• Renee Kalia

Why the Healthcare Customer Service Model needs a Radical Change

"Building a good customer experience does not happen by accident. It happens by design" -- Clare Muscutt

I’ve spent my entire career working in customer management across service and sales, and worked for some of the most amazing global brands and businesses. Notably, the last 10 years I have been in the Product Access space in the Pharmaceutical industry. This has been both a rewarding and eye opening experience.

Healthcare does not suffer from a lack of innovation and progress, and testament to that statement are the scores of new products, business models, technologies and methods of delivering care.

However, whilst all of those new solutions that are driven by investments of untold millions, have they actually made a measurable impact on the so-called triple aim of healthcare? Cost, Outcomes and Experience? Too big a question for this article but something to think about.

Anyway, moving back to the customer - It’s clear that things are in need of a change to better support patients to reduce the risk of unmet medical needs. Why?

The traditional bricks and mortar way of customer service is simply not going to scale for the way in which Pharmacists want to connect with medicine providers for their patients.

The unspoken truth is that Call Centre and/or Customer Service staff are still on low pay which equates to high levels of attrition and renders poor customer service.

If structural and technical changes are not addressed, retention and service becomes an ongoing and cyclical challenge with huge cost implications to business which goes hand in hand with the declining service outcomes.

Although for me its a no brainer - I personally find it bizarre that its ok to spend money on recruitment and talent acquisition because resource was lost internally mainly because of low pay or career limiting opportunities - sometimes both at the same time.

Think about that.

Low pay equates to high turnover, but the cost of recruiting cancels out the saving on low salaries. As a bonus, customer service isn't world class either. Far from it!

Businesses are spending the money anyway. If any business is experiencing this, they should take that as both an indicator and opportunity to make a change.

No time like the present..

Now is the ideal time to for a radical change. There is an opportunity for a business to make a disruptive change that eliminates all the current issues around low pay and high staff turnover and also sees a reduction in operating costs, and savings for their clients and above all, meeting the needs of the very busy pharmacist.

Yes, that is correct!

Consider this: A truly patient centric model that transcends all other customer service structures in Healthcare

  1. 1. More pay for customer service staff resulting in a reduction of employee attrition

  2. 2. Improved customer experience for pharmacists = patient centricity with faster response times. Currently, the SLAs range from 24 hours to 2 hours to respond to a medicine request or enquiry. How does a 5 minute response time sound?

3. Less operating costs for the business resulting in savings for pharma clients? Yes, more pay for staff, an unbeatable SLA time, topped with cost savings that can make client proposals more competitive. The absolute given with all of this is superior customer service - icing on the cake!

Reimagine the way Pharmacists are serviced

My proposed structure and vision is to transform the way in which Pharmacists, Physicians and Affiliates interact with customer service and also deliver improved pay for frontline staff. I'd like to see response times down to 5 minutes because there are patients in need - and deliver all of this in conjunction with a self-improving mechanism of optimising business process. Who would say no to that?

Until the traditional methods of delivering customer service are abandoned, providing a great service will become increasingly difficult for companies to achieve greatness let alone world class. I have no doubt that this is already the case.

This quote from Mr Jobs never gets old...

Intrigued? Take some inspiration from how the business to consumer customer service model is evolving when it comes to superior service to customers. Impressively achieved by inviting loyal customers to become ambassadors to support other customers for the brands that they love, and rewarded for providing excellent customer service. Unilever and Microsoft are leading the way on that one!

Whilst this model cannot and should not be copied and pasted into the service provision for Healthcare Professionals – there is huge scope to break away from the status quo and reimagine the way Pharmacists are serviced.

The proposed customer service model in the Product Access space is both innovative and disruptive. It will differentiate from competitors and transform traditional expectations. Want to learn more? Get in touch with me for a discussion on how to reimagine service to healthcare professionals.


A little bit about me. It was 5 years ago that I launched a service model for customer management and awarded a world class accreditation from the Institute of Customer Service. This region based and account driven structure serviced Pharmacists across Managed Access Programs, On-Demand products and Market Access products for hospitals to administer for their patients. It worked well and improved the customer experience drastically, which naturally reflected in sales too.

To this day, I see the same structure in place across pharma services with some minor changes to the approach that may or may not include a digital platform. Whilst this is both a compliment and testament to the strength of that structure, with most things, a historic approach cannot be sustained and must be improved and adapted over time.

If anyone wants an example of what happens to companies that don't move with the times? I suggest looking at the Netflix business model and their history over the last 20 years. See how it impacted Blockbuster Video followed by Sky TV - I am inspired by the Netflix business model and the CX innovators in the B2C space.

There has never been a better opportunity to transform and revolutionise customer service by changing the way in which Pharmacists, Physicians and Affiliates interact for medicine access to meet patient needs.

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