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A study on field force attrition and the response of consulting doctors in Greater Mumbai

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Dr Savita Chari

Field force attrition refers to medical representatives leaving one drug company within a period of less than a year and joining another drug company. Sometimes medical representatives leave the pharmaceutical industry and take jobs in BPOs, insurance companies, etc. The present attrition year rate in a pharma company is calculated around 25–30 per cent. This effectively, means that a company has to recruit, select and train an entirely new field force every four years or so. This is considered to be a very high cost replacement activity for drug companies which most of the companies find unacceptable.

Exhibit 1: How do you feel about attrition in drug companies?
Q No.
Responses of consultant doctors
Count
%
1
Does not matter to me when the medical representative change the company
98
22.3
2
Doctors feel nothing when the medical representative changes the company
79
18.0
3
Consulting doctors go by the product they prescribe
37
8.4
4
Doctors “feel” unpleasant
34
7.7
5
Doctors feel it is a common trend today
32
7.3
6
Consultants “feel” it a medical representative’s personal choice
198
4.3
7
Doctors said that they enquire about the reason for the change of job
14
3.1
8
Medical representative leave for better opportunity
12
2.7
9
Doctors get confused / surprised when the medical representative leave one company and join another company
11
2.5
10
Doctors opinion depends in the quality of the medical representative who leaves a company
11
2.5
11
Doctors prescriptions habit does not change
6
1.3
12
Consulting doctors response, depends in the company and its products and not on the medical representative
6
1.3
  Total  
81.4

Objectives of the study

Dr Tarun Gupta

Apart from the cost aspect of such attrition, it is important to explore how doctors in Greater Mumbai react to such attrition. This study, for the first time, explores how consulting doctors in Greater Mumbai react to this high rate of attrition among medical representatives. In this study, consulting doctors were directly asked: How they ‘feel’ about field force attrition and what do they have to recommend for drug companies as remedial measures to retain medical representatives?

The study

A total of 438 consulting physicians were individually interviewed for the purpose of this study. The consulting doctors were asked: How do you feel about field force attrition in drug companies today?

The responses are tabulated as follows

Most doctors indicated that they do not ‘feel’ anything when a medical representative leaves a company. When asked as to what a company should do to reduce attrition, they said It would appear from their responses that consulting doctors in Greater Mumbai put the blame squarely on drug companies and their practices. The respondents were not aware of how many from the field force leave companies every year. They knew it was high, but they felt companies are solely responsible for this attrition. (See Exhibit II)

Exhibit II: What action company should take to reduce attrition?
Q No
Response from consulting doctors
Count
%
1
Increase salary
131
36.6
2
Reduce work pressure
60
19.3
3
Provide training
64
17.9
4
Provide extra incentives
21
5.8
5
Provide promotion to medical representative
20
5.6
6
Increase salary and incentives
15
4.2
7
Increase salary and provide training
15
4.2
8
Reduce targets
14
3.9
9
Give timely rewards
6
1.6
10
Provide better incentive and training
4
1.1
  Total  
100.2

If we had not probed further, we would not have understood the responses of consulting doctors. Is it true then that consultants don’t ‘feel’ anything when medical representatives leave a company?

Exhibit III: Listening deeper – What Doctors said?
Q No
Response from consulting doctors
Count
%
1
We feel nothing
67
14.2
2
No comments
21
4.7
3
I don’t feel anything, they keep changing
2
0.9
4
No feelings as it is the medical representative and company matter
2
0.9
5
I don’t feel anything as it is a medical representative’s job
2
0.4
6
I don’t analyse it too much
1
0.2
7
Why should I feel anything, it does not impact me
1
0.2
  Total  
21.5

Many doctors informed that they ‘feel’ nothing when a medical representatives changes from one company to another.

When we delved deeper, we found that except for some consultants most felt that the company was responsible for this attrition. When asked as to what remedial action the companies should take doctors said the following. (See Exhibit IV)

Exhibit IV: Doctors Recommendation to Drug Companies to reduce attrition rate
Response from consulting doctors
Count
%
We believe that company should take more care of medical representative
359
81.9
Company should not take more care of medical representative
77
17.5
Did not answer
2
0.45
Total  
99.85

Conclusion

  • One needs to understand that doctors have very ‘strong views’ on what action should drug companies take on attrition.
  • Some replies clearly show that medical representatives share their problems with consulting physician when they leave a company.
  • It would be wrong to assume that consulting doctors don’t usually care about the attrition rate of medical representatives.
  • From the remedies suggested by doctors it appears quite clearly that majority of consultants believe that companies are mainly responsible for the high attrition rate among medical representatives.
  • Consultants obviously know much more than what was evident when we asked how do you, feel about the attrition among medical representatives.
  • The significant point is that medical representatives do ‘talk to consulting doctors,’ when they change jobs and much of the blame is put on the companies.
  • That is why consulting doctors have, said ‘increase salary of medical representatives reduce work pressure, provide harmony, provide extra incentives, etc.’
  • It is evident that medical representatives talk to (Consulting doctors) and it is possible that this practice continues because the companies don’t seem to be ‘listening’ to the medical representatives at all.
  • All companies need to ‘listen’ to their own field people so that their frustration need not spill over to customers. Exit interviews are a must.

References (Bibliography):-

1. Dey, S., (June 2006), Controlling Attrition. Ref.: [email protected] URL: http://pharma.financialexpress.com/20060615/pharmalife01.shtml
2. Dhotre, A., (August 2010), Attrition in Pharmaceutical Industry: Human Resource Management’s Role and Strategy. International Research Journal. URL: http://ir.inflibnet.ac.in: 8080 /jspui/bIt’stream /10603/10199/8/08_chapter%201.pdf
3. Gupta, A. & et. Al., (October 2009), Mastering sales force integration in a merger. McKinsey & Company. URL: http://www.mckinsey.com/insights/marketing_sales_force_integration_in_a_merger
4. Miller, G., (May 17, 2011), PWC Reports high Pay, Attrition at Indian Pharmas. Ref.: Fierce Pharma Manufacturing. URL: http://www.fiercepharmamanufacturing.com/story/pwc-reports-high-pay-attrition-indian-pharmas/2011-05-17
5. Sharda, K., (July 2012), Managing Talent at Lupin Limited. Vikalpa, Indian Institute of Management. URL: http://www.vikalpa.com/ article/article_detail.php?aid=943
6. Sharma, J. and Rajesh Davidson. OVERVIEW ON: ATTRITION IN PHARMACEUTICAL MARKETING, CAUSES AND IT’S MEASURES. Reference Id: PHARMATUTOR- ART-1392 URL: http://www.pharmatutor. org/articles/overview-attrition- pharmaceutical-marketing-causes-measures
7. Sharma, U., (Friday, 30th March, 2012), Talent hunt: The race intensifies. Express Pharma. URL: http://pharma.financialexpress.com/sections/pharma-life-2/340-talent-hunt-the-race-intensifies
8. Smarta, Dr. R.B., (2012-13), Restoring professional pride to medical selling. Interlink Insight, vol. 11 Issue 1.
9. Mar 11, 2013. Turn-over of sales force and their specific ways of strategies in the Indian pharma industry. Articlebase. URL: http://www.articlebase.com/human-resoruces-articles/turn-over-of-sales-force-and-their-specific-ways-of-retention-strategies-in-the-indian-pharma-industry-6497645.html

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