Lilly is personalising the patient experience with Salesforce.

It's really a matter of us evolving from a customer-focused company to a customer-centric company. That's the journey we're on.”


For 140 years, Lilly has been a leader in the pharmaceutical industry, having grown from humble roots into a global company with 38,000 employees — and it’s still based in its hometown of Indianapolis. Lilly’s storied history includes being the first drug manufacturer to mass-produce lifesaving medications such as penicillin, insulin, and the polio vaccine.

Trends in both technology and healthcare economics, however, suggest that the future for pharmaceutical firms will call for increasingly specialised and personalised forms of treatment, requiring a deeper understanding of, and involvement with, patients than ever before.

“Our goals are to meet the needs of the future, which are increasingly upon us today,” said Mike Meadows, Chief Technology Officer and 33-year Lilly veteran. That future includes enhancing customer engagement and improving internal processes by building a robust reference architecture. And Salesforce, Meadows acknowledged, is a big part of that effort.


Our goals are to meet the needs of the future, which are increasingly upon us today.”

Mike Meadows, CTO

From customer-focused to customer-centric

“For us, the journey of change in terms of communication and connection with our customers has been pretty dramatic over the last five years,” said Rob Brown, Chief Marketing Officer. “It's really a matter of us evolving from a customer-focused company to a customer-centric company. That's a hard thing to do, especially for a successful company [with 38,000 employees] around the world. That's the journey we're on.”

When it comes to customer service, “we’re trying to change that experience within the world of pharma, which is a pretty new endeavor,” said Meadows. The goal, he adds, is to “develop a personal connection and provide personalised service to an individual that feels cared for.”

It’s an approach that has special relevance for Lilly because many of the company’s new medications — particularly infusion- or injection-based products — can be challenging for some patients to manage. Changes in healthcare funding laws have further incentivised healthcare providers of all kinds to boost patient compliance with treatments for chronic illnesses in order to avoid painful and costly relapses.

Customer-centrism requires a single platform across all lines of business. “With Salesforce,” said Jo Taylor, Chief Customer Officer, “we have a connection to a company that can help us understand what are some of the most flexible, reliable, and secure platforms that we can use to... ultimately make it so that the consumer has a better experience in managing his or her own illness.”

Achieving these higher levels of customer-centricity requires improved internal coordination across departments and locations — and Salesforce has been of help there, as well. Using both the Lightning Platform and Heroku, Lilly’s IT department is able to quickly develop and deploy critical applications to global teams. Lilly employees have built more than 50 apps on the Salesforce platform — including enterprise and citizen developer apps. One such app streamlines the arduous and stringent process of scheduling meetings between healthcare providers and Lilly reps to contract physicians. The app brings together vast data management systems and improves workflows while complying fully with medical privacy regulations. By using agile methodologies and an MVP (minimum viable product) approach, the Salesforce Platform development process at the company transforms ideas into apps in under seven weeks, on average.

“Salesforce has not only allowed us to advance the experience we're trying to provide for our customers at a more personalized level,” said Jen Oleksiw, Vice President of Information Technology, “but it is also helping us improve our relationships with our internal business partners. We're able to work with them and use agile methodology in order to deliver on what they need for their customers, and also what they need to do their jobs better each and every single day.”

Helping patients before they know they need help

One prominent feature of the Patient Connect Platform app is a daily online survey that records how well patients are feeling, both physically and emotionally.

As Meadows explained, the purpose of collecting and analysing this survey data within Salesforce is to give Lilly the ability to anticipate a patient’s needs, and “meet those customers at a point of need, as opposed to meeting them at a point of request or requirement.” Thanks to predictive data analytics, patient care always runs ahead of patient needs, ensuring the best possible experience.

“We want to be able to understand our customers better than they understand themselves,” said Oleksiw. “We have an opportunity to really take a look at the data we are collecting and predict what they're going to need in the future. And, more importantly, to continue on that one-to-one relationship vision that we’re going after, and provide a personalised experience just for them.”

But the value that personalisation brings doesn't stop at better understanding and predicting patient needs — it also extends to doctors, too. Outreach to busy physicians has become increasingly difficult using traditional means, as physicians no longer make themselves available to pharmaceutical reps. Yet Lilly’s first digital sales campaign targeting physicians has shown promise as an alternative.

Bamforth credited Salesforce with stimulating new thinking on his team while developing digital marketing campaigns. “Having somebody in the room that is seeing this sort of digital development across industries and challenging our thinking and challenging the paradigm is incredibly, incredibly valuable,” he said.


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