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October 14, 2015

Connecting with Customers in the Digital Age

Connecting with Customers in the Digital Age

Dr. Alejandro Bernal, Executive Vice President and Group President, Strategy, Commercial and Business Development at Zoetis, shares his insights on the growing importance of digital services to the success of veterinarians and livestock producers.

As a former veterinarian and dairy producer, I have learned to appreciate that keeping animals healthy and productive is not an easy task, but it is very important for society in general. Those who care for and protect animal health and wellbeing are at the same time improving public health by assuring that people have a safe, nutritious, and sustainable food supply. Their role will become even more critical as consumers increase spending on the care of their pets, and as a growing world population heightens the need for animal protein. I’m proud of the fact that as the world depends on animals, those who care for and protect animal health can count on Zoetis.

From Clinical to Digital

There are powerful trends shaping the future of our industry: Veterinarians used to rely only on clinical examinations and basic diagnostics for their recommendations; today they have access to much more advanced diagnostic tools, data and digital tools that can improve the accuracy of their recommendations.

As stated in our Vision, we want Our Products, Services and People be the most valued for our Customers. At Zoetis we are convinced that services are an important complement to the value we provide through our products. Through six decades of animal health, our services approach has evolved from technical support and education offered to veterinarians to more recent developments like the ones described in the paper written by some of our colleagues in collaboration with the University of Cambridge titled “Internet of Animal Health Things” -- devising mobile information technology tools that will help our customers provide more accurate, rapid diagnosis and treatments based on real data. Thanks to advances in mobile technology, cloud computing and other digital platforms, we now have the possibility to bring together science and big data in ways never before imagined. That’s why we have invested in an innovation lab that can help us develop these types of services.

The Centre for Digital Innovation

Inaugurated less than a year ago and based in the U.K., the Centre for Digital Innovation (CDI) brings together the knowledge of veterinary consultancies, tech companies and research partners to generate networked applications and devices with sensors built into them. The power is in the data analytics and the customer friendly way in which these analytics are made available to them. It gives our customers a whole new level of insight and precision than they could observe on their own and will help them enhance animal wellness, bolster production efficiency, and improve profitability. Now with sensors that can transmit a multitude of information (like Fitbit® for humans) about behavior, movements and growth of animals, we have the possibility to aggregate a lot more data than in the past and use our deep understanding of animal health to give veterinarians, pet owners and farmers a deeper insight into their animal’s health and wellbeing. The CDI has developed already some promising digital products that provide these services:

  • PetDialog is an application that gives vets and pet owners the ability to measure the pet’s quality of life, giving them both a deeper insight into the animal's health and wellbeing -- including the early detection of health issues, managing chronic disease like arthritis, obesity or diabetes, and measuring the impact of treatment. The application is enabled to receive input from remote monitoring devices, which will allow remote and continuous control of conditions such as blood glucose or even certain types of movements that can be associated with the early onset of different diseases (such as early signs of osteoarthritis, otitis or dermatitis). Additionally, with the potential to aggregate data, we will have the possibility to generate benchmarks that will also help veterinarians and pet owners in their decisions (imagine the ability to show a pet owner that their 8 year-old retriever is in the bottom 20% of activity for their breed). The effectiveness of the treatment can then be measured quantitatively -- by improvements in activity levels -- and qualitatively as owners log information into an assessment tool in PetDialog. By sharing all of this information with the prescribing veterinarian, we are able to say with confidence to the vet and the client that the dog is getting the best course of treatment. As a result, it fosters a more positive vet-client relationship, which can lead to a more fruitful veterinary practice.

  • SwineDialog is an app developed at the CDI together with a consortium of experts, to help farmers gather valuable information about their pigs using sensor technology that can then be analyzed by their veterinarians to pinpoint potential health issues. Currently, in Germany, SwineDialog is being integrated with the country’s antibiotics-use database so pig producers can track their use of prescribed antibiotics within their pig herd -- a useful tool to help promote the responsible use of antibiotic treatments. And, in participation of the Innovate UK Agritech grant, Zoetis is also developing new sensor technologies and algorithms that will be integrated into SwineDialog. The data could then be analyzed by the farmers’ veterinarians to pinpoint potential health issues.

In the U.S., more than 100,000 pets are now benefiting from another innovative communications tool. Recommended by the American Animal Health Association (AAHA), The Pet Wellness Report is the first broadly available, standardized Health Risk Assessment for dogs and cats that veterinarians are using to complement the standard physical exam and pet history for deeper insight into a pet’s overall health. Results are delivered in an easy-to-understand report for the pet owner and veterinarian, promoting greater vet-client communication while facilitating the best outcomes the animal.

A World of Possibilities

The appetite for data-driven decisions leads to exciting opportunities for Zoetis because it will provide our customers with tools that will help them improve livestock productivity, make better clinical decisions and improve their relationship with their own customers. We are at the very beginning of what I believe is an exciting journey with the potential to create a transformational improvement in the experience that our customers have when doing business with Zoetis. The key to staying ahead of our competitors in this journey will rely on our ability to choose and leverage the right partnerships. It’s also incumbent on us to incorporate these technological tools into our daily interaction with veterinarians and livestock producers with the conviction that they will help our products, services and people be the most valued by animal health customers.  

Dr. Bernal’s editorial is based on his recent address “Creating Value Through Customer Services,” presented at the Cambridge Service Alliance Industry Conference, University of Cambridge, U.K. Read his full bio here.

*Source: The Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council

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