Customer experience is emerging as a valuable and defensible differentiator for vendors in the life science reagent market.

In the past, product quality and price were the two criteria that strongly determined purchase decisions. But this is no longer the case. Many vendors are already competing on price  and at the same time reacting to the increasing pressure by the scientific community for validation, proof of product specificity and even access to primary vendor data.

From customer touch points to customer experience

User experience  is not a new concept, but in a world of social media and information overload, it is taking on new meaning . Vendors used to focus their user experience efforts on “customer touch points”; discrete vendor-customer interactions where the vendor aims to excel. More recently the community has been talking about “customer journeys”; multiple touch points organized around customer-centric activities and use-cases that once again aim to create a favorable “total experience” for the scientist/customer.

This is definitely a move in the right direction yet it seems that ultimately, vendors should aim for almost-personalized partnerships, one-on-one relationships that:

  • act on the fact that time is a very scarce resource for all (for researchers this means selling them the right product, providing them with the right data, not overloading them with information etc.)
  • prioritize and support the scientist’s goals in multiple and focused ways
  • build trust, over time, between scientist and vendor

Clearly, this can become extremely resource intensive for the vendor, and so one-on-one relationships my not be feasible.

A workable customer experience policy

A customer experience policy that just might be workable should be a mixture of “personalized care” and “group initiatives”. Here are a few ideas:

Vendors should aim to generate original (not reproduced), cleverly aggregated, with novel perspectives content. “Content is king” yet creating original content is a high value-add process and very resource intensive. Content providing services are a quick solution but when used by all vendors it can have an opposite to intended effect. One solution is to use specialized resources and tools that facilitate original content generation. Another is to encourage and catalyze the creation of content by the community itself.

The more a vendor participates in actively solving his clients’ problem, the more effective the partnership becomes. This means that vendors should aim to participate in and sustain communities of scientists. These communities could be organized around a specific scientific challenge, a product, or a “journey”. Vendors could lead some of these communities, while follow and support others. Done correctly this setup promises to benefit all.

The most targeted community, is a community of one. Creating ongoing relationships with  individual scientists that are active for the duration of each scientist’s research projects is obviously highly challenging, yet the closer a vendor approximates such a state, the deeper the trust and the better the customer experience. Content that informs, guides and challenges in the right way is once again key.