U.S. primary care physicians (PCPs) have returned to expressing positive word of mouth about the pharmaceuticals industry, while in the main EU markets PCPs' attitudes to the industry are still fairly negative. Among oncologists, only those in the UK express a strongly favorable attitude toward the industry, according to new research from Kantar Health, a leading healthcare-focused global consultancy and marketing insights company.

"The particular customer sentiment that a company faces --interpreted as either positive or negative word of mouth -- has a major impact on a company's performance," says Mark Sales, Kantar Health's Head of Global Brand and Stakeholder Management. "It affects whether customers are open to your sales and brand initiatives and determines much of what is said about you out in the customer network, affecting other customers and stakeholders. A company's actions, including those of sales and marketing, influence customer opinion and sentiment and can evolve it more positively or negatively."

U.S. PCPs show more favorable word of mouth toward the pharma industry compared with results from the 2009 survey, and the U.S. was the only PCP market that engages in positive word of mouth. However, U.S. oncologists have a slightly unfavorable attitude toward the industry.

UK PCPs have significantly improved their word of mouth from the 2009 survey -- when they had the most negative attitude toward the pharma industry -- but their word of mouth is still negative. In contrast, UK oncologists are the only ones to show a positive sentiment toward the industry.

French physicians engage in the most negative word of mouth toward the pharma industry among both PCPs and oncologists. Italian PCPs and oncologists are second to the French in their negativity toward the industry.

German PCPs are somewhat negative, while oncologists in Germany are slightly positive. In Spain, however, PCPs' word of mouth toward the pharma industry is reasonably good, while oncologists' word of mouth is slightly unfavorable.

"Our survey results show that the investments and efforts made by some companies have built substantial goodwill," Mr. Sales says. "If a company has negative WOM, they need to address the situation quickly so it does not continue to decline into an increasingly resistant customer base."

TRIM Measures Customer RetentionKantar Health's word of mouth, market resistance and relationship findings are based on an Internet survey with more than 1,800 general practitioners and oncologists across the U.S., the UK, France, Germany, Italy and Spain. The survey measured Kantar's proprietary TRIM Index, which assesses relationship strength. TRIM lets companies assess whether they are facing a favorable or resistant market situation by determining the percentage of customers falling within four key segments: Apostles, Rebels, Hostages and Mercenaries.

The companies covered in the survey are Abbott, AstraZeneca, Bayer/Schering, Boehringer Ingelheim, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Eli Lilly, GlaxoSmithKline, Janssen-Cilag, Merck, Novartis, Novo Nordisk, Pfizer/Wyeth, Roche, Sanofi-Aventis, Schering Plough and Takeda.