Curing the telephone ills of the pharmaceutical industry

By | July 13, 2016
  • Two pharmacist working together30% of calls to pharmaceutical companies go unanswered or the customers heard the busy tone at peak times
  • Telephone calls and line rentals cost pharmaceutical companies considerably more than they believe
  • Most are receiving a residential-quality broadband service at business prices
  • Global 4 could save pharmaceuticals up to 40 per cent and only a 30 day commitment

Selling telephone systems and data circuits might seem boring to many, but to me it’s the most exciting thing ever. That’s because I understand that communication is the core of any business. As a people person I like to communicate face-to-face rather than through social media. I am a self-confessed serial business speed dater, travelling the country and across Europe, networking at every opportunity and getting to know entrepreneurs from a wide range of industries.

Over the years, my company, Global 4, has established itself as a market leader in many different sectors. For instance, we have a 48 per cent market share of estate agents, 15 per cent of garage forecourts, 10 per cent of retail stores, plus leading charities.

And reaching the age of 63 I thought I’ve been around the block a few times seen and heard it all. In May, I agreed to attend a petrol forecourt industry event at a five star hotel in what was purported to be Alicante, Spain. This was part of a special offer that involved staying a few days after the forecourt event to take part in a pharmacy conference and exhibition, organised by the same event company at the same hotel, to which many industry leaders were going.

However, imagine my surprise when we got to the hotel to discover that we were actually in Benidorm. I hadn’t been to Benidorm since I was 19 and then the trip was most definitely for pleasure. Fortunately, a few decades have passed since then and I would have been unlucky to have bumped into anyone who’d remember my last visit.

The pharmacy event itself was largely full of doom and gloom about the Government potentially cutting the income of pharmaceutical companies by up to 20 per cent. Yet, some light relief was provided by one rep who had to apologise, because her company had sent samples of its blue and pink pills out to clients, only for them to be opened by partners who assumed they were a different type of use!

For the next day and a half I met with 18 leading pharmacy groups and quickly realised that they had to change their business models if they wanted to increase sales and replace the margin that was being cut by the Government. In turn they all made me feel very welcome and thought it would be mutually beneficial to have a meeting on their return to the UK.

Since getting back to the UK, I have travelled the length and breadth of the country, including Northern Ireland, meeting industry leaders on their home ground. While there are still some companies left to meet, I feel my findings are worth sharing.

My first observation is that while each company has different telephony business processes, they all seem as inefficient as each other: using several different suppliers that are very rarely reviewed and certainly not monitored on usage and performance. Often a business will save money if it has one supplier for several services and good oversight.

Secondly, exploring call data from those companies reveals some interesting results. The busiest times of day for calls are in the morning and at lunchtime, but nearly a third of these calls go unanswered, with one in five customers encountering an engaged tone. This is baffling as there are often other lines sitting unused at those times. Every missed call could be a missed sales opportunity.

Further, many believe that they have a great call package, but are in fact victims of high call charges. The average mobile call cost for pharmaceutical companies is 6p per minute, which is more than treble the price it should be of 2p. The same is true for local and national landline calls: many are paying 3p per minute, when they could be paying less than 1p.

Line rental charges are all over the place and companies are still paying for services they no longer use. Many were also receiving broadband that offered a residential quality service at business prices.

The alternative is hosted telephony that wraps up all the services with one provider. Rather than having an entire telephone system on the premises, key functions and hardware are offered remotely. That means that only one telephone line and a quality fibre broadband connection are needed to offer a multi-extension, multi-device, multifunction system.

Advantages include being able to provide customers with key information when on hold or when they call out-of-hours, having an unlimited number of extensions, being able to answer calls anywhere, and having high-quality audio.

The added benefit is that instead of paying for multiple phone lines, there is only need to pay for one, which costs around £10.50. With fibre broadband only costing £25 and £7 for each extension, free inter-site calls, 2p mobile calls and 1p landline calls, capped at a maximum of £50 per site per month, and no sneaky hidden charges, the savings could be huge.

So there is a lot to do and my team of nearly hundred people are available and would enjoy advising you on our finding and suggesting a solution for your business.

Personally I enjoyed the pharmacy world beyond belief and still smiling. Hopefully we can become a leading supplier to this fantastic industry sector and be invited to more of their type of events.

Nigel Barnett MD

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