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Delighting customers doesn’t always require a huge investment and massive effort

I just got this handwritten postcard from my mail order pharmacy (see below). It put a smile on my face and left me impressed that the company and this individual would take the time to reach out in such a personal manner. It’s just one of many steps the firm has taken to ensure that I understand the drug that I’m on and know where and how to get help if needed.

(If you aren’t in the pharma market, hang in there. This blog post applies to more than life sciences, so if you are interested in customer experience and journey mapping, read on.)

You’ll notice that the card is from BriovaRx, a specialty pharmacy service that is part of OptumRx, a pharmacy mail order affiliate of United Healthcare Insurance Company. (Whew.) Here’s what BriovaRx says on its website (the bold notations are mine):

“BriovaRx® is more than a specialty pharmacy. We’re an educational resource for our patients. A 24/7 support system. A trusted advisor to every member of their care team. For more than 15 years, we’ve worked hard to ensure every patient gets the expert, personalized support needed to manage complex conditions and prescribed medications. (

When I first contacted them, BriovaRx said the company helps OptumRx patients with “specialty medicines.” I was curious because up until then I had only dealt with OptumRx or my local bricks and mortar pharmacy. I think “specialty pharmacy” probably refers to medicines that haven’t been on the market very long, are taken for chronic illnesses, or need close monitoring because of side effects. In truth, I don’t know exactly what it means. But I do know–from firsthand experience–that BriovaRx is very patient-centric.

I became a customer, incidentally, in parallel with interviewing several pharma executives about new business models and customer journey mapping. These discussions revealed many ways the life sciences market is reinventing itself and how pharma companies are shifting from transactions to on-going patient care. It was striking to see the similarity between what these executives were working on and how BriovaRx was operationalizing those ideas. During my first call, the pharmacy swaddled me with lots of help, friendliness, and information that keeps coming in a timely, non-invasive manner. Once while on a call with the customer care center I was switched from one rep to another but instead of annoying me, it was a pleasant surprise. That’s because the call was transferred seamlessly from BriovaRx to Bristol-Myers Squibb (the drug manufacturer)–without any clumsiness, delay or, most importantly, loss of context. Those smooth handoffs created an experience that wasn’t simply a one-off. Now, reps deliver whatever I need–such as a travel kit for the refrigerated drug, a free container for empty injectables, and even alcohol wipes. The notecard I received this week is only one of many differentiators that the BriovaRx/Bristol-Myers Squibb team has employed to foster a strong patient bond.

These experiences mirror what is beginning to happen at other life sciences companies, even if they are still operating in the same old way. In the past (or even now), patients with chronic illnesses are typically bombarded and overwhelmed with too much information when first diagnosed. After that, the life sciences companies typically go quiet until the patient orders drugs. Then, they crank their efforts up again to transact the order, providing precious little dialog or engagement with the patient. But that typical experience is changing before our eyes. Life sciences companies around the globe are working overtime to stop order taking and instead start helping each patient manage his or her disease(s) over the customer’s life-time. This could include involving a nurse to follow the patient’s medical case and schedule periodic outreach calls; checking with patients during crucial times during their treatment plan; or introducing patients to communities of other people with the same illness. These and similar customer touchpoints are part of a total reinvention from how life sciences companies and pharmacies operated in the past.

Moving to a new customer engagement business model is hard work. Customer experience teams staffed by marketing, IT, and medical staff are in overdrive to create new customer experiences. Companies conduct countless focus groups and voice of the customer sessions that result in hundreds of highly detailed customer journey maps for each organization. Teams are working hard to collect or mine data that will fuel predictive analytics and cognitive models. Some teams focus on engaging customers at specific touchpoints, such as the postcard above. In its entirety, the complexity and effort needed to implement customer experience management, including changing the culture, is executive-driven, time-consuming, resource-intensive, technology-centric, and costly.

And yet–I wonder. Amid all that activity, here’s something valuable to remember, whether you work in life sciences or some other industry. Creating great customer experiences doesn’t always have to take forever, require vast automation, or cost a fortune. Instead, a simple gesture like sending a handwritten notecard, painting the ceilings in hospital rooms, or putting fresh flowers and free wi-fi access in a reception area can make a huge difference in how customers perceive the company. It just takes imagination and a corporate culture that really, truly lives by this mantra: we care about our customers and we’ll do what it takes to show it.



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