It's crucial to make sure we're developing a product that solves problems for users and meets their most pressing needs. A great way to achieve that is by spending time with users in action and pin-pointing the ways a product's features and functionalities can make their tasks easier. Earlier this year, we had the opportunity to do this with one of our clients, and our findings provided invaluable insights that informed the product's development.
About the Client
This client is one of the world's leading biotech companies. Their mission is to serve patients by using science and innovation to develop therapies and medicines. Their sales teams are an integral part of their business, visiting doctors to share product information and distribute samples.
We are working with them to develop Alfred, a voice-commanded virtual assistant for their sales representatives, who spend a lot of time on the road and frequently need to access data from multiple different platforms. This iOS mobile app would allow them to streamline their daily workflows and access all the data they need in one place with a simple spoken question.
Observing a Sales Rep
Last March, Product Manager Sebastián Sassi tagged along with a sales representative to see what her typical work day is like. What he observed has allowed us to cater to users' specific needs, anticipating the challenges that sales reps tackle regularly.
The day began in La Cañada Flintridge, California, where Sebastián and the sales rep met up at a Starbucks before embarking on the first client visit.
"Welcome to my office," she told Sebastián as they got in the car, making it immediately clear where this company's sales reps perform the majority of their daily responsibilities. Over the course of the next seven hours, they visited doctors across her territory in locations as far as 80 miles apart.
Before meeting with each doctor, the sales rep completed a long and varied checklist of tasks to ensure the effectiveness of the visit. This often included looking up the shipment status of samples the doctor had ordered or making sure the doctor signed a proof of receipt (POR) for their last shipment, since a missing signature would impede them from ordering a new batch of samples.
She frequently downloaded various forms, each located within different systems, to fill out and sign when necessary. Sometimes she checked a prescriber's license to confirm it was still valid. In addition, she looked up her sales goals and the progress she'd made so far, which helped her plan her approach to her next meeting.
She also reviewed insurance rejections, enabling her to facilitate patients' access to the medication they need. In one case, an insurance company regularly paid for a particular medication when one doctor prescribed it, but the same insurance company would not cover the same medication when it was prescribed by a different doctor. In order to help the second doctor prescribe the medication successfully, she called the first doctor to ask for their advice on getting insurance approval.
Throughout the day, she constantly communicated with her sales team. Together they would keep track of when they visited prescribers so that they could consistently engage each doctor without overwhelming them with too many visits over a short period of time. In addition, she frequently took Skype meetings and conference calls with her colleagues.
All of these tasks took place in the car, an essential part of the use case for the product we were building. That day, Sebastián and the sales rep were able to test an early version of Alfred, the voice-controlled virtual assistant we designed for the sales team. They were happy to see that Alfred made the sales rep's work easier and that the bluetooth integration functioned smoothly across all devices. However, what Sebastián learned while observing a sales rep on the job helped us build a virtual assistant that caters even more specifically to users' needs.
Solving Problems for Users
Before Alfred was in the picture, the checklist of tasks that sales reps had to complete before visiting a prescriber was much more time-consuming and involved entering multiple different platforms in order to access the information they needed. They would have to park their car near the doctor's office, pull out their laptop, and spend at least 10-15 minutes looking up information and preparing for their meeting.
A voice-controlled virtual assistant is the perfect solution for this use case. With this iOS mobile app, sales reps can complete most of their tasks by simply asking Alfred questions while driving to their next meeting. This allows them to them maximize their productivity, saving time previously allocated to doing tedious tasks and instead spending their energy having meaningful interactions with doctors.
The specific user needs Sebastián observed last March resulted in important new features for Alfred. Gone are the days that sales reps had to repeatedly visit UPS's website to track every sample shipment for every client. Now they can just say, "Alfred, where are the samples for Dr. Smith?" and Alfred will reply with a shipment update. If the samples are still on their way to their destination, Alfred will offer to notify the user when the shipment arrives; if the user accepts, they will receive a push notification as soon as the doctor has received the samples. Another feature allows users to ask Alfred to check for outstanding proofs of receipt (PORs), helping them follow up with doctors when a signature is missing.
Users can also ask Alfred to read them their sales goals and their progress towards meeting them. The vast amount of information available by voice command includes specific metrics like the number of times they have visited a particular doctor in a semester, how many prescriptions of a particular medication a doctor has made, and which medications need to reach greater sales in comparison to other products. Alfred can alert the user when there are anomalies in the data, such as a doctor ordering drastically fewer prescriptions from one month to the next. In addition, location tracking allows Alfred to detect when a sales rep is on their way to visit a particular doctor and automatically offer to share insights about them.
Many other exciting features are currently in the works, such as the ability of Alfred to check whether prescriber's licenses are still valid, pull up data about insurance rejections, update client information or insights after a meeting, and email pre-filled forms to the user so that all they have to do is print and sign them. We're also working to sync the virtual assistant with users' calendars so that Alfred can dial in to meetings or conference calls while a sales rep is driving.
Alfred could also be very useful in taking care of more occasional administrative tasks, such as updating a doctor's address when they change to a different office or when a clinic moves locations. Updating this information in the system actually requires a series of tedious steps and is not as simple as just entering the new address. With the virtual assistant we're building, though, sales reps could simply dictate or type the new contact information only once, and Alfred would take care of the rest, including sending the compulsory follow-up email to the doctor within the recommended time frame.
Our Key Takeaways
We've received overwhelmingly positive feedback from the sales reps who have tested Alfred since that visit earlier this year. We think this speaks to how crucial it is to approach a product from the users' perspective. Observing a sales rep performing her daily responsibilities gave us the input we needed to create an app that offers users a truly helpful solution.
In addition to delighting the sales team, the use of voice technology provides our client with a huge advantage over its competitors. Alfred enables sales reps to make the best use of the great stretches of time they spend driving and generally increase their efficiency, allowing them to focus on what's most important to the company's business: building client relationships.
Voice-commanded virtual assistants represent an incredible opportunity, not just for a biotech company like this client, but for businesses across a wide range of industries. We're excited to continue finding new applications for this technology and create more cutting edge, user-centered products.
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