Managing Director of Ashfield Commercial and Clinical UK, Colin Watson, sat down with Pf Magazine to talk about meeting changing industry demands, new innovations for a new year and why people power is so vital to future success…
A new year’s here, so what can we expect from Ashfield in 2018?
It’s going to be a really exciting year for us. We’ve had a brilliant 2017; we’re the UK market leader for commercial and patient services and we want to keep it that way.
One of the big things on the horizon is the launch of the Salesforce Health Cloud. This will enhance our patient-support programmes by providing a much more personalised, multichannel communication that’ll help patients stay on track with their therapy and get the best outcomes.
We’ll also be expanding our medical information service this year and promoting it to more new clients. I’m delighted with the way this service has grown over the last six years. Clients tell us they love it as a flexible and dependable alternative to in-house teams.
One thing we’re seeing more of is clients asking for more flexibility to switch on and off particular services. The popularity of our syndicated and flex nursing teams is proof of this. I believe the natural next step will be the ability for our clients to pulse activity on a short-term basis. We’re ready to help them with that.
The pharma industry is facing many changes and challenges. What does that mean for you?
Our clients will always want us to be ahead of the curve, so we have an absolute constant drive to innovate and invest in new services. That’s why we now have such well-established contact centre, medical information and patient support programme services.
There’s real pressure on pharma to operate efficiently and communicate clearly to a very complex customer group, across multiple channels. We’re passionate about helping them meet that challenge.
One approach could be the direct transfer of all current reps (most likely within primary care) to Ashfield. We would then take responsibility for implementing a new model and optimising resources to reflect physician preferences.
We’d start this by using analytics to perform segmentation and targeting, enabling increased reach and frequency. The new, more customer-facing model might include traditional reps, contact centre reps and patient service teams.
For the client, it would mean extended reach at reduced cost, as well as the ability to flex the model frequently and quickly, all the while mitigating risk. It’s just one way we’re looking to provide innovation for our clients.
You mentioned a cloud-based service. How has Ashfield engaged with digital to enhance client services?
Digital is moving so quickly and it’s a challenge for every single business. But it’s also a massive opportunity. We’re fully embracing digital and exploring all options to see how we can exploit it to provide a more innovative, more efficient, more effective service.
For example, our state-of-the-art contact facilities and award-winning e-detailers bring our clients responsive, multichannel services that are proven to grow sales and promote brand awareness.
The introduction of Salesforce Health Cloud will allow us to bring that same multichannel approach to our nursing services. We’ll be able to more seamlessly communicate with patients across a host of channels, such as email, text and phone. We’ll also provide self-service tools, such as mobile apps and websites, so patients can track their progress and read support materials on any device.
Providing a great service is about more than just technology though.
Absolutely. You’ve got to get the foundations right. Our clients trust us to deliver flawlessly at every stage, from the recruitment and retention of the right people for their teams, to project management and reporting.
Operational excellence is key. We’re structured to help clients succeed by having the right teams and skillsets to deliver a successful service.
Finally, it’s about instilling a culture of not just reporting on results, but working in partnership with the client to be continuously improving.
So how would you describe Ashfield’s ethos?
Our ethos is to be partners in a client’s success. This means having an in-depth understanding of their business and a shared, long-term view of what we want to achieve.
As part of this partnership, we’re proactive, agile and responsive. Many of our clients have worked with us for years and they trust us to deliver a creative, scalable and tailored solution that adds value and, of course, delivers positive outcomes for patients.
You said having the right teams in place is important. How do you make sure you’re attracting and retaining the best people in what is a very competitive market?
I’ve talked a lot about services and innovative technology, but ultimately it’s about people. We’ve got more than 7,000 colleagues globally, including sales reps, nurses, account managers, medical science liaisons, head office staff and more.
Our success depends on them, so we do everything we can to nurture their talents and maximise their potential. We offer things like continuous learning and coaching programmes, and an employee engagement survey, which provides an anonymous forum for staff to give honest feedback on all aspects of working here.
There are also lots of opportunities for people to progress in their role or even move into different parts of the business. It’s about giving people the opportunity to thrive in a supportive culture. Our clients frequently say that they enjoy coming to Ashfield House and being part of our collaborative and fun environment.
We want our people to be indispensable to our clients, so we’ll always go the extra mile to support, develop and retain employees.
Finally, what inspires Ashfield to keep improving and reaching for greater heights?
It’s down to our shared values of Quality, Partnership, Ingenuity, Expertise and Energy. They underpin everything and really drive us collectively to be the best we can be.
For example, Partnership is all about teamwork and customer focus. One of the ways we live this value is through regular project reviews and our client feedback survey. It’s vital to have processes like these in place so we can listen to clients and strive to do better.
The original version of this article was published in Pharmafield, click here to view their website.