Contributed by Joni Bradley
Providing a high-quality, relevant deliverable isn’t enough when it comes to building strong and lasting agency-client partnerships. Top-notch work at a reasonable price is critical, but creating an amazing client experience is equally important.
Why? We are all working to fulfill a common mission: to create change in the lives of patients through HCP education that inspires action and facilitates communication and connection. Each time a client returns, we’re given the opportunity to not only uniquely add value to their teams and their customers, but to work alongside them to help bring their mission to life.
Focus First on the Relationship
Providing a remarkable customer experience is more than hitting everything on a checklist. It starts with a team that cares enough to put in the work required to truly connect with each client. These connections – the working relationships, partnerships, and oftentimes friendships – are extremely important.
For us, part of relationship building includes understanding everything about a client – their product(s), the patients for which their product is intended, their company (and teams), their customers, and how they like to work. We want to know what their daily work involves, both inside and outside of a specific project. Above all, we want our customers to experience being known and appreciated, and that we are here to support them in any way we can as we work together toward a common goal.
Valued partnerships emerge from solid and trusting relationships. More than 20 years ago, JB Ashtin started from a partnership with one growing pharmaceutical company. Through every project, from commencement to execution, we worked to develop solid bonds and build relationships with each person we encountered. As time went on, these relationships became strong enough that when any challenge arose – from clinical research to commercial – our client trusted our guidance and ability to act as an extension of their team.
When a government health authority challenged the formulary status of one of their products, they called us. Collectively, our team outlined the problem, desired outcome, and steps required to get there. We quickly assembled a multidisciplinary group of experts the company had not yet worked with to advise on next steps. The company acted on the advice of these experts, took additional necessary steps and as a result, the product was added back to the national formulary, and patients continued to trust and engage with the brand. Not only did this shared experience deliver on the desired outcome for patients and the company, it further cemented our relationship with the client as true partners. To this day, these relationships remain strong and many individuals continue to refer us.
Remember the Little Things
Understanding clients as people, coupled with understanding their unique challenges, affords us the knowledge to manage unforeseen hurdles, the flexibility to pivot when needed, and the confidence to communicate freely. We also highlight “the little things”, because managing the smallest of details often has the greatest impact. As companies work to adapt to life in a pandemic, these little things are especially important. Sometimes it’s as simple as acknowledging a stressful week or sending a funny meme that lets our clients know we realize their job can be challenging and want to help brighten their day.
Considering the little things can also mean knowing clients well enough to understand and anticipate their needs. Proactively drafting emails for busy clients to edit and send to senior management or knowing the ins and outs of their projects can save clients time and money in the long run. Just this week, a client asked for our assistance with a new challenge but didn’t yet have budget. We quickly assured her we could use remaining funds from a recent project. The client was thrilled that we were able to provide an immediate solution. Small considerations aren’t rocket science, but they are foundational; when the relationship is solid, we can better collaborate on timely solutions that help HCPs better connect with their patients.
Assemble the Right Team
Our internal customers are just as important to us as our external customers. Everyone has value, but not everyone is wired to do what we do and how we do it at JB Ashtin. A team that serves each other well is best suited to serve our clients well. So, more important than finding someone with the perfect CV or resume, we hire people who possess our very people-focused core values (excellence, respect, proactivity, humility, dedication, thoughtfulness, and fun) and who care for their teammates as much as their clients.
Our team is encouraged and empowered to do the right thing, even when that means advising a client to take action that will not be of benefit to us financially. We recently advised a client that she would be better served by another agency for a particular project, which had morphed into something very different from what was originally proposed. We knew that because of the timing and importance of the tactic, another agency likely had more relevant experience than we did. By understanding our strengths and limits and consistently striving to help our clients succeed, (even if their success means referring another agency), we’re able to put our clients’ needs first and focus on building relationships of honesty, integrity, and trust.
Strive to Exceed Expectations
We want to create raving fans and loyal clients, so we strive to exceed expectations whenever possible. Going the extra mile isn’t forced; it’s part of what we do every day. Not because we must, but because our team genuinely enjoys working closely with our clients and is always looking for new and better ways to enhance experiences. During the execution of a multi-year speaker bureau, our program managers made sure to follow up with our client’s sales reps after every individual program or tour. Armed with their feedback, our team was able to make immediate improvements to the program.
Additionally, they called the speaker who was scheduled for the next program and took the time to them through the speaker deck and point out areas the previous program’s audience found difficult. Our team did this despite not having created the content. The speakers were thrilled to have specific insights that helped them provide a more valuable presentation. Our team received regular kudos from both reps and speakers for going above and beyond to ensure the speaker and the audience were considered every step of the way, making each program better than the last.
With the understanding that “best” can be improved, we strive to communicate and deliver better than yesterday. Although we sometimes wish we were super-human, we are not. Regular debriefing internally and externally helps us identify areas for improvement. If we don’t get things right, we own it and fix it.
Why we do What we Do
Through strong connections with our clients, we can help bring
science to life through relevant medical communications and scientific storytelling and have fun along the way. Compelling stories engage HCPs, and this increased knowledge can help them communicate and connect better with their patients. Better connections with HCPs inspire patients to act on specific medical information. So, when productive relationships and connections are forged appropriately, we better understand our clients’ business; therefore, we can be flexible and act decisively and quickly to address any unforeseen challenges. We have the potential to help our clients make a lasting impact through the products they offer, resulting in greater health for the patients we all serve.
Contact us if you’d like to experience something exceptional from
your medical communications partner.
Joni Bradley, PharmD, President/CEO
JB Ashtin is a medical communications company focused on translating science into actionable clinical practice.
Our mission is to provide education that creates a more informed dialogue between HCPs and the patients they care for.
We do this by making complex scientific information digestible and meaningful to the advancement of patient care.