Penrod Blog

State of the Pharma Call Center: Outsourcing vs. Insourcing

Good people are the best resource any pharmaceutical support center can have. However, any company that has been in the medical industry can attest that there are significant challenges to finding, attracting, and managing the right workforce.

Since the early 90s, as technology influenced the ever-changing workforce, pharmaceutical companies turned to outsourcing their call center as a means to mitigate the burden of managing a support team.

However, outsourcing has lead to new challenges, including quality control, brand management, and reporting.

Outsourcing is a popular alternative to paying top dollar for the skills and expertise a pharmaceutical company requires from its agents. By outsourcing non-core functions and not investing in an in-house contact center, these companies are looking to cut costs, save time, and not worry about nurturing or retaining talent. But like everything else, there are always trade-offs.

Reasons Why Pharma Companies Outsource Call Centers

1. Think they don’t have the time

One of the most common reasons to outsource a pharmaceutical call center is that it saves time. The most competitive pharma companies are always on the clock to renew patent expirations, comply with regulations, meet the needs of every customer, and bring new medications to market. Call outsourcing is perceived as a way to save time by letting a third party handle non-core functions.

2. They believe outsourced call centers provide better customer service

One of the greatest complaints customers make towards pharma companies that outsource call centers is the insensitivity of their customer service. Most centers train their agents to provide quick, predefined responses to customers. As a result, most customers immediately realize that their concerns are handled by a third party who doesn’t have sufficient knowledge about the pharma company or its products.

An outsourced call center may serve hundreds of other companies across several industries. The agents at the call center have to work long hours and handle concerns from different customers from different companies. This reduces the sincerity of their interactions.

3. The Perception that outsourcing saves money

Outsourcing customer service to a third party call center is a sure way to avoid hiring full-time customer care department staff. It also eliminates the need to set up expensive communication equipment and sophisticated customer tracking software. However, like everything else, you get what you pay for.

Outsourcing customer service operations can be very costly to a pharma company in the long term. The costs of unforeseen legal issues, losing customers due to poor customer service, and hiring legal expertise when things go wrong can be costly. It is also noteworthy that many unscrupulous outsourcing centers have small hidden costs in their charges that add up over time.

Reasons Why Pharma Companies Should Not Outsource to Call Centers

1. The customer is their top priority

A finely tuned service department is essential to every company to ensure that the customer is well attended to and satisfied. Pharma companies that value their customer satisfaction strive to serve them directly, keep them coming back, and get referrals for new customers.

While it may be tempting to let a third-party service mill handle customer concerns, it often degrades their experience and satisfaction. A company must carry out due diligence and pay the right price to a company that understands its brand, mission, and products.

However, it can be a challenge to find an outsourcing partner who cares about your customers as much as your staff would.

2. Poor quality control

Poor quality customer service can have an irreparable impact on a pharmaceutical company. Outsourcers often have to deal with poor customer service outcomes. By the time these issues are discovered, there is almost always financial and customer losses. These issues often stem from misunderstandings – in particular matters regarding the scope and cost of services provided by the third party.

There isn’t much a pharma company can do to ensure that call center vendors are held to account for their performance. Control issues are a constant plague in the industry’s outsourcing relationships. The agencies often face problems such as an unstable workforce, service interruptions, and human mistakes that directly affect the profitability and performance of the pharma company.

3. No room for improvement

When a company outsources its customer service to a third party, they effectively give up an opportunity to interact with the customer and directly learn from them. This means that the R&D and sales departments do not get the robust data they could collect from their customers. This also makes it impossible for the company to coach its agents towards improvement.

4. Agents will never know your product the way an employee does

Customer service agents memorize answers to common questions or read from a script when handling a customer concern. Considering the sensitivity of the pharmaceutical industry, this can hurt the business, product, and even the customer. An outsourced customer service agent has no motivation to understand the deep complexities of a medication – after all, they have to deal with different concerns across different industries throughout the day.

Outsourced call center agents do not need to know your product or appreciate what your brand stands for. Because of the nature of call center jobs, companies do not make long-term commitments, and there is always high staff turnover as centers do not train their staff well on their client’s brands, products, and services.

5. Escalating questions and seeking clarification is time-consuming and expensive

Supplying the correct information in the pharmaceutical industry can be a matter of life or death. This is why when pharma companies outsource to call centers, they must still provide a means to transfer inquiries to on-staff nurses or pharmacists for clarification. This process is time-consuming and often expensive.

Is Insourcing The Future of Pharma Call Centers?

Insourcing offers all the core benefits of outsourcing but with fewer downsides. For instance, training call center agents to provide customer services via a virtual call center ensures the low costs of outsourcing with the added benefits of accountability, reporting, and brand control.

The company can track agent performance, access customer data on one dashboard, and gain access to critical sales and service information on which the management and sales team can make better decisions.


The most successful and competitive pharmaceutical companies can bring new products to market fast, safely, and cost-effectively. They try to keep the amount of time and money invested in researching, analyzing, and documenting trials and medications in their fields of specialization.

The prevailing customer service trend in the medical industry is to use a modern virtual call center. It offers companies a way to retain control of their brand, provide better customer support experiences, and leverage crucial customer data to benefit the company.

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