Case study

Case study

merck a healthy approach to engagement How can you focus on your customer experience if you’re not ready to link your employee and customer feedback? By emulating the pharmaceutical firm, Merck, and focusing on the things you know will make a difference

If you’re in the pharmaceuticals industry, the experience you give your customers is more tangible than most. After all, your medicines can have a huge impact on their health.

That’s why for Merck – an international developer and provider of innovative medicines, vaccines, biologic therapies and animal health products based in New Jersey – the customer is one of three areas of strategic focus.

But companies in this sector also have a lot of people working in non-customer-facing roles. What’s more, because pharmaceutical firms tend to be large, complex and

with many different kinds of customers, gathering and then linking employee and customer data can be a challenge.

As a result, many companies are still in the early stages of thinking about how to make those links. In the meantime, they’re focusing on those elements of the employee experience that they believe will engage and enable their people to deliver the best possible customer experience.

For Merck, that means focusing on three things: driving and rewarding innovation, encouraging collaboration and bringing the customer experience to life.

“ at merck, we believe that if people are engaged, they’re more likely to contribute ideas for new ways of doing things”

Carolyn Hill-Fotouhi Associate director of workforce analytics


Merck: A heAlthy ApproAch to engAgeMent2

good things come in threes All three approaches are good ways of engaging and enabling employees, whether they’re dealing directly with the customer or developing or manufacturing the drugs behind the scenes. And Merck uses them because it believes in the power of engagement.

Carolyn Hill-Fotouhi, associate director of workforce analytics explains: ‘At Merck, we believe that if people are engaged, they’re more likely to contribute ideas for new ways of doing things, as well as to feed back customer perspectives that will help us to do things better. That’s true of researchers and plant workers as much as customer-facing employees.’

Carolyn’s also aware of how linking employee and customer feedback would help the company to understand how engagement influences the customer experience. But gathering customer data in a pharmaceutical firm is very different from gathering it in a retail firm, where it’s more likely that each store uses the same metrics to measure employee and customer feedback.

‘We collect employee feedback through an employee engagement survey,’ she says. ‘And various parts of the organization collect customer feedback. But they do it in different ways, through different channels, over different time periods. This tends to make it more difficult to come up with a company-wide approach.’

focusing on what works In the absence of a consistent method for measuring customer data company-wide, Merck will continue to focus on managing those aspects of the employee experience that it believes make the biggest difference for customers.

On top of that, the workforce analytics team will work to make sure that the employee engagement survey stays relevant to the business and its strategic goals. As Carolyn says, ‘Anything we can do to make the business case for getting feedback from our employees, and linking that to customer feedback, is worth our time and effort.’

“ anything we can do to make the business case for getting feedback from our employees, and linking that to customer feedback, is worth our time and effort”


the 1-2-3 of delivering for the customer Here, Carolyn shares the three key ways in which Merck engages and enables its people to deliver for the customer.


Drive and reward innovation For a pharmaceutical company, innovation informs the customer experience more than anything else. So driving and rewarding it is crucial.

‘Merck uses company-wide brainstorming events, such as online discussion groups, which allow employees across the globe to share ideas for innovative ways of addressing business needs,’ says Carolyn. ‘There’s also “DRIVEN,” – an online market research community where employees can provide their opinions on topics identified by teams at Merck.

Some divisions, such as Merck Research Labs, also offer opportunities for employees to share, collaborate and receive recognition for their innovative ideas.’

Encourage (and create opportunities for) people to collaborate Linked to the drive for innovation is encouraging employees to make connections and collaborate with colleagues.

‘The more connections Merck makes across divisions and the organization, the more we can learn from each other’s ideas,’ explains Carolyn. ‘So we try to push that message out, as well as create opportunities for people to meet others from different parts of the organization. Our mini conferences, where people present posters of their work, are an example of that.’

Additionally, reward programs such as the Chairman’s Cup Award recognize teams that significantly outperform and contribute to company results by collaborating effectively.’




Bring the customer experience to life for employees at every level Historically, Merck employees who aren’t customer-facing have tended to respond less favorably to survey questions about connecting with external customers.

To help bring these connections to life, the internal communications team uses stories, visits, and key messages to share the customer experience with employees at all levels of the organization.

‘For example, when the ground-breaking drug therapy for treating late-stage cancer, Keytruda, was introduced, our CEO Ken Frazier shared deeply moving personal stories that he had received about how the drug had helped a patient or a loved one,’ says Carolyn. ‘It really helped to bring Merck’s mission to life and make people aware of what we offer as an organization.’

Other initiatives targeting different employee levels and groups include:

■ bringing customers into the manufacturing plants to talk to production employees about how Merck products have helped them

■ asking customer panels to share their views with executive leaders

■ inviting customer-facing employees to come to the town hall meetings of non-customer- facing business units and departments, to talk about they work they’re doing with customers and how the changing external environment is affecting Merck.


Underpinning all three areas of focus is a clearly articulated vision from the business, which puts customer focus at the heart of everything Merck does.

Hay Group is a global leader in employee opinion research. Through customized survey programs focused on organizational objectives we partner with clients to attract and retain talent, improve operating efficiency, manage

change more effectively, and enhance customer loyalty and organizational performance.

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For more information on connecting your engagement program to the customer, and to download our Joining the dots report, visit

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