Sari Jääskeläinen

Less guessing, more genuine customer understanding

16.01.2023 / Sari Jääskeläinen

Customer and user orientation, bold approach to innovations and co-creation – these three pillars form the basis of service design, a holistic approach to business development that results in business benefits and far-reaching competitive advantages.

In prescription drug marketing the pharmaceutical company and its representatives have many ways and opportunities to offer meaningful, value-adding service to doctors which then promotes brand awareness and sales. Service design relies on customer-oriented way of thinking, planned design process and specific tools for analysing and visualising shared goals. In service design, customer needs and business goals are aligned.

The customer experience is created and accumulated in every touchpoint along the customer journey. The experience is affected by e.g. marketing communication, the service situation itself, service contents and the ease and reliability of the process. In addition, different levels of customer experience must also be taken into account when planning meetings and marketing materials.

Along with material facts, the experience is also influenced by actions, feelings and meanings. As we know, a positive customer experience brings added value and differentiates the company and its product from competitors.

Service design in prescription drug marketing

The marketing of prescription drugs can be streamlined with the help of service design. Marketing communications and related materials can be seen as a service provided by a pharmaceutical company to a doctor.

Marketing is no longer seen as a product-oriented push but as a comprehensive service where the doctor receives current and latest research information related to the therapy area and the drug. Every touchpoint is a service experience worth investing in.

Let’s imagine for a moment that you are a pharmaceutical sales representative presenting a drug and efficacy to a doctor. The meeting is short, only 15 minutes. The campaign presentation is an important tool that should answer all the doctor’s questions, even proactively. In addition, you want to underline the product’s competitive advantage and new performance data.

Marketing communications can be seen as a service provided by a pharmaceutical company to a doctor. Every touchpoint is a valuable service experience for the customer worth investing in.

Mapping of customer needs can be done, for example, by means of interviews, group discussions or observation. It should be noted that customers have many hidden needs that they don’t recognize or know how to express. In addition to the needs, it is useful to analyse market competition and evaluate one’s business goals so that acquired customer information can be prioritised.

Needs can only be defined and crystallized after they have been recognized. A customer-oriented way of thinking does not assume but is based on knowledge and genuine understanding.

For example, customer journey and customer profiles are used as tools when we’re analysing and crystallizing information. In addition, design drivers can be utilised if common themes, needs or pain points arise.

The customer journey describes and visualizes the entire service experience, which consists of several service moments. In pharmaceutical marketing, a service moment can be for example a seminar, direct mail, a meeting or the landing page of a banner campaign.

The customer journey can be used to define goals, media and materials of all touchpoints on service moments. This helps in content planning and project management, which in turn increases the effectiveness and value of marketing communications for the customer.

The main stages of the service design process

Perhaps the best-known service design process model is the double diamond model by the British Design Council. The model describes two diamonds: the goal of the first diamond is to map and define customer needs, and in the second diamond phase, the current service is conceptualized and developed further, or new services are created based on mapped needs.

When customers are involved in the process, valuable information about needs and feedback on the functionality of the service is obtained. In this way, the service can be further developed even when customer needs change.

A simplified double diamond model displays the steps of the service design process.
A simplified double diamond model displays the steps of the service design process.

Explore and identify customer needs

Mapping of customer needs can be done, for example, by means of interviews, group discussions or observation. It should be noted that customers have many hidden needs that they don’t recognize or know how to express. In addition to the needs, it is useful to analyse market competition and evaluate one’s business goals so that acquired customer information can be prioritised.

Needs can only be defined and crystallized after they have been recognized. A customer-oriented way of thinking does not assume but is based on knowledge and genuine understanding. For example, customer journey and customer profiles are used as tools when we’re analysing and crystallizing information. In addition, design drivers can be utilised if common themes, needs or pain points arise.

The customer journey describes and visualizes the entire service experience, which consists of several service moments. In pharmaceutical marketing, a service moment can be for example a seminar, direct mail, a meeting or the landing page of a banner campaign. The customer journey can be used to define goals, media and materials of all touchpoints on service moments. This helps in content planning and project management, which in turn increases the effectiveness and value of marketing communications for the customer.

The customer journey can be used to visualize the stages of the customer experience.

Develop, test and implement

Based on recognised needs, solutions and ideas are visualized, and experiences can be simulated. Useful tools for this are workshops and design sprints. In service design, co-development with customers and other stakeholders is used to make the end service as usable as possible.

By testing designers discover which option should be implemented in practice. The used methods include e.g. pilot experimenting, prototyping and service model description. If not before, then at least in this final stage designers can verify if the service responds to the right needs, if the service is still relevant and financially viable, and worth of implementing.

Let’s return to the earlier example of a meeting between a sales representative and a doctor. After the 15 minutes have passed and the meeting is over, it’s worthwhile to examine and analyse the service moment.

With the meeting still fresh in one’s mind, going through it again enables us to notice what worked, what needs to be developed further and what new topics came up that open up possibilities for offering and designing additional services.

4 take-home messages of service design

  • Instead of assuming, find out your customers’ real needs or problems for which solutions are created and developed. Customer focus requires empathy and an understanding of customer needs.
  • Provide useful and innovative marketing communications in the channels the targeted doctors frequent.
  • Avoid unnecessary expenses and focus your resources on producing the right services and content by knowing exactly what is needed and focusing on developing just that. Testing and piloting also increase customer understanding and cost efficiency.
  • Joint development: encourage customers and the company’s employees to commit to common goals and to a customer-oriented operating model.

KarpaloGroup uses service design methods in the strategic planning and concept design of marketing communication so that the plans correspond to the analyzed customer needs and the business goals of the customer company. We do design assignments with customer needs and wishes at the centre. During these projects cooperation and customer workshops play an essential role. Project planning and workshop facilitation are carried out by KarpaloGroup’s expert team.

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