Customer management at Pfizers
A customised approach to keeping contact with doctors can
help pharma companies stand out. Deepali Gupta and Sneha Khanna
take a look at Pfizers home-grown CRM system that has successfully accomplished
Vijay Bhaskar Dixit
Competition is forcing pharmaceutical companies to look at
marketing as a key differentiator. Pharmas are working at maintaining an active
field force that targets doctors one at a time as the most economical means
for creating awareness.
While most companies have a scientific approach to this activity, some who have
automated it to a large extent have found that their IT systems have brought
substantial returns to them. Pfizer is one of the few pharmas to adopt a home-grown
Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software solution to catalogue all data
pertaining to its sales force.
In 2001, the Indian wing of Pfizer perceived that the deployment of a sales
reporting system would ensure structured documentation of information collected
by its representatives. It will also help in cases of attrition where if a sales
representative quit another could take over easily with the help of the information
Each representative has about 200 doctors on his list. The doctors are classified
by priority. However, being an A-class doctor does not mean that the representative
will make 10 calls to him every day.
The nine-member IT team at Pfizer designed Optima to fulfil this need. Over
the past four years, the system has been overhauled considerably, and today
it is a full-scale CRM solution coded on the Microsoft .NET platform. The CRM
application runs on Windows 2003 and SQL Server that is primarily accessed over
the Internet and is hosted at a third-party IDC.
The first step to any CRM implementation is collection of
extensive and clean data. At Pfizer that is taken care of because all data input
is checked as per predefined business rules before it is entered into the system.
Basic information captured in the Pfizer CRM includes doctors
and chemists profiles. Optima has become a one-stop-shop for our
field colleagues who are spread across the country, says Vijay Bhaskar
Dixit, Senior Manager, Business Services, Business Technology, Pfizer.
In the case of doctors, based on the data entered into the system, the sales
team can determine what kind of prescriptions the doctor generates, the profiles
of the patients that he treats, whether or not he is price-sensitive, and how
quickly he prescribes new drugs. In addition to that the system captures data
with regard to the associations or societies the doctor is a part of, and the
events he attends. If the doctor participates in public forums the Pfizer CRM
captures whether or not the doctor is an opinion leader. The information in
the system is reviewed on a regular basis to check for new entrants as well
as pattern changes in different areas.
Similarly for the chemists. The CRM captures the profile
and buying power of a chemists customers. The system has two advantages.
Since it is based on the combined information on the doctors and chemists in
a particular locality, it is easy to identify markets that will have good returns.
The second benefit is that the CRM helps predict the stock requirement pattern.
The company can therefore manufacture, stock and transfer the right amount of
drugs to the market just-in-time so as to minimise storage space and lessen
the chances of wastage from damaged or expired products. Improved response
to customer queries is another advantage that we derived from Optima,
Different people have different requirements from the system, so the information
the CRM returns is based on need. If a representative works in North-east Mumbai,
he has to know which doctors can be targeted. The system generates a list of
doctors in the area with ratings and the expected frequency of visits.
The CRM system also helps provide market intelligence on competitors. For example,
if a Pfizer representative pays a visit to the doctor, while waiting he may
meet his counterpart from another company and can feed in the information he
collects. Or if sales personnel come across schemes being run by Pfizers
competition, the information is keyed into the system. The product management
team can then start using the information to provide business intelligence.
Planning and reporting the key Sales Force Automation features have improved
our analysis capabilities with regard to field force activities, states
As part of technology upgradation, the system is updated every five to six months
with a clear business objective. Perhaps that is why Pfizer has not invested
in a system that allows input on the fly.
The information gathered needs to be consolidated and analysed for business
decisions. Hence, whether the sales force feeds in information at the end of
the day or every few days does not make any difference. According to the company,
the system is yielding good returns in the present format, but may not be feasible
for mobile devices.
Pfizer has reserved its CRM for the sales force. One section on the Pfizer India
Web site has been enabled for doctors to log in and post queries and concerns.
Even so, the company has noticed that instances of Indian doctors approaching
the company via the Internet is limited. In most cases it is the company representative
who has to be on his toes and deliver to the expectations of the doctors.
For adverse reports, Pfizer has manned telephone numbers on which doctors can
call. The call operators or representatives who gather the adverse report feed
it into the system and the problem is highlighted till it is resolved. The entire
process is documented in the CRM.
The company has a cold DR set-up for Optima. We replicate the servers
with our HO DR servers on a daily basis; this can be used in case of a disaster.
We have a separate DR site at Thane (near Mumbai) as well, reveals Dixit.
To provide Pfizers sales force with anytime-anywhere
access to structured information that includes data collected by medical
- The solution
Optima, Pfizers home-grown CRM solution
to catalogue all sales representative-related data.
- The benefits
Optima enables Pfizer to identify high-return
areas, predict stock requirements, minimise storage space, and reduce
chances of wastage from damaged or expired products. It also provides
market intelligence on competitors.
To ensure that there is business and user buy-in, Pfizer
works on a model wherein the department that requires IT bud gets for
it. For example, the marketing department pays for CRM, and HR buys software
to automate salary calculations
At Pfizer, the IT budgeting has provisions only for the infrastructure.
To ensure that there is business and user buy-in, the company works on a model
wherein the department that requires IT budgets for it. For example, the marketing
department pays for CRM and HR buys software to automate salary calculations.
Even the maintenance budgets for IT are taken care of by the respective departments.
This ensures that the systems installed are used to the maximum.
To ensure that every solution caters to a specific business need, Pfizer maintains
a small IT team comprising mainly project managers (with experience in the pharma
business) and technology specialists. The in-house team that architects the
solutions is limited to nine people. A large part of the technical work is outsourced.
Looking For More
Most problems with regard to the CRM deployment were technical
in nature and could be resolved easily. However, the company wants to maintain
the users faith in the system; it believes in conducting training, and
communicating via e-mail. Champions in the technology are identified, and asked
to pass their skill-sets to their colleagues. People continually expect improvements
in the system and want their suggestions to be incorporated. Thus, managing
expectations is a continuous challenge.
The first version of Optima, exclusively meant for reporting, took 10 to 15
minutes to complete a task. Now employees want the system to do much morebut
within the same time-frame.