Stop Feeding Customers Cardboard Pizza

Pharma equipment suppliers are serving up much-needed solutions

By Karen Langhauser, Chief Content Director

I consider myself a connoisseur of late-night pizza. With this prestigious distinction comes a fair amount of interest in the happenings of popular pizza chains (as well as a fair amount of weight gain). My favorite sales and marketing turnaround story is Domino’s Pizza.

Faced with more than two years of declining sales and brand surveys ranking them number one in convenience and dead last in quality, Domino’s brought in a new chief marketing officer in 2008. The new CMO launched an amazing self-deprecating marketing strategy that basically said, “So we’ve heard our pizza tastes worse than the box it’s packaged in, and we are going to do something about this” and featured colorful complaints and commentary from actual customers.

The honesty and hilarity of this campaign deeply resonated with customers, but the key concept behind this campaign was using customer feedback to improve upon product offerings.

As I walked the halls during my recent Interphex trip, meeting with numerous pharma equipment and services suppliers, I was impressed at how closely suppliers were listening to their customers and using that feedback to develop and launch truly innovative products that were solving clearly defined problems in the industry. Pharmaceutical manufacturing struggles are typically not unique to a single manufacturer and also do not appear to exist in a silo within a specific area of the manufacturing process — suppliers who solve problems for one customer in one process area, are finding that these solutions are quickly becoming very desirable throughout the industry.

Whether drugmakers are struggling to solve complex bioavailability challenges for early stage molecules, not detecting failed diaphragm seals fast enough in critical applications, or are in need of a component that had both the break resistant properties of plastic and barrier qualities of glass, suppliers seem to be right on top of this, armed with clever and practical solutions.

This reminded me a lot of the changing role of contract manufacturers. CMOs, whose success is predicated on finding ways to provide measurable added value, have mastered the ability to respond to specific customer issues. As a result, CMOs have evolved from behind-the-scenes workhorses of the industry to strategic partners. They have started driving, rather than merely supporting, manufacturing and process innovation. And it seems equipment and services suppliers are following much the same path.

As far as Domino’s pizza, the “new and inspired” recipe is actually markedly more delicious. Customer satisfaction is up, and Domino’s was cited by Forbes as the “fastest growing restaurant chain” in 2015. While it’s true that late-night pizza quality levels might not be causing customers to lose sleep (although in a more literal sense, it’s possible), customers reward businesses that listen with dollars spent.

Aligning your innovation with your customer’s expectations is a given, but exceeding those expectations — well, that is a satisfying change.

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