How Bayer is moving towards omni-channel: Q&A with Marie Daniels

Drawing on 20 years experience in the Pharmaceutical industry, Marie Daniels, ANZ Pharma Commercial Learning Lead at Bayer to understand her perspectives on what's required to be succesful in this new omni-channel environment.

Hi Marie, can you give us a brief introduction of yourself and career history to date?
Sure, I’ve worked in Pharma for over 20 years’ — starting in various sales roles. I am currently the ANZ Pharma Commercial Learning Lead have been with the company for just over 4 years. More recently, I was leading the Commercial Learning function in Australia and New Zealand, before joining the Global team in Berlin one week before the first COVID-19 lockdown.
 
There is no doubt that COVID-19 has accelerated the progression towards multi and omni-channel — so, what does this really mean for you and how does this impact the Pharma industry?
Multi-channel is interacting with customers through various channels; however, they are not necessarily integrated or orchestrated. This contrasts with omni-channel, whereby a more push and pull-based approach is leveraged – enabled by technology to provide a seamless, consistent customer experience.
Pharma has been implementing multi-channel in a limited way for quite some time now, and has been slow to adopt omni-channel compared to other industries. I believe we’re closing that gap, but we still have a while to go.
 
We’ve seen companies invest heavily in technology and data, without any investment in their people — ultimately, this is where the rubber hits the road. What will Pharma need to change culturally to be successful in this omni-channel environment?
It’s important to first understand where we’ve come from. Pharma’s culture has traditionally been underpinned by the belief that we’re different from others, and we are in that our industry is highly regulated. As a result, we aren’t able to operate in the same way as everyone else. I think our beliefs around this are partially responsible for such a slow change in the adoption of digital channels and a mature, integrated omni-channel experience for customers.
 
In an environment with such a huge focus on CX, the Pharma industry has been challenged with working out how we can operate in new ways whilst still remaining compliant. We certainly have evolved, but there is still a long way to go to drive those new behaviours with a refreshed customer and patient-centric culture.
 
What does the shift towards omni-channel mean for both marketing and sales functions?
Marketing will experience the most significant change compared to other functions. With the greater use of data-driven insights, there’s more information available than ever, particularly as technology feeds down from different platforms. There’ll be changes to the marketing capabilities required, and an increased need for an agile content strategy. But most importantly, the ability to personalise and tailor campaigns, micro-segment and utilise marketing automation to improve the end-to-end customer journey will be crucial.
 
As for the sales function, they’ll need to master the use of technology and data to ensure they can optimise different channels and the customer experience in new ways. If our people aren’t engaging with these platforms, they would be missing critical opportunities for engaging with HCPs, which may lead to poor commercial outcomes.
 
What capabilities and mindsets will leaders and managers need to thrive in the future?
We’ve had a bootcamp for leaders over the last 6 months, and what I’ve found is that consistent change leadership and great presence is absolutely critical. The “why” must be communicated and aligned to the vision, strategy, values and behaviours of the company. For this to happen, leaders must be great storytellers to engage the hearts and minds of employees by creating those “a-ha!” moments. Storytelling can be extremely powerful, as it creates the wiring for new beliefs to ultimately enable the right behaviours and develop that overall understanding. Since the beginning of COVID-19, many of us have become fatigued, and it has really highlighted the need for our leaders to evolve into more serious entertainers with those lighter moments or jokes in their stories.
 
Next, leading by example and being willing to demonstrate vulnerability. We’ve seen this across the board to varying degrees, but the ability to be open and empathic is beyond important. It helps set the tone across the organisation for the culture as we support our people through the change we make, so that we can continue to evolve towards customer-centricity.
 
From a people perspective, what challenges may organisations face when making organisational changes at a pace we’ve never seen before?
Orchestrated change and inconsistent change leadership is the first challenge. When you map out all the shifts needed, you realise there’s too much going on at the same time, and the focus then shifts to how to reduce or delay some of these initiatives.
 
Another challenge would be over-focusing on the technology. It’s very easy to fall into the trap of prioritising it over the people aspect. But we all know that technology will only be utilised if you have the right capabilities and resources in place to leverage it in the way it’s meant to.
 
Lastly, if people are not learning, un-learning and re-learning, they're not able to build new skills or perform optimally; therefore, not building new capabilities. If we don't create a culture of curiosity and continuous education, we will find it harder to evolve into a true omni-channel organisation.

Watch the full on-demand webinar to find out more about executing successfully for omni-channel.