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The unbeatable duo: artificial intelligence does not replace human intelligence

Artificial intelligence in the customer engagement area of pharmaceutical companies has been a buzz word for the last decade or so. However, after years of disruptive developments and multiple hopeful implementations, suggestions for the reps have failed to deliver on their promises, causing project failure within many companies. Despite a few successful implementations, many companies have faced the harsh reality of poor outcomes while rolling out the new capabilities.

In this blog post, we explore the reasoning behind such project failure, shedding lights on specific approaches that, for the future, can help elevate the outcome of similar technology implementations in the Customer Engagement field.

Whether the technology is based on artificial intelligence or not, it is essential to identify the root cause for failure accurately. Without diving in too deep in the ins and outs of why technology projects fail, the most crucial aspect is to ensure that fear and reluctance from the field force is removed, allowing them to perform their best. A tool that will be leveraged to decide the course of action is often met by scepticism from the field force, as their daily activities usually include deciding on such tactics. Each suggestion’s relevance will be considered another crucial aspect, including understanding the rationale behind the suggestion itself. Nobody would consciously support an approach that could potentially destroy their work and aims, and it is crucial that the objectives and reasoning behind each suggestion are clear. Hence, the field force should effectively understand why the specific messages should be proposed and delivered to the HCP.

Without feedback from the field, the machine learning engine cannot improve, and the implementation is bound to failure. Learnings from a project that hit the mark indicate that successful technology implementations should not be scary for the reps but solely support them in elevating their performances. When the suggested messages align with the brand strategy and business tactics, projects are more successful, as the team are more prone to remain confident in the technology’s capabilities. A good example is our usage of Outlook’s calendar function. Who goes against the suggestions for the best meeting time? Probably nobody, as the suggestions are perceived as reliable, thus trustworthy. This function is not based on artificial intelligence, but it is not a requirement to create value.

Explaining what the concept of artificial intelligence means could also help. Most of the companies are using rules and constraints engines and not AI. Optimizing a solution to a problem under some assumptions sounds far less of magic than artificial intelligence.

Any suggestion for improvement that could help make the reps more efficient would create a tremendous gain for life science companies as the field force is the most expensive channel to reach HCPs.

At BASE, we have adopted a different approach. Instead of suggesting the best action, we think that providing awareness of possible gains and achievements, is much more effective. When a rep has an hour or two after the main meeting of the day, it is not relevant to have a to-do list ready, but rather a list of relevant HCPs that he could potentially visit. Of course, the list should be based on relevant criteria as the entire set of HCPs would be irrelevant, but it is crucial to allow the individual to rep a degree of flexibility to decide who to prioritize when and why. Saving the rep the time to scroll down the entire territory list can be creating a lot of value.

This idea is not very difficult to put in place. At any given point in time, the concept provides a list of the primary 5 or 6 HCPs that a rep could visit in a specific location and at a specific time of day. The rep’s current location should be determinant for the list of HCPs, showcasing those located within a reasonable travelling distance. Whether the range is set to 20 or 50 km has a limited impact on the concept, but could potentially save time for the field force. However, the timing of when the reps look at the report should matter. Data providers and life sciences companies keep a record of the best time to visit HCP, that coupled with the data on travelling distance will result in a comprehensive and valuable list for the rep to utilize for maximum benefit. A report that pulls data from both dimensions can be retrieved from a standard industry CRM system.

Additionally, BASE suggests including a perspective linked to the segmentation of the HCPs and information on the last call date to narrow down the list even further. The last call date should be more specific than a time frame, as the time-lapse between visits should be determined by the company. Finally, if you are using call plans with target frequencies, this data could comprise an additional dimension to create a detailed list of potential HCPs relevant to pay a visit. Those HCPs would be reachable and generally willing to engage, thus supporting the decision-making process.

One of the critical values of this approach lies in its simplicity. Reps will immediately understand each suggestion’s objective, increasing their confidence in them. Reps are thus more prone to start utilizing the technology to achieve better outcomes. Besides, this approach removes the hassle of training reps to provide continuous feedback.

By allowing the reps individual freedom to choose, tremendous value is added as they will be picking the right suggestions based on their accumulated knowledge from experience. A machine cannot replace human intelligence completely, but the combination of both will be an unbeatable duo

About BASE life science

BASE life science is an innovative and forward-thinking technology, product and service consultancy specialized in creating real business value from digital platforms and data. Our experienced teams are ready to help optimize your technology and business processes within Customer Engagement, Quality, Regulatory, Compliance and Clinical data management.

BASE currently operates from our offices in Denmark, Switzerland, Spain, and Germany, where we assist customers across the globe. You can safely choose us as your entrusted partner, as we will make it our goal to bring your vision to life.

About the author — Baptiste Mercier, Head of Customer Engagement

As head of Customer Engagement, Baptiste is an expert at helping our customers create real business value from their commercial, medical, digital marketing and market access platforms and data. Baptiste has more than 15 years of experience with CRM in pharma and is PMP, ITIL, Salesforce, Veeva, and OCE certified.

BASE life science is a fast growing, fast paced consultancy focused on the life science industry.

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