Better customer engagement: Is your data letting you down?

Views & Analysis

Quality customer data is foundational to commercial operations, yet most European life sciences companies are not getting what they need from their customer data. That’s why 78% of organisations have data-quality initiatives, or will within the next two years, according to a new survey. But as the industry seeks to improve customer engagement through personalised multichannel interactions, the pressure is on for better quality, more granular customer data.

Reliable customer data has long been integral to effective commercial execution in the life sciences sector. For field teams, access to accurate and up-to-date customer data ensures they remain compliant and productive. For reps, successful calls rest on their ability to access complete healthcare professional (HCP) information, such as demographics and speciality.

Yet across the industry, customer data quality is a widespread concern. In fact, 87% of companies surveyed 1 say they face customer data-quality challenges. Sales reps often have wrong addresses, don’t know which HCPs to contact, or have outdated data about specialities.

Outdated or inaccurate customer data means companies do not have a complete, real-time view of the customer, which can compromise regulatory compliance. Less than half of respondents said they were satisfied that their customer data provided a complete and real-time view of the customer. And with the Global Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on the horizon, companies will need to critically evaluate their approaches to customer data.

Data quality is a serious issue – and one that is being taken seriously by the industry. Today, nearly three-quarters of life sciences companies either have customer data-quality initiatives in place, or will within the next two years. Quality customer data is widely recognised as the key to effective commercial execution, so the need to improve customer data quality has climbed priority lists.

As companies seek to improve engagement with HCPs through more personalised interactions, the need for detailed, up-to-date customer data is crucial. Delivering relevant content in a timely manner via the right communications channel is imperative. For that to happen, the right customer data needs to be in the right people’s hands at the right times. But getting that customer data right in the first place is no easy task.

The industry has had access to customer data from a range of sources, both internal and external for years, but it is often quickly outdated. Physicians frequently move practices or hospitals, and it takes around 10 days for a data-change request to be processed. The majority of companies say four days would be acceptable, although more than two-thirds want customer data-change requests actioned within one day.

Many companies still rely on a variety of methods to source and manage their customer data. Less than half source and manage it in-house, while just over a third rely on a blend of in-house and third-party sources. But the complexity of maintaining current and accurate data puts a burden on organisations doing it themselves. The industry trend is towards outsourcing, with 57% of life sciences companies using third-party vendors.

Customer data management often relies on a patchwork of disparate data systems and siloed organisational structures. With multiple systems working in isolation, the most recent information and intelligence are not shared evenly across the company and there is no single ‘truth’ about the customer.

This means different departments of the same company may inadvertently contact a customer several times, leading to brand fatigue at best and damage to the company’s reputation at worst. For sales and marketing to be truly effective, it is vital to coordinate outreach and determine what message to send to each HCP, when, and through which channel.

Quality data must be accessible quickly and integrated seamlessly into CRM systems so reps can focus on what matters the most: productive engagement with HCPs. In fact, 68% of survey respondents said integration of customer data with a current system, including CRM, was a key factor in selecting a third-party data vendor. With real-time access to accurate, up-to-date customer data, reps are more likely to use their CRM systems.

As companies seek to leverage the power of digital communications channels, the need for ever-more-powerful and more granular customer data is increasing. Digital engagement means they can increase reach and deliver more relevant, tailored information. But that relies on more detailed customer and email data.

Currently, less than half of life sciences companies can identify customers uniquely across systems and geographies. More than two-thirds of respondents said they would need greater segmentation in the future, and more than half cited customer email data as a key future requirement.

Across the industry, the drive is on to improve customer data quality. While the desire exists, there is still a gap between where it is and where it wants to be. More companies realise their approach to customer data must change to increase personalised multichannel communication with HCPs. The life sciences sector may be in the process of digital transformation, but customer data still lags.


  1. The Veeva 2016 European Customer Data Survey examines data quality within life sciences companies across Europe. The findings represent the experiences and opinions of more than 80 life sciences decision makers in all major European markets, the majority from France, Germany, the UK, Italy, and Spain.

Download the survey:

About the author:

As Director of Strategy for Veeva OpenData in Europe, Guillaume Roussel has more than 15 years in the life sciences industry. His experience spans life sciences, information technology, business development and healthcare compliance.

Veeva Systems Inc. is a leader in cloud-based software for the global life sciences industry.

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Linda Banks

25 April, 2017