3 Ways to Transform Customer Engagement for the Future of Medtech
Customer engagement models are essential to maintain a thriving business, learn how Medtech firms can get theirs fit for purpose.
For a long time, the customer relationship between MedTech companies and healthcare professionals (HCPs), as well as healthcare providers (HPs), has been changing. The Medtech industry, like many others in the past couple of years, has been faced with an acceleration of nascent changes such as digital transformation and an increase in customer expectations – causing trends to solidify and become the new normal. Now, with basic assumptions around interactions and relationship building fundamentally altered, traditional customer engagement models can no longer deliver against their ambition for the future. We have witnessed different approaches by Medtech companies, some learning from inside and others from outside the healthcare space, to rethink their approach to customer engagement and how to make it more future fit.
Based on our experience, we have identified three crucial ways to transform customer engagement strategies so businesses can succeed in this new world of Medtech.
Hybrid Engagement with a Purpose
COVID-19 has permanently changed how the healthcare system works, forcing Medtech to quickly shift to remote engagements and digitize offline processes. Now, that the pandemic is more under control, it is apparent that there is no way back. Today’s customer engagement preferences have changed.
So, what does this mean for Medtech moving forward?
Medtech needs to engage with customers in a blended way – balancing the online and offline worlds – making permanent use of remote channels while at the same time recognizing the points at which a more human interaction makes a difference. In-person interactions remain a valid and irreplaceable tool at various points in the customer journey, but Medtech companies need to be targeted and purposeful in which types of interactions they favor for this and leveraging virtual interactions and multi-channel where relevant and feasible.
How to achieve a more hybrid engagement model?
- Shift your mindset from sales to customer: One crucial element in our work in this space is about the organizational mindset shift – from a sales funnel mindset that focuses on closing the “deal”, to more of a customer journey mindset, where building longer-term relationships is of higher priority. The closing of a sale no longer marks the end of the journey, it is only one additional step in the MedTech-HCP/HP relationship.
- Adapt engagement approach to customer type and journey stage: Different customer groups have different needs and preferences at different stages of the customer journey – understanding the journey both from a funnel perspective (awareness to conversion to loyalty/recommendation), but also from a touch point perspective (I.e. which touchpoints does a customer use across their journey). For instance, a hospital’s procurement lead will have different engagement needs than a physician who owns a single practice. Vivantes, the biggest hospital system in Germany, has different needs than a rural doctor. Understanding these needs and preferences is key to identifying which type of interaction adds the most value at each point along the customer journey.
- Capture individual customer preferences: Medtech should focus on customer preferences and align with them where possible. Accurate tagging in CRM systems helps paint a stronger picture of customer understanding and personalization. It is important that this knowledge is shared within the Medtech organization so that all stakeholders act upon it accordingly (sales reps from different divisions, marketing, etc).
- Ensure engagement and experiences align seamlessly: Individual high-quality interactions are relevant but diminished if a customer feels that follow-on connections are disjointed. A set of well-orchestrated interactions across the journey can improve the overall customer experience. MedTech organizations should work towards ensuring sales and marketing have a holistic view of the customer and follow through on the captured learnings.
Optimized Interactions in the Virtual Space
The pandemic has forced many to embrace tools they weren’t previously comfortable with, and these changes are permanent. The use of online tools has grown – and HCPs are using online information sources more than ever. The key benefits of more digital interactions are around convenience – research shows aspects such as flexibility of timing, less travel, less impact on workload and a more extensive selection of webinars instead of conferences. But purely digital interactions also have their shortcomings: loss of personal relationships with the sales reps, inability to network and overall, less engagement between reps and their customers. The focus should be on optimizing virtual interactions and reducing these drawbacks.
With so many competing demands on attention, nurturing and managing leads with targeted engagement is even more relevant in categories where the typical product lifespan is longer, given fewer windows of opportunity to sell the product. And digital channels allow for much more customized and recurrent interactions that permit Medtech to stay within the relevant consideration set.
Excellence in virtual events is driven by recognizing where efforts should be refocused when designing the experience. The key is to ensure virtual interactions are optimized to take advantage of the technologies used to engage customers, rather than be seen as a lesser alternative to in-person interaction. How can that be done?
- Update and optimize content online: While online sessions are usually seen as more convenient, it is also harder to keep the participants engaged and focused. Digitizing content used in offline interactions was the first step many Medtechs took – and quickly found that this was not sufficient. The content needs to be fully adapted to fit different channels and delivery mechanisms, in terms of level of detail, structure etc.
- Use data and insights to underpin decisions: One benefit of digital is its measurability. Data and insights need to be used to ‘test and learn’ when selecting and enhancing channels, content and delivery methods. Establishing the right KPIs and monitoring them is key. Virtual interactions provide an excellent opportunity to collect further customer insights, which can help inform both future remote and in-person interactions.
- Reimagine interactions to facilitate discussion: Oftentimes, virtual interactions don’t provide the same opportunities for participants to connect with peers and share experiences. Duplicating offline approaches into an online channel does not work, and MedTechs need to refocus their activities accordingly. Optimized virtual events prioritize connection and community elements while reducing the relevance of purely communicational elements.
Content is King (even more than before)
Customers are looking for convenient ways to educate themselves on specific topics. An individual Medtech’s authority in specific fields can make them a trusted source to provide education or even build connections in a non-commercial way. But they are not alone in this endeavor, and companies are feeling the pressure to deliver high-quality, relevant digital content like never before. While not all companies can keep up with the accelerated pace of content creation, Prophet’s Altimeter colleagues found that those that are successful in meeting this demand have implemented an “Agile Content System.” For many Medtechs in particular, and healthcare companies in general, internal compliance processes are a key obstacle to timely content creation, but there are simple ways to improve this:
- Ensure technology and workflows are working to streamline approval processes: Approval and compliance processes need to be structured in a way that allows for speedy, efficient publishing. In healthcare specifically, reviews by multiple stakeholder groups such as the ethics boards, legal teams and subject matter experts can slow down the approval process significantly. A modular content creation approach can help, as well as clearer content ownership and roles.
- Restructure content teams for greater agility: A centralized content team does not necessarily work for all Medtech firms. Depending on the key objective and business need (i.e. brand awareness building vs demand/revenue generation), the ideal structure should be set up but it’s essential they work together on a shared agenda. Our research shows that the most effective organizations balance both brand and demand.
- Set bolder, clearer goals that go beyond brand: Oftentimes, Medtech organizations are focused on content to drive brand awareness. With the changing preferences of their customers, there is a need to revise this approach. This shift in thought leadership (i.e. Siemens Healthineers Insights series or their Healthcare Challenges podcast), also requires a review of the KPIs to ensure the correct content metrics are being tracked and reported on.
Customer engagement is a critical aspect of any business, and this is no exception in the Medtech industry. The complex ecosystem and the diversity of customers do not make this an easy task for Medtech organizations, but there are strategies that can help to transform and succeed in this new world of customer engagement, enabling Medtechs to become the customer’s first choice of engagement.