Tech, Talent, and Tenure – When is Automation Appropriate for Pharma Speaker Bureau Management

January 10, 2024

There is a massive emphasis on automation these days, especially since the dawn of the AI revolution, which seems to have permeated all aspects of our lives. What began as a frightening concept associated with a certain Austrian cyborg back in the 1980s evolved to the point where there now seems to be a widespread expectation that automation is the natural next step in the technological maturation of both our personal and professional lives.

One of the spaces where automation is being promoted as the be-all and end-all is in the realm of pharmaceutical speaker bureau management. While it’s tempting to leverage the latest technical gadgetry to support an initiative as important as your peer-to-peer engagements, what are the watch-outs and shortcomings that need to be considered?

While automation can certainly make some things easier, it is interesting to consider what we are losing by relying so much on this technology. I don’t know about you, but while I don’t mind automation for menial tasks or to support the quick access to certain forms of simple data, if you’re like me, then you get annoyed when you need real information, insight, or advice, and you’re funneled to a digital assistant, chatbot, or some other base-level AI application instead of a real live human being. We’ve all been here, right?

The push to automate speaker bureau management

Some aspects of automation do indeed provide advantages for both the businesses and agencies employing them and the customers they seek to support.

One of the biggest selling points for using automation from the business or service provider perspective is that it supposedly frees up their staff to pursue more complex tasks. This is probably the main driver behind the push for automation – changing the workplace dynamic and headcount requirements – which is something most of us see as a double-edged sword depending on where we might reside in our own professional lives.

When basic or mundane tasks are automated, support teams can avoid getting buried in administrative chores required with completing them. Often, these menial, repetitive tasks or inquiries require less of their expertise and creativity, so redirecting them away from these areas can spare them from burnout and boredom. It seems prudent to applying their much-needed talent and energy where it can do the most good.

Pharmaceutical speaker bureau management companies who rely on automation may be able to provide services at more competitive prices compared to others who prefer manual or human-powered service models due to the simple fact that human labor comes with a higher cost most of the time. One must be careful making an assumption of this kind, however, as due to the trendy flashiness of AI and automation in the mind of most consumers, many service providers are actually charging a premium price for what they consider cutting-edge technology that justifies an aggressive price point.

In some circumstances, automation can improve the accuracy of data and analytics by removing the potential for human error when it comes to data entry and aggregation. This, of course, depends upon the service provider’s ability to effectively collect the data most critical for day-to-day service operation at the front end with consistency. The ability to provide accurate information quickly, accurately, and consistently is certainly a benefit for those who rely on it to guide strategy and communicate results on a routine basis.  Leveraging robust suites of reports and concise dashboards is an added benefit.

What do we lose with automation?

Yes, there is a significant belief in the marketplace that hiring a pharmaceutical speaker bureau management partner with the most prolific and extensive automation platform means your bureau will stay at the cutting edge. But will it? Let’s think about what can be lost when automation is taken too far or applied where it really is not needed or desired by the various stakeholders and end users. There are two sides to every story, as the adage goes.

There isn’t a single AI chatbot or automated system in the marketplace today that can handle complex questions and issues the way an experienced live person can. The use of chatbots and digital assistants in the pharmaceutical space has dramatically increased over the last five years, but has this trend endeared those companies who employ these tools in the minds of the customer? Is it possible that the use of AI and automation here contributes to a sense of being disconnected from them? How valued is a customer or client if a company is not willing to engage them directly and instead places a technology barrier in between?

As long as chatbots and AI agents rely on algorithms and template replies to perform their assigned tasks, they will never be as effective or as welcomed as live humans to help customers with complex questions and problems.

In the same way consumers have grown to hate IVR and phone trees when in need of customer care or attention, there is a growing dissatisfaction with AI assistants and chatbots of late. When customer frustration increases, the outcome is rarely good. Information seekers in need of help who are asked to interface with automated replies and bots or are punted to the FAQs list can become thoroughly discouraged and angry by the time they reach a live person – if that option is even available to them. Not only is that a poor way to build rapport and support for your company or brand, but it is also making things worse for the unwitting live agent who ends up ultimately receiving the inquiry from a disgruntled customer looking to vent frustration.

Pharma Speaker Bureau and the value of personalized care

Common buzzwords and terminology used in the speaker bureau management industry today include white glove, concierge-like attention, and high-touch service. What do these terms really mean? When distilled down to the purest definition, they all mean the same thing: Empathy. The human factor. The warmth, rapport, and personalization that comes with having the attention of a trained, experienced human who is focused on helping solve problems and provide needed assistance with compassion. No AI agent, chatbot, or digital assistant can match these genuine qualities, no matter how sophisticated the programming may be that is driving them.

As any of us can attest to the fact that whenever we’ve been in need of help, whether it’s lost luggage at the airport or waiting for roadside assistance after a blowout, engaging with an empathic human being is critically important and builds a stronger connection to the service provider. Data shows that as many 75% of consumers prefer to interact with live humans instead of any kind of automated or AI solution when they are in need of assistance.


Tenure is the secret ingredient for success.

When you hire a pharmaceutical speaker bureau management company, the end goal should be about giving the members of your bureau, your commercial teammates, and program attendees the best possible experience. Indeed, that is what every speaker bureau management company is hoping to accomplish, right?  If that is so, then why do so many of them fall short and disappoint these stakeholder groups so often?

There is a critical ingredient that can make or break the ability of your speaker bureau management company to deliver the stellar experience that is desired, and it comes down to tenure. While so many service providers boast and brag about the latest technology they employ, they are overlooking and failing to invest in the most meaningful and important elements for success – hiring an experienced team who can not only deliver an outstanding experience consistently but who can also act as a coach and guide to help you the sponsor – maintain a best-in-class bureau and peer to peer initiative.

How often have you gone through an exhausting RFP process only to discover that once awarded the business, your provider agency assigns inexperienced junior teammates to your account? What happened to sharp men and women in suits who pitched their solution? How important is your bureau and your initiative if no one on your team brings the right mix of talent and tenure?

We all know the challenges of treating key opinion leaders on the speaker bureau with consistently outstanding service and support. Do you really want a junior varsity team handling these important people for something as important as telling your brand or product story?

The right blend of tech and talent.

Technology is the servant of us all, and it is not in and of itself a solution. When selecting a pharmaceutical speaker bureau management company, be sure to discern if the vendor is using technology as an activator and enabler of the people who will be assigned to support your business and not as the heart of their service offering alone. The simple fact is that no company can solve complex problems and create an authentic engagement experience with technology by itself. Service providers must strive to create the right balance of technology, talent, and tenure to deliver the experiences that are desired, and become your proactive, valued partner for the long term.



Hopefully you have found this post helpful. By exploring the six criteria provided here, your next speaker bureau vendor evaluation or RFP can go more smoothly and lead you to a resolution that provides years of outstanding service. What criteria have we overlooked? We’d love to hear from you. Please use the link below to reach out and speak with one of our expert consultants.

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