Ernan’s Insights on Marketing Best Practices

Monday, February 19, 2018

4 Actions For Pharma to Remove Damaging Barriers with Customers

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on Pharma-IQ.com
Ernan Roman explores recent research showing that pharma and biotech companies make expensive mistakes by neglecting the power and necessity of customer experience strategies.

“A bad customer feeling is like a hole in an airplane. That one small hole can suck out the pressure and down the plane. One can’t underestimate the power of bad feelings in the tight knit world of a lab or campus.”
Those are the words of Mike Lucero, Product Fellow, 10x Genomics, regarding the fact that many life science companies do not apply the same rigor to developing their Customer Experience (CX) strategies that they apply to developing new products.
Findings from thousands of hours of in-depth interviews conducted by our research firm, ERDM Corp., for clients such as 10X Genomics, IBM, Microsoft, and HP, indicate that poor customer experiences hurt customers in terms of their professional and personal political capital and thus impact their willingness to advocate a company’s products.
Aligning with customer expectations and removing barriers
By prioritizing product development over CX strategies, life science companies are focusing on their internal needs. As a result, they invariably create barriers with their customers because they are prioritizing their own needs regarding manufacturing, distribution, sales quotas, etc.
This applies to all customers, i.e. those who are PI’s, researchers and patients.
The result; “breaking glass” with customers and their colleagues!
Paul Conley, Managing Director, Paladin Capital Group, provides this important insight, “Companies spend lots of money on technology and products, but they overlook the ‘soft elements’, such as customer experience and instilling empathy for the customer and their environment.
“This results in mistakes which are very expensive to fix.
“Too many companies focus on building products. They should be focusing on building a culture which focuses on what it takes to make their customers successful.”
This sentiment is echoed in our Voice of Customer (VoC) research interviews with life science professionals and researchers. They expressed frustration with companies who do not see things from the customers’ perspective.
Some of the comments we heard:
  • “I think the issue at hand is what I call political capital, and how I choose to use it. So, when we find ourselves unfamiliar with the technology, it becomes really hard and quite a risk for us to expend our political capital to advocate for the purchase of a product. A company has to do everything they can to reduce the personal and professional risk we face in advocating for them.”
  • “Personalized engagement forges strong ties with your company that serve as a ‘grace account’ upon which to draw when there is the inevitable problem or outreach from competition.”
1. In this hyper-competitive environment, it is critical for life science companies to prioritize development of competitively differentiating CX strategies.
2. If, in the past 12 months, you have not done deep research to understand your customers’ rapidly changing needs, you risk being dangerously out of sync with your customers.
Engage with customers post-sale and understand the ongoing and evolving needs of researchers
In the West Monroe Partners Survey it was noted, “Companies that quickly evolve their capabilities to drive new value to customers can create an ‘adaptive advantage’. To do so, they need deep understanding of the issues customers are trying to solve or, better yet, the ability to foresee future issues and help customers in the areas they don’t even know they need help.
Certainly, in the pharma and biotech arena there’s pressure to generate sales and make the numbers. But, to get those repeat orders, it requires taking care of customers post-sale.
Per Mike Lucero, “Customers feel that they are being loyal to a company by buying their products and recommending them. They feel betrayed when a company does not reciprocate by listening to their evolving needs and personalizing recommendations based on the specific type of research they are doing.”
Representative statements from our VoC
  • “Some life science companies do not have a reputation for engaging customers post-sale. So, their advocates feel abandoned"
  • “Personalized follow-up and communications are proof points that the company cares about me after they made the sale."
  • “They should be checking in with me about any concerns or needs and to see what’s new. Then they’d show that they were still thinking of us after we bought the technology. Otherwise, we feel forgotten and completely off their radar.”
3. Companies must align with the needs of customers versus just selling products. They need to feel the heartbeat of customers’ labs and their needs.
4. This level of customer focus cannot happen at only one level. The entire company needs to be on board. Critical for sustaining the growth of a company is alignment throughout the company. This requires; visible and engaged executive leadership, widely shared and transparent goals and metrics, and frequent interactions between executive leadership and all levels of employees to ensure alignment regarding this vision.

In Summary
Final observations from two thought leaders;
Per Paul Conley, “Too many companies focus on building products. They should be focusing on building a culture which focuses on what it takes to make their customers successful… Customer commitment has to come from the top. The CEO has to live it and demonstrate it daily in their people and business decisions.”
Mike Lucero sums it up well, “Trust your customer. Customers invariably tell the truth. Also, perception is reality. If they feel that they are not appreciated, understood or kept up to date, that is their reality and impacts their customer satisfaction and willingness to advocate and recommend.

Monday, February 12, 2018

Stop the Condescending Second Guessing. Trust that Customers Know What They Want.

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on RetailTouchPoints.com
According to the IBM 2017 Customer Experience Index (CEI) Study, “Only 19% of brands offer more than a basic level of personalization of the online experience.” This doesn’t come close to meeting consumers’ demands for more personalized and human needs-based communications and experiences.

So how do marketers step up and deliver? For 2018 they need to trust that customers know what they want. Marketers must end the condescending view that customers don’t know what they want or don’t tell the truth.

In our ERDM VoC research, consumers told us time and time again that marketers still don’t get it! They still aren’t providing personalization that is meaningful or relevant:
  • “What we receive is not smart personalization.”
  • "They aren't personalizing the things that matter to me!"
  • "What they consider personalization is so old-fashioned."
  • "I want more than just simplistic buying history-based emails."
To provide “smart” personalization, marketers must engage customers to learn how they define their individual, personal, human needs. Then, meaningful communications and interactions must be created, which are not generic, inferential or transaction-based and are more helpful and tailored to selfprofiled preferences.

So, Step 1 in re-creating your marketing plan is to go beyond simplistic algorithms and buying histories and understand how, why and how often your customers want to be communicated with. This necessitates that you engage, ask, LISTEN, provide the ability to set preferences, and then respect these preference requests once submitted.

Step 2 is to end generic “spray and pray” marketing blasts and develop true, human-based omnichannel personalization driven by consumer preferences. This means trusting that customers know what they want.

Additionally, key consumer journey life stage points need to be identified, and corresponding engagement actions put in place.

Engagement strategies that offer help, advice and valueadded dialog are required at these key lifecycle points:
  • Acquisition
  • Onboarding
  • Anticipatory responses to decreasing engagement (visits, responses, purchases)
  • Immediate resolution of negative experiences
  • Surprise and delight and thank you marketing
  • Value added cross-selling and upselling
  • Repeat sales and renewals.

  • Engage customers by providing easy avenues of communication at all touch points. Whether it’s an online preference center or opportunity for contact updates during checkout, chat or phone conversations, give consumers the power to drive their relationship with your company.
  • Create the means to fully understand the intricacies of an individualized shopping journey. Engage shoppers to customize their experience — based on a compelling value proposition.
  • Identify key consumer life stages and put in place specific actions to acknowledge or respond to situations in a seamless manner, which demonstrates a desire to earn long-term loyalty rather than to expect it.
And, trust that customers know what they want. End the condescending view that customers don’t know what they want or don’t tell the truth.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Amazon & Kohl's; Walmart & Google — Blurring the Lines Between Online and In-Store Shopping

Amazon & Kohl's; Walmart & Google — Blurring the Lines Between Online and In-Store Shopping Article by Ernan Roman Featured on CustomerThink.com

Article by Ernan Roman
Featured on CustomerThink.com
You know the saying, "two heads are better than one"? For many companies, this phrase is playing out in new marketing partnerships which allow for better consumer experiences than either company could provide on their own.
Amazon and Kohl's Bridging Clicks with Bricks

Recently Kohl's announced that it will begin accepting Amazon.com returns at certain U.S. locations, where they will pack and ship eligible items — back to an Amazon fulfillment center — for free.
"This is a great example of how Kohl's and Amazon are leveraging each other's strengths – the power of Kohl's store portfolio and omnichannel capabilities combined with the power of Amazon's reach and loyal customer base," said Richard Schepp, Kohl's chief administrative officer.
Additionally, specific Kohl's stores will feature an Amazon Smart Home Experience which will provide a hands-on, interactive experience for consumers to try out a variety of Amazon devices.
"Kohl's and Amazon share a customer obsession and we've joined together to leverage each other's strengths and deliver a great experience ... said future CEO, now chief merchandising and customer officer Michelle Gass.
"The whole retail industry is going through a massive transformation," said Gass. "Those who ultimately are going to survive and thrive through this period are going to think differently...In terms of us staying relevant and interesting, surprising, engaging, it's doing things like this, so that in the end we can take market share and win over (the) long term...[It's] a bit of a laboratory to understand how customers engage with this kind of experience inside of Kohl's."
Dave Zimmer, vice president, sales and marketing, Amazon Devices commented. "Teaming up with Kohl's provides an incredible opportunity to pair world-class customer and shopping experiences."
Wal-Mart & Google Joining Up to Offer Voice-Enabled Shopping
In September, Wal-Mart shoppers could start linking their Wal-Mart accounts to Google Express to rapidly order via voice on Google Home or by shopping on Google Express. And while other retailers do offer items on Google Express, Wal-Mart's partnership is the only one that allows consumers to link their user account with Google Express, enabling Google to use consumers' past Wal-Mart order history to learn shopping patterns and recommend suitable products.
The integration will allow consumers to use a voice-device to state that they want to order a specific product. The platform will note their past purchase and ask if they'd like to re-order the same product again. If so, the order is seamlessly placed. Wal-Mart will be the first with this capability.
"We're thrilled to partner with one of the most popular stores in America to help make your shopping faster and easier," said Sridhar Ramaswamy, Google's senior vice president of ads and commerce.
Wal-Mart's head of e-commerce, Marc Lore noted on the partnership, "It makes sense for us to team up with Google... We know this means being compared side-by-side with other retailers, and we think that's the way it should be...An open and transparent shopping universe is good for customers..."
1. Consumers are blurring the lines between online and instore shopping with web-rooming and show-rooming.
Now retailers are following suit to provide the same. Marketers need to take heed of this trend to provide seamless Ecommerce and physical avenues to shoppers who may want to surf and shop in store or touch ‘n feel and order online.
2. Today's shopper is looking for advanced technology to simplify their busy lives.
Marketers need to begin utilizing the home-based cell, web and interactive devices that consumers now commonly own to provide enhanced shopping experiences with greater accessibility.