Moving from product-centric to customer-centric strategy

What it really takes to innovate around the customer’s needs.


One of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies bet that to survive in a value-based care model, they needed to innovate around the customer, not the product. Yet while the words “customer-centric” easily flowed from mouths, few operational behaviors actually changed.



On the heels of the 2009 recession, the pharmaceutical industry was handed two curveballs. First, gone were the days of mass-marketed “blockbuster” drugs—the modern pharmaceutical needed to demonstrate improved outcome at lower costs. Second, the digital health revolution meant that data and devices had the potential to empower and engage customers like never before. There was no playbook for this new model, and so the client stood up a team dedicated to customer innovation.



Over the course of 6 months, we worked hand-in-hand with with the newly founded team to develop a strategy, framework, and criteria for a customer-centric service strategy. Our work commenced with a gap analysis of customer understanding; following a review of over 150 internal reports and studies, it was clear the company needed to embrace new ways of thinking and acting. To close the gap, we introduced design research, participatory design, and social listening to bring the patient voice forward.

The leading insights served as the bedrock for a multi-day blue sky workshop for key executives tasked with identifying new service strategy opportunities. To encourage expansive thinking and reduce groupthink, all participants engaged in a empathy exercise prior to concept generation. The most promising concepts were strengthened, forming an initial and diverse portfolio of customer-centric pilot opportunities.