assets.

What to remember when implementing a lean strategy

  • Don’t try and do everything at once: focus on the highest value tasks from the perspective of the customer, and begin there. 
  • Don’t get sidetracked by day to day work and spend some time working on non-urgent but highly strategic work that will pay off in the future 
  • Remember to prioritise through the eyes of the customer or end-user. If you can’t do this effectively, then it’s time to undertake some research 
  • Be confident when it comes to removing or de-prioritising work if it is unlikely to add value to your customer relationships


Take the next step  

Implementing these techniques can help companies move towards delivering a more seamless digital experience for their customers, as well as reduce wasted resources, and remove barriers and friction. 

Need some help? If you want to find out more about improving your digital customer experiences and implementing lean strategy in order to reach your full business potential, get in touch for a chat.