What Social Customer Service in a Micro-Moment Means for Pharma


“Micro-moments,” that’s what Google is calling those points in time when people pull out their smartphones and expect to find immediate answers to their questions, a resolution to their problems, or simply to feel like someone out in the corporate black hole is listening. People don’t care how simple or complex the question is, or where they might find the answer on their phone. They just want a response, and they want it now.

If your company isn’t intersecting with those micro-moments, then your patients risk getting bad information. Micro-moments are an opportunity to take digital customer service to a whole new level. And the place many people look to for those instant answers? Social media.

Can pharma, with all of its regulations and cautiousness, successfully seize these micro-moments to deliver a delightful customer service experience? Absolutely. It just takes the right planning and meticulous execution.

Although pharma companies go to great lengths to mine social media for marketing insights and influencer identification, most haven’t done much with social customer service. Pharma could take just a tiny fraction of the attention it’s putting into social listening to jump into those ‘micro-moments’ to help patients in their moments of need. To be fair, a few pharma brands are doing a much better job than others when patients seek them out on social media. Here’s a couple of examples:



However, what happens to all the people who don’t seek out the brand’s or company’s official social media channel?  According to a 2012 Nielsen study, social media users in need of customer care are just as likely to vent on their own social media pages as they are to “tag” the brand or company in question or post directly to the company’s social media page.

Outside of pharma, companies such as Jetblue, U-Haul, and Newegg are taking it a step further and proactively listening to untagged posts that involve them and engaging where appropriate. Even if customers aren’t using their official, brand-sanctioned communications channels, their questions are being answered, resources are being shared, and empathy is being provided where appropriate.



Newegg (On Reddit):




These companies are way ahead of the curve: according to a recent Brandwatch study, only 2% of retail brands are currently engaging with untagged comments on social media; pharma, as you can imagine, is no better.

So what should pharma do?

It’s time for pharma to think about social engagement as more than just a way to respond to direct requests from patients and for promotion.

Although the number of conversations on social media will vary by brand and condition treated, there are plenty of untagged conversations about your brands that aren’t being resolved, or even acknowledged. This presents a very real opportunity for your company to step up and lead the charge in providing outstanding customer service in an industry fraught with low levels of customer satisfaction.

Social Audit

The first step is to figure out where the conversations are happening and what the common themes are. The quick and dirty way is to do some manual searches for your brand on platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, Tumblr and various forums (make sure you report any adverse events you find!). If you’re preparing to make a formal business case to support your recommendations, you should have a social listening company do a quick audit of untagged conversation volume, location, and common themes.


Next, you should determine what resources meet your patients’ needs. Are there already approved and available savings cards, web pages, PDFs, apps, or videos that on your websites? Are there questions that can only be resolved over the phone? Do patients already have the ability to email you, and can you transfer that same experience to Twitter’s DM features?

In the regulated world of pharma, it’s tempting to drive all patients to a phone number, where the interaction won’t live online forever. However, balance that temptation with this 2013 study from Zendesk that says 76 percent of conversations between customers and brands ended after the brand suggested the customer switch channels to email or phone.

Rules of Engagement

After you decide on the resources you need, you should develop a “Rules of Engagement” playbook that can codify where you want engagements to go. Be sure to cover the contingencies: not only do you want to answer the question, but you want to provide empathy where appropriate, and be prepared for further engagement when someone responds back. Sometimes, there will have to be a hard line where a question can only be answered on a a 1-800 number. Other times, you’ll have to be prepared to respond to positive feedback with some encouragement or congratulations.

Your “Rules of Engagement” may have to provide interchangeable canned phrases that you can get approved by your regulatory team; it’ll take collaboration, trust, and education over time to be allowed to respond even more freely..

Defining Success

Finally, it’s important to establish such measurable Key Performance Indicators  as:

  • What percentage of interactions were able to meet a need?
  • How many interactions directed patients to a resource they were unaware of?
  • How many times did a patient thank your company?
  • How long did it take your company to respond to a post, on average?

Once you establish a baseline for your social customer service’s effectiveness, you’ll have data to justify adjustments to your strategy.

What do you think?

Does pharma need to seize the micro-moment? Let us know in the comments, or tweet us at @Haleadvice!

Nancy Meyer

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