Giving Your Customers A Voice

Philosopher Charles Darwin once said, “It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but the one most responsive to change.” Even though he was not referring to business strategy or customer service, this concept applies nicely to both. It is indeed essential for any business to hear what their customers are saying about their product or service, and adapt accordingly.

In your day-to-day job function as a healthcare marketer, how often do you ask yourself, “Are my efforts effective?” 

We believe it’s critical to systematically ask this through customer satisfaction surveys. While you may not think customer service is in your job description, listening to your customer is probably the most basic, yet effective, mechanism to improve results. Validating exactly what’s working and what’s not is paramount.

The physician’s office is a pivotal customer in almost any healthcare marketing endeavor, and the world of patient recruitment for clinical trials is no different. In order to bring a new therapy to market, pharma needs physicians to conduct clinical trials and champion patient participation. If they want to accelerate patient enrollment for these trials, they need efficiency at the doctor’s site. 

For patient recruitment campaigns, we want to know:

  • Am I providing sites with the tools necessary to enroll patients rapidly? 
  • Are they motivated to enroll in my research study and keep it top of mind?

Surveying the landscape

It is always best to have personal relationships with all the study coordinators, the staff at the physician’s office primarily responsible for the day-to-day operations of a clinical trial. By fostering open dialogue throughout the study, coordinators can share feedback about progress, and we can provide additional resources or information to help make their job easier. 

In addition to one-on-one feedback, utilizing standardized online surveys can provide a more organized and official process to gather feedback. We’ve also found that when respondents can remain anonymous, it gives coordinators an avenue to provide true criticism they may otherwise be timid to offer. 

The survey tool is easy for project managers to administer and study coordinators to complete. We have found that deploying at three key points, pre-, during and post-enrollment, is most effective, and typical compliance is in the 85-90% range. Specifics vary by study, but typical questions may include:

  • Pre-enrollment: Preferred method of communication; best time to contact
  • During enrollment: How do they feel about our frequency of contact with them, and the pace and quality of patient referrals from outreach
  • Post-enrollment: How successful was the recruitment program and what impact did it have on enrollment?

Each of these times during the study’s progress is a perfect opportunity to understand exactly what’s happening in the physician’s office. The program can be adjusted as needed to improve overall campaign results. 

Don’t Hesitate: Your Customers Want to Be Heard

Some organizations in the patient recruitment space don’t want to solicit coordinator feedback for several reasons:

1) They feel that they’re asking the coordinators to do too much. 

2) They don’t want to solicit negative feedback.

With regards to the first point, we understand study coordinators are busy, but we want to help. If they’re feeling overwhelmed from too many referrals, if they aren’t receiving enough referrals from the outreach, or if they are unclear of their responsibilities in the campaign, we need to know that in order to improve the campaign. 

Here are a couple of suggestions to minimize workload and ensure survey compliance:

  • Keep it short—a survey should be 5-10 minutes at most
  • Be judicious as to when you solicit coordinators—Identify upfront those times during the campaign that would be most helpful to collect feedback
  • Communicate survey results with respondents
    • Identify changes made as a results of their feedback
    • When feedback is not actionable, address reasons why. This provides critical context that ultimately builds trust
  • Express appreciation for their participation

Too many of us fear negative feedback, but the reality is that negative feedback often presents an opportunity for positive changes. If you receive negative feedback and don’t act, that’s a problem, but being aware of any not-so-positive attitudes will help long-term.

Like any customer of any product or service, study coordinators want a channel to be heard. Giving them that platform will not only satisfy them, but will allow you to be a true partner to the study coordinators. While you won’t always be able to act on every request, the fact that you’re actively reaching out for feedback is essential in building a best-in-class customer relationship. Collecting feedback will allow you to identify issues upfront, course correct them faster, and ultimately accelerate enrollment.

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