Triaging Your Customers: The Juggling Act of COVID-19 Aftermath

4 min read

Collaboration & Customer Empathy is Key During This Restart Period

The good news is, as you know, hospitals and practices are restarting many functions. The bad news is none of this is simple. Several institutions have suspended more than just elective procedures. Follow-up appointments have been pushed out, Internal Review Board (IRB) meetings have been delayed, clinical trials have been slowed, and some staff have been furloughed.

It will take months before things feel like they are back to a regular cadence. In turn, your company needs to be ready when product demand ramps-up again and still acquire new business. Sales and marketing teams need to collaborate more than ever. They should work together to triage customers and define their level of ‘acuity.’

Acuity—or how immediately they need attention from your company—will help provide clarity on what to do next. Some of the activities your team may be tackling internally and with customers include employing digital sales, service, and training tools; utilizing digital tools, real-world evidence, and data analytics to help keep clinical trials on track; helping customers address efficiency and supply chain issues; and finding ways to support the ongoing movement toward digital and virtual care. But who needs what and when?

To determine a customer’s level of acuity, you’ll want to think through:

The goal is to maximize sales and marketing resources by engaging your spectrum of customers through a strategy that accounts for unique COVID-19 impacts.

So how do you start?

Use the ‘Triage Framework’ to Account for Customer Acuity and Adjust Prioritization

Rethink how you prioritize sales team engagements by leveraging the ‘triage framework’ below. This may require a shift in mindset and even some retraining for the fieldforce. Deciles, specialties, personas, and demographics still have a role. Customer acuity is just an additional factor to consider as you define your engagement strategies for the foreseeable future. Layer it into your typical segmentation and prioritization exercises.

Once your team has identified the customers with the greatest immediate needs, sales and marketing must work closely together to define tactics and coordinate responsibilities. The customers’ acuity level will help determine if sales or marketing should take on the primary responsibility for touchpoints with the customer.

Triage Framework

Acuity LevelDefinitionSales & Marketing Tips
Level 1 - Clear the path
  • Current customers
  • Ramping back up
  • Need things from your team, stat, to initiate getting through their backlog
  • You DO present a barrier
Avoid being the barrier to your own business. These customers may need samples, patient materials, kits, contracts, your team physically in their cases, etc.—basically anything that could cause further delay. These customers should be the highest priority for sales. You’ll want to ensure your organization can accommodate these immediate needs. As the sales team may be stretched thin, consider how marketing may be able to support sales with anything virtual, digital, or via mail or email.
Level 2 - Remind them you’re here
  • Current customers
  • May be slow to restart or have had to shift focus
  • You DO NOT present a barrier
The practice may have downsized or had to reduce services temporarily. There may be new protocols or processes causing further delays. Sales should ensure these customers know you’re here for them, but don't spend significant time in trying to achieve the pre-COVID volume right now. Marketing may be able to take on more touchpoints for the time being until there is a sense that they can proceed with cases or appointments.
Level 3 - Support the momentum
  • Hot or warm leads that do not yet use your product
  • Were highly interested before the pandemic
Sales should check in with these customers to gauge their current level of interest and ability to implement the product. Understand if there are other roadblocks due to the pandemic. If there aren’t, sales should continue forward to engage and close these customers. If there are roadblocks beyond the provider’s control, let marketing assume more of the burden of ongoing touchpoints until the internal barriers are removed.
Level 4 - Educate and empathize
  • Cold leads
  • Need greater product awareness and education
  • Require more touchpoints and time
It may be hard to capture the attention of potential customers right now. The best strategy here might be slow and steady, but consistent. Think through how to leverage digital tactics to build awareness. Rely heavily on marketing to engage these leads. A mix of content that is educational, engaging, acknowledges the current challenges, and product-specific is appropriate.

If this framework feels like it cannot be tailored to your business, exploring the below questions may be sufficient to help drive appropriate customer prioritization.

Questions to answer:

Providers have limited mindshare to capture during this time because they’re navigating a tremendous amount of work, emotional stress, and limited resources. Try to ensure your sales and marketing teams are in lockstep and taking customer acuity into account. This will give you a better chance of supporting the right customers when they need you the most. Customer service during this time will leave a lasting impression.

Need Marketing Help?

Grey Matter Marketing is a full-service, award-winning PR and marketing agency working exclusively with healthcare companies. We deliver the expertise and experience so clients can make better business decisions and see better business results. Contact us and let us help you create more effective outreach strategies during this unprecedented time.

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