Applying Customer Experience (CX) to COVID19 vaccination: #3 Collaborate across silos to design the best experience in a win-win relationship with partners and patients

12.09.21 12:42 PM By Hans Vanderwegen

September 2021. Previous articles illustrated how to confirm experiences from the customer's and patient's point of view. We explained the requirement for companies to understand their role and impact in the end-to-end eco system before defining their own CX strategies. These concepts were illustrated using COVID-19 vaccination programs as example. Next, we highlighted why the complexity of the healthcare eco-system requires actors to use non-traditional but tailor-based approaches for CXM. We illustrated the impact of strategic partners from product development to patient administration and follow up. CX can only be successful when you are able to optimise and manage all dependencies in this end-to-end process. The amount and complexities of these dependencies for life science actors is much higher than in most industries or sectors.

Given the high level of interactions in customer's and patient's journeys, how can life science companies collaborate to the benefit of their customers and patients? How can you as a responsible CX leader, convince your business partners to collaborate on jointly improving the customer journey?

Concept 3: Collaborate across silos to design the best experience in a win-win relationship

When companies are modelling customer and patient journeys to identify and analyse critical touchpoints, they typically start very ambitious. However, they also quickly come to the conclusion that the CX optimisation is more complex than originally assumed. Obviously, in life sciences, a patient journey does not stop or start within one company. In delivering services and products to customers, your company is just one of the steps in the entire network of partners, each contributing to the end-to-end process. Therefore, to be successful, companies need to understand their specific impact in this eco-system, and use that understanding to collaborate across their borders of control to design the best possible customer journey. 

The question is: how do you engage your partners in this process while still differentiating yourself vis-a-vis competitors?

Let's be fair. In most companies CX is still mainly managed by marketing or commercial departments. Often, the concept is even not really understood beyond these departments. They struggle to break down internal silos and to create the right collaboration in the entire organisation across functions. Despite the time and energy needed to achieve this change internally within organisations; for life science companies, this step is not enough to achieve success. Life science companies must not only breakdown their own organisational silos, they also need to integrate CX processes with their partners. The main driver for that integration should not be for the short term benefit of the company itself, the focus should be on improving the customer and patient experience, which will generate benefits long term. That challenge is a huge step.

End-to-end means that all partners of your eco system are engaged and obsessed by the same customer-centricity as you are. To give one example, your last channel e.g. the last mile delivery by your logistics partners, could screw up a well-designed customer experience process. Our previous article illustrated specific examples related to the COVID-19 vaccination: issues with respect to the quality of the product (e.g. safety for specific populations, efficacy of vaccines, production quality in plants, destruction of batches), decisions on handling group priorities (e.g. disappointing nurses and elderly people that couldn't be vaccinated as planned, preference for sporters, high profile people), unreliable supply of Vx (e.g flow of changes in deliveries as result of overpromised capabilities), explicit and open public conflicts (e.g. between the EU commission and AstraZeneca widely available and discussed on TV stations), success and volunteering for local vaccination centers; new outbreaks of variants, hopes on reopening businesses replaced by new lockdown measures; an overwhelming series of communications and interactions on the vaccination program. Regardless on how well you have designed your own controllable CX process, actions or failures later in the journey could destroy all of your work in the eyes of patients.

So if you are a B2B or B2C company, without direct contact to patients, how do you know if your patients are happy and satisfied with the overall final experience they get from your products or services? How do you ensure your organisation to be recommended?

"To design the best possible customer experience, companies need to collaborate as partners by breaking down silos and creating win-win relationships to the benefit of patients."

Let's turn to the COVID-19 vaccination process. A typical chain includes suppliers, manufacturers, affiliates, distributors, transporters, governments, vx centra, hospitals, pharmacies, volunteers, care providers and patients. They all contribute to a successful customer journey, each having their role in the vaccination program. Assume each of these partners has done a customer journey mapping and well understands the impact they have within the eco system to improve patient experiences. They each understand the overall patient view and requirements, and have used this knowledge to design their controllable parts of the patient journey taking into account the role and impact of all other end-to-end stakeholders. Now they need to approach  each other stakeholder to implement and collaborate beyond their own organisation and process. How to create a win-win relationship to ensure your first, second and higher level partners are willing to contribute to a better experience for patients?

No clear answers can be given for life science actors. Each situation is specific and requires a very tailored based approach. Solutions are depending on therapeutic area, product life cycle, business maturity, status of your partners, willingness for collaboration, etc. Solutions will evolve and mature across your product and service portfolios. There is no single magic bullet that resolves all the above. Here are some examples of what we have done after having developed a deep understanding of stakeholder roles including the benefit identification of win-wins for patients and partners.

Example 1. During clinical development, patient recruitment is an excellent vehicle to understand and dry run patient experience management and engagement on a smaller and well-controllable scale. What is the feedback of patients on the administration process? on the product or service usage and positioning? on the effects and implications beyond the pure regulatory reporting obligations you need to collect and file? Use the clinical trials and the distribution processes around to share the results with supply chain partners that are involved much later in the end-to-end process. Likewise, for life cycle management of mature products, CX information from customers and patients can help to save on time to market and costs of development. Looking to the way COVID-19 vaccines are currently delivered, prepared and administrated, many CX optimisation opportunities are still on the table.

Example 2. Early access to new products, that are not formally approved but yet critical for patients cfr. in areas such as oncology and cell therapy. That early access can be used to create a unique bond with your targeted patient population. Unique opportunities in which patients are prepared to go the extra mile for you and happy to share their experiences and feedback, as a return for getting access in late stage clinical development. The COVID-19 vaccines but also COVID diagnostic testing are examples in which non-approved products are used under emergency authorization. We could have used the vaccination centres to collect feedback from patients on the COVID products and services. With our future distribution processes still to be defined, engaging with patients would have been a powerful way to optimise the CX processes before large world-wide deployments.

Example 3. Exchange of data with end-to-end partners to improve process coordination, alignment and planning, leads to improved experiences. Coordination and open communication with your partners, ensures a consistent and more reliable process with less errors. Connecting CX directors across borders are to the benefit of patients. Fees can be agreed on exchange of data elements and result in additional revenues. Reflecting again on COVID-19 vaccination experiences: what is the impact on the way issues from companies such as AstraZeneca have been broadly covered by politicians. Rather than focussing on the win-wins, parties have be criticising each other openly. Further alignment will be required over the next few years when side effects and long term efficacy of the vaccines are to be managed. The same consistent message with all your partners based on exchange of data will be beneficial for your own business, your partners, and the patients being vaccinated and those still not vaccinated. Define your joint key performance indicators and seek the win-win with your partners to the benefit of patients. For COVID-19, think of a coordinated effort to address anti-vaxxers in specific regional areas or cultures, as opposed to the current situation in which confidential contracts on pricing have been disclosed: price pressure is being created due to release of confidential information by politicians, rather than benefits from collaboration.

"Using clinical trials to design patient experience processes on smaller scale, capturing CX feedback in return for early access, and sharing data with end-to-end partners: examples of win-wins leading to the creation of improved E2E patient experience processes."

Every situation requires a specific approach tailored to your vision, values, products and services. The choices selected in improving customer and patient journeys need to take into account on how companies want to differentiate amongst competitors. What is strategic for the business, what is not? in which business process to compete, in which not? what are the long term versus short term benefits we aim for? Your specific capabilities to contribute to the overall customer experience in collaboration, will make you the preferred partner of choice to be plugged into the end-to-end process. 

Others will drop off because they still struggle to sell CX internally. 

To conclude: to be successful, companies not only need to understand their role and impact in the eco-system, they also need to develop capabilities to collaborate on CX across their borders of control to ensure the best customer end-to-end journey. Their capability to adapt and contribute in different types of journeys, will be a differentiating factor for their business success. The contribution needs to include benefits for the end customer or patients, but also for their direct upstream and downstream partners. In optimising CX, companies need to find ways to create win-wins for all stakeholders.

Let's recap on the first 3 concepts from my blog: 

#1. confirm the experiences from the customer's and patient's point of view

#2. understand your impact in the end-to-end eco system before setting your strategy

#3. collaborate across silos to design the best experience in a win-win relationship

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4XSCIENCE is supporting life science actors with identifying, creating and implementing improved customer and patient experiences. From preclinical to commercial, from patient back to supply chain. Better customer experience management (CXM) accelerates product development, lowers costs, increases revenues and results in improved healthcare for all of us. As a result of innovation and digitalisation, the opportunities to improve CX have increased significantly and require transformation of traditional supply chains. We advice clients with leveraging technology, processes, people and data. Patients first? We make it real. Contact us for a more in-depth discussion on how we can help your business to be more customer oriented.