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Searching for the “ultimate” KPI for HCP customer experience in biopharma


17 January 2024 : Blog issue N°46 by Beverly Smet

Like many other industries, biopharma is showing an increasing interest in optimizing customer experience – and measuring it to prove its business impact. Pharma companies are busy exploring several macro-level KPIs commonly used in other industries, including Net Promoter Score (NPS), Customer Effort Score (CES) and Customer Satisfaction (CSAT). But are these KPIs all equally relevant (and actionable)? 

To address this important question, we first took a deep dive into our Navigator365™ Core and Navigator365™ Cx Benchmark data…. In this article, we focus on US oncologists – but the trend is very similar for other US specialists (as well as European HCPs). We took the top-5 pharma companies at the overall therapy area level (Core) with a deeper dive into their respective breast cancer brands (Cx Benchmark) for four of the top-5 pharma companies (as one did not have an actively promoted brand in this space).

The big picture

The overview table above shows that the first position is not consistently awarded – all three measures at the company level reveal different leaders. The picture is the same at the brand level – with one new leader. Interestingly, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Merck are relatively consistent at company level, but some companies show strong swings: BMS is first and fifth; Novartis first and fourth (right part of the table). Finally, the deltas between the leading (high) and last (low) company tend to be VERY small (see HILO) – except for brand-level NPS.

Combining all of this, one could conclude that these KPIs are not very differentiating and hence are very hard to act on. Let’s now zoom in on the individual KPIs and probe a bit deeper – is there such a thing as a gold-plated KPI?

Customer Satisfaction (CSAT)

CSAT is a customer experience measure “of how products and services supplied by a company meet or surpass customer expectation” (Wikipedia), and its pharma relevance was tested with over 5,500 HCPs in our 2023 Navigator365™ Core release across EU and US. When zooming in on US oncologists, the scores for the top five companies are quite close, ranging from 66 (Novartis) to 72 (BMS, Merck). (NOTE: The CSAT question has not been tested in our Cx Benchmark research, but it is very likely that it would fare in a similar way to CES – shown next – at the brand level)


Customer Effort Score (CES)

CES, introduced by Gartner, is a customer experience metric that measures the effort needed to access or use a product or service, resolve a support issue, or find the information needed. Across Health tested the value of CES at both the company (Core) and brand level (Cx Benchmark), using the statement: “The company/brand makes it easy for me to engage with them through the channel of my preference”. Similar to the CSAT scores, the top five companies in this space are quite similar, and range from 44 (BMS) to 50 (Novartis). At the brand level, the differentiation is similarly low. The conclusion therefore is similar to CSAT: the results are difficult to action. 

Interestingly, the average brand-level CES scores are much higher vs the company-level ones. This may point to a stronger brand-level experience than the perhaps more amorphous company-level perceptions – is this being confirmed in the NPS comparison?


Net Promoter Score (NPS)

NPS is a business and market research metric asking respondents to rate the likelihood they would recommend a company, product, or a service to a friend or colleague on a scale between 0 and 10. We already test NPS at both the brand- (Cx Benchmark) and company level (Core), and our 2023 research showed that, similar to the two other company-level KPIs, company NPS does not differentiate strongly, and the NPS-based ranking differs from CES and CSAT. The NPS score for the leading company (Merck) is only 4, with scores heading into negative figures already from the third ranked company onwards. In contrast, the NPS for the top brand is MUCH higher – above 30 – with most brands receiving a positive NPS. 

Also, brand-level NPS offers a greater degree of differentiation, with an almost 40-point difference between the fourth-ranked brand and the leader. Similar to CES, finally, the brand-level scores tend to be much higher vs the company-level ones, suggesting a weak company involvement/loyalty.

Does this make brand NPS a “golden” customer experience KPI then?

Our data convincingly show that, in order to track HCP customer experience, the classic brand-level NPS stands out as the most differentiating of the KPIs tested. But is it also actionable? There are two levels to this:

1) More than 50% of promoters (those who rate the brand as a 9 or 10 on the 0–10-point scale) and passives (who give a 7 or 8 rating) are driven by customer experience factors. And customer experience can in turn be actionably deconstructed in key attributes related to content, channels and Cx attributes vs key competitors… the key concept behind the Navigator365™ Cx Benchmark.         

2) At the same time, brand NPS is a key predictor of sales and market share evolution – the ultimate business driver – also in pharma. We demonstrated this in a recent collaboration with a client, who provided 12-month market share evolution data (Y axis) for three specialty brands (two growth brands and one recently launched product, shown in orange) across seven countries. We then plotted the brand NPS scores (adjusting for country-specific differences) from a 2023 Navigator365™ Cx Benchmark (X axis). The chart reveals a compelling correlation between the two dimensions, particularly for the two growth brands. For the recently launched brand, the pattern is less clear for certain markets. This may be due to the small number of promoters/loyal users in the early PLC stage – in line with other new entrant NPS scores in other Benchmark studies.

In conclusion
First, HCPs tend to connect their experience with specific brands rather than the more “abstract” companies, i.e. they appear not to have much of a strong opinion on the reputation of pharma companies – what they do care about is the individual products. Second, the only highly differentiating – and at the same time business-driving – KPI we have come across is brand-level NPS, in which customer experience is a key driver.

Investing in a superior omnichannel customer experience should therefore be a strategic imperative for your brand as it should drive business outcomes. But how to go about it? At Across Health we see the following causal relationships:

Starting at the foundation, one of our custom-made offerings for the orange box is the Across Health Navigator365™ Cx Benchmark, which allows you to easily deconstruct customer experience into key actionable sublevels, at the functional, content, channel and Cx attribute levels – and track the impact of your efforts over time.

If you would like to know more about how benchmarking with Navigator365™ Cx Benchmark can help create a burning platform for change in your organization, please reach out and we would be happy to arrange a call with one of our omnichannel experts

To hear our experts advise on how robust (and regular) benchmarking can help improve CX and lead to improved business outcomes, please register for our upcoming webinar.

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Across Health is evolving...

From 24 June 2024, the new name for Across Health is Precision AQ! This change is happening in-line with the rebranding being undertaken by the entire Precision Value & Health team (of which we have been a part since February 2021).

Having joined forces with over 1,200 life-science experts, advisors and creatives across 100+ diverse fields, we will continue to partner with our clients to deliver evidence-based omnichannel engagement strategies while empowering access to life-changing medicines for all.

While we transition across to our new website, click here to see how we are already focusing on HCP engagement in the digital age, fuelled by powerful insights from our Navigator365TM research.

To find out more about our wider global services and unified mission, read our publication here.