Detailers: Personal Calls Morph into Electronic Exchanges

Posted on 15. Mar, 2010 by in Customer Relationships

Who’s the Rep?

I was in my doctor’s office this morning waiting the perfunctory hour.  To pass the time I always try to spot the pharma reps who are seated among us patients in the doctor’s reception.  But, unlike us patients, the pharma detailers are at least getting paid for waiting – though their frustration is still evident.  Impatiently they wait their turn to see the doctor.  Such is the routine, but today I was in for a surprise.  Instead of the person I pegged for a rep being escorted into my doctor’s inner sanctum, the receptionist simply reached over the reception desk and handed back the rep’s PDA which my doctor had apparently signed!

How Did They Meet?        

When I later inquired of my doctor about the “interaction”, she explained apologetically that she and her colleagues are so besieged by detailers that they can’t possibly see them all face-to-face.  This particular rep had shown up without scheduling a free luncheon for the doctors, nor had she brought the obligatory dozen donuts for the reception staff.  Consequently, she was relegated to no more than an electronic signature on her PDA.  This signature would at least prove to her employer that she had visited my doctor’s office.  Though no “face-time” occurred, the visit was “validated” on my doctor’s side as well.  Even without personal interaction, my doctor had acknowledged the rep’s visit.  She knew the drugs the detailer represented but simply had no questions to ask, nor needs for additional samples.  So, my doctor chose to simply sign the PDA.

How Complete Was the Communication?

The fact that such exchanges happen today fails to shock most of us, I suspect.  But it probably should.  With greater frequency, electronic networks, “tweets”, and other postings are replacing face-to-face interactions.  It can, I suppose, be argued that using electronic media allows each of us to reach out to far greater numbers of intimate and casual acquaintances, but at what cost to the quality of the interaction?  Just as Twitter postings are limited to 140 characters, many of our previously rich dialogues are being “downsized” or otherwise concatenated to fit into electronic signature pads or 140 character boxes.  This “downsizing” or minimizing can’t help but further the disjointed communications of an already “attention-challenged” population.

The Future – lol

It seems to me that our electronic communication and interaction capabilities may ultimately be doing us in.  While the four-page, handwritten letter of yesterday or the terser email exchange of today still allows some transfer of emotionality and detailed meaning, the i-script or text message shorthand (lol, imho, omg, gr8, etc.) that is being developed for communication by smart phones and PDAs denies us much of the historical richness of personal communications.  How we as human beings and as marketers adapt will be extremely challenging and very interesting to watch!

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