Bio/Pharma and Contact Centers: Scripting the Patient Experience

In the upcoming Bio/Pharma Contact Centers conference, there are a lot of topics that speak to the latest aspects of Bio/Pharma and call centers.  One item that is missing from the agenda, however, is the tricky process of agent script development in the Direct to Consumer environment.  As the bio/pharma regulatory landscape continues to shift, one thing remains certain:  Creating agent language that meets regulatory requirements while at the same time is both patient friendly, and call center agent friendly can be a delicate balancing act.  Below are some tips to ensure that by the time the agent script gets approved by your regulatory committee, it’s 100% ready to go.

Budget your Time in Advance

Much of the process that drives a CRM program often depends on the agent script.  From providing correct (and approved) product information, to collecting patient information, to driving CRM functionality in the “back end,” and finally to providing a great caller experience, the call center script serves a variety of functions, each of which requires it’s own testing and vetting.  Getting started on the call center aspect of your program (which hinges on the agent script) well in advance can ensure you haven’t launched before all your systems have been checked, and are confirmed ready to go.

Create a Detailed Call Flow

Using Visio or some other flowchart creation tool, create a call flow that is a visual representation of your script. Creating a detailed call flow has the proactive benefit of fostering messaging alignment across all parties before investing the time to actually write the agent verbatim script, get it approved by regulatory, and begin implementation. This can save both time and money, as well as avoid the embarrassment of having to return to your regulatory committee with a “new” script, because a detail in branching, or wording, had been overlooked.

Involve Your Agents in the Script Development Process

When it comes to speaking with patients and caregivers using verbatim scripts, your agents are your subject matter experts.  In my experience, agents tend to be the best editors when it comes to eliminating “pharma speak,” and can also identify gaps in information.  Questions like, “But what about when the patient asks for….”  are ones you want to have solved BEFORE you take your script to regulatory for approval.

Invest in Adequate Training

In addition to providing product information, give your agents enough time to practice the script.  If they sound like they’re reading and are stumbling over words, this will certainly have a detrimental impact on your patient/caregiver experience. The more prepared your agents are before they speak to actual prospects/patients, the easier it is for them to create a positive first impression with your prospect/patient by building trust.  The difference between a positive patient first impression, and a negative one, is often the level of training the agent has received.

Listen to Calls

Once your program is live, take the time to listen to as many calls as you can, as soon as you can.  Understanding how patients are reacting to your script is vital for you to make the necessary changes to your program so that you can deliver an optimal patient/caregiver experience.  Your patients may have needs that aren’t being met when they call, and the only way for you to really understand this is by listening.


While the above points certainly don’t represent an exhaustive list of “to do’s” when preparing a Direct to Consumer Bio/Pharma call center program, following them will help you mitigate the risks of unnecessary surprises.  The list of what can go wrong is extensive:  The program has begun but the data transfer is inaccurate (causing communication to go to the wrong people), the program is live, but script has not yet been approved by regulatory, or the agents are unfamiliar with the wording and deliver a poor caller experience.  Any of these possibilities can mean the end of a program.  Following the tips above will help you avoid them.


Pat Perdue

About Pat Perdue and Socialicity

In addition to working in social media, Socialicity has launched many bio/pharma call center programs in a wide variety of categories including oncology, rheumatology, and medical devices.  For more information, email Pat Perdue at, or reach him by Twitter @Socialicity_Pat


5 Ways to Make Your Company REALLY Social

Organizations around the world continue to hear why it’s so important to “be social”. Many companies pat themselves on the back when their Facebook and Twitter account go live…dust their hands because they’re done right? Woah! Hold on, there’s a big difference between social media and a social company. A social company’s culture isn’t based on hierarchy, titles and rigid processes. Rather, it’s more fluid than that, and is willing to adapt to whatever today’s rapidly changing marketplace can throw at it. Just think, by the time you’re done reading this article, there could be new technologies released that will change our day-to-day routines (HINT:  BBM Channels).

Is yours a social company?  If not, it may find itself appearing on 24/7 Wall St.’s list of brands that will disappear. The below are some strategies that may prevent that from happening:

1. Participation Beyond Your Job Title: In many companies, job descriptions are carved in stone. Developers develop. Marketers market. Customer care agents are at the “front line” (interesting war analogy that term has), and they take the heat from frustrated customers. In “Unsocial” companies, if a customer has a great idea of how to optimize an app, they send an email to the customer care department. Social companies have left that rigid, and outdated, model behind. For an example, check out Intuit, where any employee is considered customer-facing, and can solve a customer problem. It’s no wonder they’re growing as fast as they are.

2. Enlist and Engage Your Community: A company’s customers are more than “those people who buy our stuff”. Companies can leverage the wisdom of their loyal customers to both help shape their products, and services, as well as help promote them. Rather than leaving all of the PR, marketing, and product development to the “experts” who are on the payroll, why not involve the real experts who live and breathe the products every day? Social companies understand that. The result is that they’re uniquely suited to be ahead of the curve in product development and positioning. For an example, check out Mountain Dew Canada’s latest social media campaign that is all about engagement.

3. Collaborate and Co-create: Social companies have developed a process to not only listen to their customers via social media, but to benefit from their input in the form of new features to products and services. This involves collaboration between employees (and not customer care agents), customers, and high leverage members of your community. Whether it’s a new product, service, idea or program, bringing everyone together – inside of the company and outside – can not only deliver a remarkably innovative product, it ensures your company is agile, informed and relevant.  Lego has been at this for a while (click here for a great overview), and their new products have completely revolutionized the brand.

4. Focus on Culture and People: It’s the oldest truism in business. First, hire great people. It’s interesting how, as companies become increasingly reliant on technology, this adage has never been more relevant.  Awesome ideas, products, growth, and customer engagement begins with a great culture, and that’s a product of the people within the company. Companies are, after all, groups of people. It’s easy to forget that.

5. Jack Be Nimble: Yeah, okay, it’s a nursery rhyme. But unless you want to be burned by that candle stick, your company needs to be able to be like Jack. Five year plans are fine as long as flexibility, and “nimbleness,” are key components. Innovation, creativity and agility are the new pillars of a successful and social company.

Final Thoughts

Social design within a company is no longer an option. Creating a social culture within an organization isn’t easy. A Facebook page may help your brand appear social but building long term engagement, and long term survival, requires more.

Companies that invest the time and resources to implement what it takes to become “social” will thrive in this increasingly social environment. Companies that don’t, won’t. Simple as that. Which company will yours be?

And of course I’d love your thoughts. Is your company social? What steps, even small steps, has your company taken to involve its community in product / service development?