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Mobile CRM comes of age.

David Round, General Manager, Cegedim Relationship Management, explains why the arrival of technologies such as customer relationship management (CRM) on the iPad has combined with a technically savvy user base to finally enable the vision of a highly productive, informed and informative mobile sales force.


For nearly 20 years, the pharmaceutical industry has been talking about mobile working for its representatives. But despite making significant, sustained investment the field force, mobile technology is yet to be embraced to the extent it could be--primarily because of the shortcomings in hardware rather than a resistance to change.

Mobile Vision

The caricature of the ostentatious city professional with red braces, flash sports car and mobile phone complete with a separate battery pack may prompt laughter now, but for the pharmaceutical field force of the early 1990s, the adoption of new technology was far from amusing. It was around 20 years ago that the first pharmaceutical companies unveiled the laptop; their new secret weapon for the next generation of sales force. With the vision of transforming productivity by providing representatives with the ability to exploit downtime between visits to doctors, mobile access to Electronic Territory Management Systems (ETMS) was meant to herald a brave new world. The reality, however, was somewhat different.

Likened to a small suitcase, and with a battery life measured in minutes rather than hours, few representatives embraced their new machines. Whether too embarrassed to be seen carrying one of these monstrosities around with them, permanently battered from lugging them around, or simply in fear of being mugged for a machine that cost in excess of [pounds sterling]4000, the vast majority of representatives refused to use the laptop in front of the doctor.

Furthermore, there was huge reluctance across the field force to adapt to this new way of working, particularly in the far less technologically aware age that it was. Yes, individuals could access corporate information from the laptop but, in a world with no wi-fi or broadband, the laptop still had to go into the docking station at home to upload. Even then, waiting for the modem to tunefully--and often unsuccessfully--dial up was time-consuming; data transfer rates were painfully slow and, given the general lack of commitment amongst some representatives to update information within the ETMS, data value was somewhat limited.

Customer Barrier

And so it has continued. Even when the first, somewhat shaky and unconvincing, talking head videos appeared on laptops a couple of years later, with a Key Opinion Leader (KOL) waxing lyrical about the value of a new therapy, pointing the way towards an e-Detailing future, many remained unconvinced.

The ETMS has been replaced by fully featured CRM software, enabling pharmaceutical companies to have far better information about customers and stakeholders, to track interactions and map performance. But even when laptops finally became lighter, smaller and more reliable, and the stigma associated with using them in public disappeared, the concept of mobile CRM has struggled to gain favour with representatives, certainly within the sales visit.

Representatives are undoubtedly gaining value from a wi-fi world where excellent mobile communications enable real-time access to corporate information anytime, anywhere. But some are still struggling to introduce multimedia e-Details, PowerPoint presentations or Excel-based health economic models during the detail: the process of opening and booting up the laptop and searching for the presentation before passing it over to the healthcare professional completely breaks the interaction and makes for uncomfortable pauses in the sales flow.

The detailing process has to be a seamless experience; any messaging or presentation must be delivered without interrupting the flow or creating a barrier between rep and customer. It is OK to plug the laptop into a projector to inform those at a meeting, but within a personal interaction, having to first find the material and then hand over the laptop to look through a presentation can create more problems than it solves.

New Tools

So what must change to enable the vision of mobile CRM to be realized? During the past 12 -18 months a number of factors have come together that will, finally, enable effective representative mobility. Heard it all before? Well consider: today's field force is highly technically savvy, representatives are using their Smartphone devices to send emails and update their Facebook pages. There is simply no technology resistance any more ... and this applies to the healthcare professionals as well.

With the arrival of devices such as the iPad, e-Detailing suddenly becomes viable. There is no need to boot up or undertake time-consuming searches for the right presentation: a tablet can be handed over to an individual who instinctively knows how to use and interact with it. This allows the representative to concentrate on the interaction and the reactions of the customer, rather than pressing buttons to find the next slide in the presentation.

The inherently flexible technology allows the representative to choose from a raft of e-Detailing material, from fully interactive multimedia presentations to PowerPoint or simple PDF data sheets, to meet the needs of diverse opinion leaders based on both role and drivers. The availability of CRM applications on the tablet has fundamentally changed the dynamic of customer interaction. When you add this detailing support to the benefits that are already being attained from real-time access to CRM information on the move, suddenly the pharmaceutical companies can finally see the chance to realize a 20-year old vision.

The timing for mobile CRM could not be better. There is a rapidly changing customer base, with another new set of customer types. Yet opportunities to interact with new stakeholders are as rare as hens' teeth right now--individuals need to be as well prepared as possible through excellent background research and understanding. Representatives have evolved into key account managers (KAMs) who need to be incredibly well informed about local influencers, strategy and KOLs. And they need to be flexible: even when a KAM gets an appointment there is no guarantee in this constantly evolving and ever changing NHS that the meeting will go ahead with the contact with whom it was booked. Never before has a representative needed more access to information or to feel confident that information is up to date.

Across Europe too, the landscape in mobile CRM and rep interaction is changing with the approach to accessing key decision-makers equally as important as the mobile technology used to plan and execute the meeting. Take for example, Spain - policies to mitigate healthcare costs by enforcing generic prescriptions dominate the country's highly fragmented market. Thus, it is essential for pharma and biotech companies to gain a more valuable understanding of the new matrix of decision makers that operate at both national and regional levels. Competitive companies are leveraging the advantage of flexible CRM solutions to quickly enhance market access strategies and streamline commercial team operations in a globally cost-controlled industry.

Similarly in Portugal, breakthrough CRM solutions are the defining force in the country's two-tier healthcare structure in which a limited number of physicians must prescribe medications from cost containing formularies. As a result, companies continue to seek revolutionary solutions that drive sales force innovation and maximize efficiency by quickly adapting to an evolving healthcare structure and providing real-time analysis of a commercial team's performance.

A complete view of customer interactions through instantly accessible, real-time data enables companies to better leverage key relationships and more effectively manage commercial teams. Furthermore, governance over commercial teams and enhanced stakeholder targeting makes for sustained and long-term growth.

Inherently, life sciences commercial teams across the globe are now a mobile force interacting with their stakeholders on a daily basis. Consequently, the need for proven mobility tools that are intuitive, fast and that enhance interactions with healthcare professionals is considered a necessity rather than a luxury in today's environment.

Perfect Storm

With the raft of mobile devices now available with their instantaneous access to almost anything, individuals can always track down the latest research on an organization or individual; they can use the CRM system to track interactions across KOL networks; and they can use tools such as Near Me, which provides a graphical view of individuals locally who could fit in with the call plan to maximize productivity. They can also collaborate effectively across the team--sending requests for additional information, such as research studies, direct to the relevant team member whilst in a meeting with the customer.

This dovetailing of demand with technology is driving significant adoption rates for mobile CRM, with pharmaceutical companies developing ever more innovative solutions that include e-Detailing and multimedia interaction with healthcare professionals. Critically, there is real commitment from the field force to use these CRM systems because they are gaining quantifiable value from the information.

No longer do pharmaceutical companies have to bend activity to fit the technology: the mobile technology is available, the CRM solutions are in place and, critically, the field force is skilled and comfortable. The market has finally reached this perfect storm--all the components of mobile CRM are now in place to realize the pharmaceutical company vision of a highly productive, totally mobile field force.


For more information

David round

General manager

Cegedim relationship


+44 1509 224 700
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Title Annotation:SOFTWARE/IT
Date:Jan 1, 2012
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