Life Science Warms to CRM

Scientists demand precision, timeliness and consistency in their research -- and from suppliers. To be sure, it isn't easy serving this fickle community. Consequently, when it comes to customer service and e-business, "life sciences is way ahead of many industries," says Bill Kelly, president of BioInformatics, a market research firm in Arlington, Va. Today, BioInformatics revealed findings on a recent survey of industrial and academic life scientists, in a report entitled Support and Service for Life Science Products: Creating Loyal Customers. Fifty percent of respondents said the biggest customer-service complaint was that products did not arrive when promised. This problem is magnified due to the nature of life sciences itself -- that is, many scientists require certain materials at precise stages of a given experiment. And scientists can be very demanding. When contacting suppliers by email, 34 percent of respondents expect a reply within 12 to 24 hours; while 19 percent expect a reply within one to two hours. Additionally, 20 percent of respondents reported that half of their calls to technical support are marked 'Urgent.' Poor customer service can have a rippling effect on suppliers. For instance, scientists often take existing research and advance it forward. This means they want to use the same suppliers as previous scientists, in order to maintain a level of consistency in experiments. If a supplier loses the scientific community's confidence, the impact could be wide and lasting. "Scientists are deeply committed to their work, and when a scientist feels that their work has been jeopardized by a supplier's performance, the sense of injustice can turn into a backlash against suppliers," Kelly says. Taking a proactive stance, suppliers have turned to e-business and CRM. Indeed, many suppliers were early adopters of e-markets such as the now-defunct Chemdex and others, in hopes of making procurement of products easier. The BioInformatics' report also shows how suppliers are developing CRM initiatives, including personalizing Web accounts. "All of the big players have bought into the concept of CRM, having various degrees of success implementing the technology," Kelly says. Life-sciences suppliers Sigma Aldrich, Fisher Scientific and VWR International were singled out as having provided a high level of assistance related to the ordering, delivery and billing of products.
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