Author Archives: pharmaguapa

YouTube Healthcare

gotthard-tunnel-trafficLike many of us I have often struggled balancing regular exercise with a busy work schedule.  This is especially an issue for me as my sport of choice was swimming and the only time the pool here in Zurich is not like the Gotthard Tunnel during peak times is mid-afternoon.  I must also admit that even when work does permit my afternoon swim it can be all too easy to find reasons not to go swimming, particularly when it’s cold and wet outside.

We all know however that regular exercise is important – and for me that especially so as I control my autoimmune disease … and contend with my ageing body.  The fitness industry has blossomed as companies cater to this increased awareness of the value of exercise coupled with people’s busy schedules, as well as the increased pressure on us to look fit and healthy (thank you Instagram).  It is no surprise then to see the likes of Fitbit see revenue coming in at over $1 billion, as they take advantage of this dynamic.

It is however not just companies like Fitbit that are benefiting from need to exercise and be healthy.  There are a growing number of online influencers and sports trainers and coaches who are providing services and support to their customers online, for example through YouTube channels and blogs.  It is thanks to these, and today’s technology and the internet, that increasingly means people do not have to pay expensive gym (or pool!) memberships that they never use to get their exercise fix and indeed people no longer need to leave the comfort of their own home to exercise.

In my case it was my discovery on yoga on YouTube that led not only to me adding a new sport to list of hobbies but also led to me now doing exercise at least once a day (but most days twice).  I no longer have to allocate time in my calendar for travel to and from the pool, but rather can just hop on my yoga mat from home and get straight into a session.  Thanks to Youtube, and Yoga with Adrienne, I am now fitter than I have ever been.  Thanks to YouTube I have my own private “classes” at home – free of charge – which I can do whenever is the most convenient time for me.

Whilst we may like to focus on the sexy side of health tech – such as Wearables and VR – it is actually social media that is leading to some of the biggest impact in this area.  It is thanks to platforms like YouTube that we can see a democratisation of sport, where sport such as yoga, is no longer just for those who can afford to go to classes or gyms, but is now available to anyone.  The convenience that guided home exercise also makes this type of sport more accessible as people can fit their exercise routine in around their busy day – and not around when the classes are or when the gym is open.

We often hear about the negative side of people staying at home surfing the web – but here is an example of the positive side to this.  I for one will be forever grateful to YouTube, and Adrienne, for providing me with the option of practicing my new sport from the comfort of my home which not only helped me through a difficult time but also has helped me maintain my health … and keep my weight down.

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AR versus VR

This morning I was reading about the difference in opinion between Apple’s Tim Cook and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg on whether AR or VR is the future.  In my opinion they are both the future in their own different ways and for different audiences.

As an owner of a Samsung Gear VR I have to say that I think VR is pretty cool and can imagine it will only get cooler with newer technology.  The opportunities for VR are huge, from gaming, to education to healthcare.  I particular like the way VR is bringing hope and relief to patients, for example through sensory therapy for burns patients (the use of VR therapy during bandage changing saw a significant reduction in pain).

Currently though VR is still somewhat the domain of gamers and tech “geeks” like myself.  With the advent of cheaper headsets this may change but will VR ever become a mass market concept?  There I am not sure given the “isolationist” nature of VR – namely that you have a headset on which immerses you in the VR world but at the same time can “remove” you from the real world and real contacts.  I am not sure I can imagine the masses sitting around in their own world with their headsets.

AR on the other hand exists in the “real” world, being simply augmented over reality.  AR offers benefits in the same fields as VR, namely gaming, education and to a degree health too.  However the lack of full immersion can also make AR less impactful that VR.  What AR does offer however is the merging of technology and real world in a way that people can potentially enjoy together.  AR is no longer a new technology though and we also have not seen it take off to follow the hype that surrounded AR a few years back.  We also see AR still being used by individuals in their “own” worlds like the Pokemon gamers.  This could of course change with new uses and versions of AR, and AR could become something used by the masses in their daily lives, either individually or in groups.

Both technologies offer great hope and opportunity but in my opinion both will always remain more for the young or tech savvy rather than technology for the masses.  Both technologies have been surrounded by masses of hype that, to date, has not lived up to expectations.  I suspect both these technologies will slowly become part of the norm in certain situations, such as in sensory therapy in hospitals, quietly and without great fanfare, while much of the hype will vanish or move onto the next new technology.  But who knows ….

Thank you Facebook for the hurricane updates

One of the main services that I offer my clients is social media coaching and reverse mentoring around social media (and other digital).  I often get asked by my mentees what the point of some of the social media channels is.  Obviously as a patient advocate I have lots of very relevant examples of the value in healthcare but right now I am also able to share another great value add from social … the “marked as safe” functionality.

I think we are all avidly watching the news of hurricane Harvey, Irma, and Jose, as these forces of nature smash into land.  As an active animal rescuer my thoughts go automatically towards all the helpless animals trapped – either because they are strays or because their heartless owners left them to the mercy of the storm (i.e. left them to die).  Through my animal rescue work I have also got to know many other animal advocates across the world, including in the Caribbean and Florida.

Thanks to social media, particularly Facebook, I have been able to find out about their last minute rescue efforts and also follow how they are coping with the hurricane.  Thanks to Facebook’s awesome “marked as safe” feature I can sigh with relief as one by one they log in and let us know they are safe.  One of my Facebook friends has been able to stay in touch throughout the hurricane from her bathroom, as her house slowly got ripped apart around her, all thanks to Facebook.  She actually disabled all the apps (to save on battery) and was using Facebook mobile and text messages to another friend in California who posted on her behalf and this way was able to stay connected for all the hours of horror that she went through.

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Thanks to social media I was also able to follow the dramatic rescue of dogs from a flooded shelter in Texas, while I was in Bali on the beach.  I followed the story unfold as heart-wrenching photos of the flooded shelter with the dogs still stuck in their enclosures emerged.  The shelter owners begged for help on social media – they had been left to fend for themselves as the authorities focused on rescuing humans.  The call went out for people with boats to help and then for help in finding somewhere to house the 70+ animals from the shelter.  And social media responded!  I nearly cried when I saw the post that they had managed to get all the animals out – and this is largely thanks to publicity that social media generated.

One animal rescue friend however remains silent – and I have been checking his Facebook multiple times a day to no avail.  He is in Puerto Rico and is known as the “cat man of Puerto Rico” for all the amazing work he does caring for over 200 stray cats on the island.  His last post was heartbreaking as he had gone out to feed the strays one last time before Irma hit and had no idea when he would be able to get to the cats next and how they would survive the storm.  I am hoping it is simply that he is without power and as a result of the infrastructure damage can’t get online to post but as each day passes my concern for Glen and his cats grows.

And so I keep checking … and cheer myself up while I wait to hear that he is okay by following all the amazing animal rescue stories that are filling my Facebook.  Hopefully next time one of my mentees or workshop attendees asks me about the value of Facebook I can share the “marked as safe” functionality as a great example … including that Glen was able to let us know how he and the cats survived the storm.

Thank you Glen and all of those who battled tireless through this adverse weather to save the animals – you are unsung heroes!

If you’d like to help with the hurricane animal rescue effort check out the HSUS website

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Well hello #Instagram!

I have been working and mentoring in social media for many, many years now and as part of that have been a very active user … of some platforms.  I was a huge Facebook and Twitter fan, followed closely by Pinterest.  Linkedin is Linkedin … great, functional but not really “fun”.  Then there was Instagram.

Many of my friends are huge Instagram fans but I just never really got it.  Instagram was just so all about “me, me, me” and selfies.  You couldn’t collect and share images in the same way you can on Pinterest, so what was the point other than to blow one’s own trumpet?  Now I did have an account, after all I work in social media, but just like my Snapchat account, I never used it.

Until recently.  I casually started browsing Instagram and playing with the app and started coming across travel images.  At the same time I also started posting more to Instagram.  And so the addiction began!

Actually what I discovered was a magical world of beautiful and breathtaking images from around the world.  As I sat in Zurich still nursing a broken heart I longed to get away and travel and Instagram acted as a balm for my soul as well as inspiration and hope for the future.  I too would travel and see some of these places.

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At the same time I also discovered the draw of checking to see if people had liked my images.  The draw of likes to my Facebook posts left me long ago … but here it was again on a different platform!  This does of course however support my theory of Instagram being very self-centred – here I was being all about me!

But Instagram is more than that I now see.  In fact I am now also looking at it with new eyes as I wonder if I should look to move some of my charity work for Hope for Romanian Strays here.  I am also providing a friend who’s just launched a new business with advice on how to grow their Instagram account, which is a learning experience in itself.  Each day I discover new things and each day I learn more.

And there we have it … I have become an Instagramer and love it!  Instagram provides a window to our beautiful world and turns out to be a marvelous place to roam.  If you are on Instagram please pop over and follow me.

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Sexy sunscreen

The other day I saw this video from Mashable about a new UV patch from L’Oreal that is meant to make applying sunscreen more fun.  Essentially the patch is a stretchable skin sensor designed to monitor UV exposure and can be scanned.  An accompanying app then tells you your exposure, can remind you to apply sunscreen and also uses AR to bring a little character to life (that’s the fun bit I presume).

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This video reminded me of a meeting I had many years ago when I was working agency side.  A cancer charity had approached us to discuss an app idea to try to encourage people to use sunscreen.  Their idea was not disimilar to this concept from L’Oreal (minus the cool patch and AR) – they wanted to develop an app that would inform sunbathers of the UV levels and thereby get them to apply sunscreen.

The only problem was their target audience was young men and they did not understand their customer.  They had presumed that knowing the UV levels, and subsequent danger and risks of skin cancer, that these young people would automatically apply sunscreen.  They were aghast when I, a sun worshiper, flipped it round and told them that this data could be taken to be when the best time would be to get the maximum tan.  I also challenged them that this app would never be used by an 18 year old on his first trip to Ibiza – unless his mum downloaded it for him and kept nagging him.

We then brainstormed around what it would take to get said 18 year old to apply sunscreen.  Warnings of skin cancer and health certainly were not going to work.  I came up with a very novel idea – partner with the big clubs and use sexy models. The concept was simple – have sexy models roaming the beach with sunscreen and get the guys to take photos and submit them to an online space.  The clubs could co-sponsor and thereby get some extra positive publicity.  The 18 year olds would learn about sunscreen from someone other than their mum and would, for that day at least, be safe – and hopefully thanks to the models sunscreen might become sexier. The photos would generate content and hopefully also buzz and with some careful promotion and PR had the potential to become a viral campaign.

Of course this idea never took – it was far to riskee for healthcare at the time and certainly for the conservative team from the charity.  This was of course a shame but it also speaks to a broader issue – namely really understanding your customers and taking risks, two things pharma is not always particularly good at.  There have been so many brilliant ideas, that would have benefited patients and would no doubt have been highly successful, but that die because the marketing teams involved are risk averse and conservative.  It is also this issue that has led to pharma’s dominance in healthcare being slowly eroded by risk taking, modern organisations like Apple and Google.  Until we can instill that same culture within the industry Pharma risks falling behind and not optimising all the opportunities that today’s cultural shifts and technology present.

 

The era of digital nomads

In December one of my main client contracts will come to an end and as such I have been slowly starting to think about what I will do next year.  Much as I love living in Zurich it is a very expensive place to be based without a permanent job so I am toying with the idea of moving somewhere cheaper.  Having also just had my heartbroken by a Swiss chap I am also less happy here than I was and contemplating a move.

Traditionally people would move based on where their job is and for many the first move abroad is the result of a job offer.  This was true for me too – the first time I moved abroad as an adult was an office transfer from the McKinsey London office to their Zurich office.  Since then I have become a veritable frequent mover and have lived in Switzerland 5 times, Spain twice, Denmark once and London twice.  Most of the moves have been work related but not all, and not all by choice.  Some would say I’ve had my fair share of bad luck with work – redundancy, the brand I was working on failing in PhIII, interview & reality not matching up, etc. – but I like to think of it as good luck.  It is thanks to my luck that I have had this truly interesting career, with a breadth of highly relevant experience, with multiple organisations and in multiple countries.

It is thanks to this experience that I am also able to seriously consider not only what my next job will be but also seriously think about where I want to work.   Unlike when I started my career, today,  thanks to the blend of my experience, area of expertise and technology, I can contemplate moving anywhere in the world.  I no longer need a fixed office or a permanent 9 – 5 job or even be based in the same country as my work / client.  I can seriously consider becoming one of a growing number of digital nomads.

This freedom and flexibility is behind the growing number of people becoming digital nomads.  Many of them are millennials not yet ready to settle down and wanting to travel the world but there is a growing number of seasoned professionals, like myself, who place increasing value on this freedom and flexibility.  Whilst many of the jobs these digital nomads do are as developers or content creators, and not always particularly senior, times are changing.  One of the roles I do for example, reverse mentoring, I can do extremely well remotely (in fact it is sometimes easier to share a screen remotely rather than squish around a physical screen in a room together) – all I need is good wifi.  For other work that requires me to be face to face it is generally easy enough to hop on a flight.  In fact it may even be cheaper for clients to have me working as a digital nomad, and pay for the long haul flight, simply because I can charge less per diem if I am based somewhere like Thailand as opposed to Switzerland.

Whilst being based near a beach does sound wonderfully rosy it is not without its drawbacks.  I am actually quite a settled, homey person, and would never have chosen to move jobs or countries this often by choice.  However this is the deck that I was dealt and I now also realise that life is short and that home is where you make it.  It is also thanks to my autoimmune disease that I have learned to truly value my quality of life.

Whilst I do not see myself being an endless digital nomad at this point in my life I feel it may be a good move for me.  I am still young  and healthy enough to do this.  There is still much of the world I want to explore and new skills I want to learn (like free-diving) but I do not have the resources, or inclination, to take a gap year and just travel.  I would like to continue working but travel – the classic digital nomad.  Who knows where I will end up – ideally with a permanent job somewhere near a beach 🙂  – but I feel ready for a new chapter in my life and a new journey.  And so I am starting to explore my options as a digital native, and in the process replacing the hopes and dreams I had with my ex with new hopes and dreams, and in doing so help my heart heal.

 

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Facebook campaign versus page

I recently had a conversation with a friend about what good looks like in social media, driven by a positive article about Allergan’s US Restasis Facebook page.  The article talks about the Restasis brand’s foray into social media through this page and what great results it drove.

Naturally I went to have a look at the page but must admit that I do not agree with the article’s rosy glow.  Yes it may have had good results at the time but closer inspection reveals some serious flaws in the brand strategy regarding their approach  to social media.

The most glaring issue is that this is not a page but a campaign.  Looking at activity on the page it is clearly time framed around six months.  Since January this year there has been next to no activity.  The brand has gone from posting regular content, driving traffic to their savings programme or other relevant material, to posting only three posts since January 2017.  The content on the page is very clearly targeted and clearly driven by customer need, i.e. issues around how to pay for treatment, and for the most part drives to the brand website.  Within the six month period the team have done a good job at responding to and answering questions, which gets a big thumbs up and demonstrates the understanding that this is a two way engagement channel.

However the strong campaign focus coupled with the lack of recent content really flags this as a lost opportunity to me.  Rather than build a whole page, with a key purpose to apparently drive patients to the Restasis brand website, my recommendation would have been to focus activity and investment in promotion.  By this I mean the focus should just have been on placing targeted adverts, including on Facebook, to drive that traffic.  Building up a whole page simply for a six month campaign, rather than a concerted effort at driving long term engagement and value, is a wasted effort.  It also brings with it additional risk and work due to the need to monitor 24 / 7.

Another recommendation I would have would be to focus on building up and improving the corporate Facebook presence, which is currently lacking and confusing.  As a first step I would close the unofficial Facebook page which seems to be more of an employee forum but includes people replying to patient questions and issues.  Now I have no idea of those people replying are authorised to do so but I would not be surprised is they are not.  This is of course a huge risk to organisation but could be turned into an opportunity.  There are clearly people passionate about the organisation prepared to engage on behalf of the organisation – these people could be trained and used to support the official activities.

For that to happen though there needs to be official activities!  There is no official, professional corporate Facebook page, just some brand pages, and in this day and age I find this somewhat dated.  By having a strong corporate Facebook page it would also provide the opportunity for brands, like Restasis, to have somewhere to post content (which can be geo-targeted to handle regulatory issues).  It would also formalise and help control the discussions that are already happening – by not having a presence it does not mean that people are not talking to and about you.

To me this Restasis Facebook page, and Allergan’s approach to Facebook, is suboptimal and the sort of activity I would have expected from Pharma a few years back.  Today however the approach to social media really needs to be more strategic, serious and based on a solid understanding on the value, uses and impact of the various platforms to both customers and the business.  Today social media is a mainstream channel that can provide high value to both customers and the business and needs to be handled as such, and not as an “experiment” or “foray”.  Embrace it, optimise it and reap the benefits.

The value of respecting your customers … in pharma

My last post was all about the value of respecting your customers, particularly if you are an airline, and was based upon my terrible experience with Turkish Airlines.  To complete that article I should add that my experience with Turkish Airlines continued to be bad including during the flight with some of the most inedible food I’ve ever attempted to eat, old airplanes with seats that did not recline properly and grumpy crew.  My holiday itself however was awesome 🙂

As I looked back at this article though I thought it also worthwhile to add my opinion on respecting your customers in the pharmaceutical industry.  For too long this industry has been very self-centered and not particularly focused on customers, especially patients (who I also include as customers).  Of course the industry is “plagued” by regulation which has made it harder to be as customer centric per se as many other industries.  We all know by now that the end of the blockbuster era and the patent cliff ushered in huge change and a shift in thinking for the industry but we are still not where we should be.

So why are we still not as customer centric as we could be?  Regulation is often one of the first reasons bandied about for this … “we can’t talk directly to our patients” or “we can’t do that because of regulatory restrictions”.  Very often this is however just an excuse.  We can still be customer centric and comply with regulations.  For starters many patients do not want to hear promotional messages about pharma products anyway so even if we could bombard them with product branded marketing this would still be pharma and not customer centric.

Even where we can do promotion for it to be most effective it should be targeted and try to provide some value to the customer.  What is it that a physician needs or wants to hear about?  If we develop content – promotional or not – with the customer in mind then we generally see far greater results than if we just stubbornly try to force our message down their throats.

Coming back to the regulatory side of things though I do also believe that it is time regulators also become more customer centric, particularly towards patients.  Whist I do not support a US style DTC promotion I also believe that the pharma industry sits on a large swathe of data that would be highly valuable and beneficial to patients, and HCPs. Much of this data is never made available to patients – in part because of compliance but also in part because of the “fear” of regulation and legal action.  Counter this with the number of misinformation that patients now have access to online I think there needs to be a change in thinking in how we communicate and share information online.  I firmly believe that as an industry (both pharma & regulators) we have a duty of care to make sure that patients have access to accurate, reliable information.  We need to drown out the misinformation, and make sure that the correct information is coming in at the top of Google searches, and not hidden away a few pages in.

A second issue is that whilst many patients may never want to know the data, or indeed even understand it, there is a growing number of active and educated patients that do want more information.  The informed patient wants to have the data so that they can make their own decisions concerning their healthcare.  The days when we as patients blindly trusted what our doctors told us are diminishing.   As a patient who has experienced misinformation coming from a specialist, in my case an endocrinologist who told me that the symptoms form my un-managed Hashimoto’s were all in my head, I firmly believe in the movement of the informed patient and the need for patients to be more active in their healthcare.  Had I relied on that endocrinologist, and not actively sought my own answers, I doubt I would be here now writing this post as I would probably have either been too depressed or died of heart complications due to over-medication in an attempt to reduce my symptoms.

I think it is high time that all those involved in the healthcare system start to respect patients as decision makers and work together to support the informed patient.  How can we make all that data that pharma sits on, that may have no commercial value to the organisation btw, available in a digestible and understandable format for patients.  Pharma often has the money and resources to turn the data into content and disseminate it but may not be allowed to – or may not have the incentive to.  Much of that data may also have a public health benefit so one could also argue that pharma should not shoulder the burden of dissemination alone.  Pharma companies at the end of the day are businesses and if they are not profitable they will go under and that also does not benefit patients.

There are many more questions but there also numerous answers.  For starters pharma can start to work more closely with patient associations.  Why is it that for many pharma companies the patient advocacy department, if there even is one, is only made up of one or two people?!  Whilst we have huge brand teams focused on marketing to HCPs the number of headcount that is focused on patients is tiny by comparison.  Pharma really needs to start ramping up in this area.

In turn though regulators may also need to re-assess that pharma patient partnership model.  Not all diseases have a patient association but there may be online groups and individual patient experts.  How was can facilitate partnerships here for the benefit of all parties?  How can we all work together to find a model that supports patients, is compliant but also does not bankrupt pharma?  I think the answer lies in the question … we need to all work together!  We need to start talking more to patients, and include regulators in those discussions.  We need to put patients firmly in the center of the equation, along with HCPs.  We need to not only start listening more but also start being more active in driving the change needed to do this.  Only then will we start to see an industry that is truly respecting its customers and meeting their needs.

The value of respecting your customers

The news is currently awash with a spectacular example of a company failing to have any respect for its customers.  When #United decided to have a paying passenger dragged off one its planes to accommodate employees, whom the airline felt had more right to be at work the next day than said customer, they showed a total disrespect for their customers.  The incident, and the initial response of the CEO, also showed a total lack of respect, and understanding, for the power of the citizen journalist and social media.

The fact that other customers filmed the shocking incident and shared it online really should not have come as a surprise, nor should the fact that it got picked up by the media and went viral.  The days of being able to just bury incidents under the carpet are gone.  Whilst not all examples of bad customer service go viral it is now a real danger for any company, and as such all companies need to start being much more vigilant to customer complaints, especially when these are posted to a social media network.

The other factor here is also basic marketing.  When I did my Masters in marketing one of the things we learnt was people talk more about a negative experience than a bad one. It is also accepted business wisdom that happy customers are more profitable for companies – they spend more and it is cheaper to retain them than it is to gain new customers.  The other thing we learnt was that a company can turn a customer with a negative experience into a loyal customer by the way they handle a complaint.   It is all about making the customer feel valued.

I have numerous personal examples that support these facts.  In fact my motivation for this blog post is not the United incident but my current debacle with Turkish Airlines. Right now I am an extremely unhappy customer and have been appalled at their dreadful customer service.  As a frequent flyer with airlines like British Airways I have come to expect a certain degree of customer service from reputable airlines and I had been under the impression that Turkish Airlines also fell into that category but clearly not.

The issue in question was entirely  my own fault but highlights the difference between an airline like British Airways and Turkish Airlines.  I recently booked my holiday to the Philippines but to my horror a couple of hours after paying for the flight I realised that I had booked the wrong dates (due to still being under the weather with my Hashimoto’s btw).  I called Turkish Airlines up immediately to try to find a solution to this.  I was greeted with an unfriendly and unhelpful rep who refused to help in anyway.  This is entirely at the discretion of the airline as I know that British Airways in these situations give you a grace period of 24 hours in case this happens.  Not Turkish.

Very distraught I wracked my brain for what to do as I now faced spending less than 5 full days on the beach for 3 and bit days of travel!  I then phoned them back to ask about buying a single ticket out on my original planned date and then using my return ticket as planned.  Again I spoke to a less than friendly and unhelpful customer service rep who informed my that this was also not an option.  I would have thought Turkish Airlines should have jumped at the option of selling me a second ticket, especially as I am sure the currently climate and laptop restrictions on flights will be impacting their sales.  I then complained via Twitter and got a much more friendly and helpful response – they lodged my issue as a complaint with customer services for me.  Yay!

But no.  I got an email from the customer complaints department that it would now take them around 7 days to get back to me!  In 7 days time I had hoped to be in a flight and also needed to organise my accommodation!  Why on earth would it take them that long to contact me?!  To this day I have still not had a response from them, despite numerous follow up tweets.  A swift response would have placated me, even if only to sell me that single ticket, but now days of silence later I am a very irate customer who is telling everyone I know, including some very frequent travelers who fly with Turkish (sorry … who used to fly with Turkish).  The window for Turkish Airlines to retain me and my friends as customers is rapidly closing – if they do not want my money I am sure many other airlines do.

This experience contrasts with my other recent travel experience, namely with the Radisson Hotel in Austin.  There I also complained about a few issues I had had at the hotel.  Their response however was very prompt, courteous and professional.  When I complained I really felt like I would never stay in a Radisson again but following their fantastic customer service they have managed to flip the situation and turned me into a loyal customer.  I now know that if I ever have issues again I can trust this hotel to resolve them in a positive manner and as a result I will have no issue in picking the hotel over another hotel on my next trip.

I am generally a very loyal customer (last year paying close to £1000 more just to fly with British Airways) and I, like many other customers, am actually quite easy to please.  Listen to me, respond to my contact request and treat me like a valued customer who you would like to retain.  It is my money to spend and I can easily spend it with another company.  Keep me happy, like British Airways always does, and I will tell people about my great experience and keep coming back.  Make me unhappy, especially by treating me like you have no interest in my future spend with you, and I will tell everyone I know and take my money elsewhere.

Whilst a single customer may not per se be of interest to the company, their friends, family and extended network may be.  As word of mouth spreads across that network, as is the case for United Airlines, you start to see a real impact on revenues.  Counter that with the cost of good, courteous and helpful customer service, it just makes good business sense to treat your customers with respect – each and everyone of them.

Addendum

Within an hour of writing this post I received the following response from Turkish.  I have no idea why it took them days to provide a standard response like this.  It also does not address some of my issues that I complained about.  You can see my response below too.  Clearly I will not be flying with Turkish Airlines again and I will continue to advocate against flying with them.  If you have had similar negative experiences with them I would love to hear about them too.

 

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J&J strikes gold … and ignores it

So I was meant to write a summary of SXSW but I wanted to write about a post I saw today on J&J’s Facebook about autoimmune diseases (and in case you can’t be bothered to scroll through Facebook here the post on the J&J blog).  There were a couple of things that struck me.

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First the volume of engagement the post caused.  It was not just a few standalone comments but people were in active discussion with each other.  I have rarely seen that level of open, heartfelt conversation around a pharma post.  The discussion also really resonated with me, as an autoimmune patient.  The post was sharing the story of three autoimmune patients who overcame the struggles of their disease to get their lives back on track. Of course the thing that helped them all was pharmaceutical products and whilst no brand names were mentioned it is not a huge stretch of the imagination to realise they were talking about J&J products.

Whilst a few people were positive about the post, and how inspiring it was to see patients fight their disease and be able to overcome it and lead a relatively normal life, others had a very different point of view.  What they pointed out that actually many patients do not have the option of “overcoming” their disease and leading a normal life.  For many patients with an autoimmune disease there is no adequate treatment and daily life is a constant struggle.

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In fact one lady pointed out that these types of articles actually can have an adverse effect on patients as friends and family share them to show that other patients have managed … so why can’t you?  It can help foster the issue that many patients have were friends and family just do not get the struggle and perceive the disease to be something you can “get over” or something that is more in a patients head than being really that bad.

As an autoimmune patient myself I can tell you that despite medication (and I am 100% compliant btw) things do put me off kilter (like gluten).   When I am off kilter I can feel absolutely bloody awful.  It is not in my head – it is very real.  In fact since my last post, where I spoke about my brain fog and fatigue, I’ve had to experience one of the other nasty glitches this disease causes – emotional “trauma”.  I call it trauma because it is very upsetting. I have always been good at controlling my emotions and generally am a very level headed, laid back person but when my Hashimoto’s rears its ugly head my emotions can get all crazy.  I would liken it to the emotional turmoil some women go through during their periods.  One minute I’m fine and then next I’m bursting into tears.  I become over-sensitive and the slightest thing can set me off and become a huge issue.  The impact this can then have is that my over-reaction upsets me and makes me even more upset, spiralling down into an ever darker vortex.  It can take days for me to be okay after this and can lead to my depression re-appearing.

I am fortunate that I know myself well enough, and have battled depression on and off over the years (thank you Hashi’s!) that I have some great coping mechanisms (and some awesome friends who I can talk to).  Yesterday I was blubbing my eyes out, feeling like there was a raw gaping hole in my chest, today thanks to some of these coping mechanisms it is more like a small sore.  Tomorrow I will still be fragile but hopefully with care and self-patience in a few days this will all be just a bad memory and I will have my life back.  I am also fortunate that I have a job I love because it also really helps to just focus on my work and bury my head in that rather than dwell on the rollercoaster of emotions that is waging its own little war in my body.

And so I come onto my second point about the J&J post.  With all of this engagement happening as I went through all the posts there was one glaring omission.  There was absolutely no response from J&J!  What a wasted opportunity to really engage in a meaningful dialogue with your customers (and yes your patients are also your customers – not just HCPs).  Where was even the “thank you for your comments” type of response? Nothing.  A classic pharma one directional post – a “here you go enjoy but we don’t want to talk to you” attitude.  As an autoimmune patient I really welcome that J&J is sharing posts on this disease area, which gets so much less spotlight than cancer or heart disease, and yet impacts just as many, if not more, people.  I would have liked to thank J&J for the post and the subsequent discussion and would have valued their input into the dialogue.

Yes we are talking about patients where J&J medications have not had this same positive impact but what a great opportunity to show that you still care – and perhaps if relevant to point out how much money you are investing into R&D in this area.  It is also a fantastic opportunity to engage with patients and learn some valuable insights, which in turn could help generate even more engaging content.  I could imagine this would make for a great tweetchat or other posts pulling out some of the issues highlighted in the discussion.  Having worked for pharma brands I know the constant struggle to find that golden content that resonates and works.  Here it is being handed to J&J on a platter.

J&J you hit gold with your post but rather than mine that gold, and share its riches, you have just let it lie and fade.

Oh and by the way one of the patients in the post also joined the conversation … making J&J’s absence all the more glaring.  Hats off to the said patient – for sharing her story but also for the compassion, and openness with which she joined the discussion.