September 2020

How Is NSF Adapting Its Services to Meet Client Needs?

Find out how NSF has been adapting to better meet our clients’ needs, now and for the long term.
Woman wearing headphones

Even though NSF International is known for providing practical solutions for difficult situations, it’s fair to say the last six months have been a testing time for everyone. Experts suggest COVID-19 may never be totally eradicated, and other pandemics are now seen as a probability rather than some form of science fiction. As a business community leader, we’ve kept close watch on how businesses (large and small, pharma, medical devices and others) are adapting to the new normal. And as with anything complex, the more you look, the more problems reveal themselves. Every day we’re getting more accustomed to asking ourselves:

  • “Are my daily decisions adding risk to myself, my family, my organization or to my immediate society?”
  • “If I take this course of action, do I enhance or detract from the quality of life of people close to me and do I make my organization more or less successful in the long term?”

So how is NSF adapting to COVID-19? The simple answer is we are listening to our clients and we are changing how we work to suit their needs, now and for the long term. We allow our industry colleagues and clients to drive our services, at the same time as keeping them informed of best practice, regulatory trends and changing cGMP and quality system expectations. Effective communication requires more reception and very well-chosen transmission; i.e. listen more and speak only when there is something valuable to say!

How We Adapted to Changing Client Requirements

  • When travel and hotel restrictions came into force, we modified more than 80% of our instructor-led, face-to-face training events to virtual, blended learning. We reskilled in the software so that we could redesign courses from scratch, gaining best use of the technology to enhance interactivity and promote online discussion, problem-solving and knowledge transfer. We knew time was tight for many of our clients, so we refined and simplified the key learnings, improved the visuals and made the training more targeted.
  • We knew our international delegates couldn’t travel, so our virtual courses are now often presented at a time zone ideal for most delegates, so you can attend and play your part in improving world health. If that’s at 4 a.m. for us, then you’ve got it.
  • We knew many projects, clinical trial supplies, diagnostics production, scale-up and technology transfer depended on timely, detailed supplier audits; and travel and hosting restrictions could impact the timing of vital audits. We devised a four-step approach for remote and virtual auditing that allows milestone audits to be performed to the best possible levels of insight and risk mitigation.
  • Following some rapid training for our team, we got comfortable with performing a range of consultancy support via video conference and remote review, so we could be available when you needed us.

We also changed our communication schedule to focus on what our clients really needed during a crisis. We generated white papers, videos, webinars and podcasts on resilience, communication methods under pressure, dealing with seismic changes in available resources and crisis management. We pivoted every message to align with the changing needs of our clients.

What We Learned

  • "Face-to-face" video communication is much more engaging than a telephone call – and what’s more, it can be fun. We’re using technology for team building, shared activities, mentoring and just simply for looking out for each other. In these strange times, seeing a smiling, familiar face and "shooting the breeze" can be a truly important part of someone’s day.
  • Characters are not made by a crisis, but they are revealed by one. We’ve learned just how amazingly capable and resilient our team is when tested, and we’re sure you've seen this too. In a crisis, it’s clear who’s rowing the boat, who’s dead weight and who keeps drilling holes in the hull. These insights reveal themselves and must not be overlooked.
  • At times in this pandemic, we’ve noticed that clients are rightly consumed by the need to survive, to maintain an important supply chain or introduce a key medicinal product. Rather than distracting clients from these imperatives, we’ve diverted our resources to listening, supporting and working on business infrastructure. Someone called this "painting the ceiling, while it’s raining outside!" – essentially getting ready and making improvements for when the sun shines again, and clients are accessible, investing and planning for a more definable future. If you haven’t started this yet, now’s the time to get those jobs done and ready for the months ahead.

What has been key for us is our desire to keep listening, keep responding and keep innovating in tune with a quite different world ahead. Going through a paradigm shift doesn’t change the basic want to serve clients and make a difference, even if the methods needed to achieve that need to be different. And crucially, all organizations and businesses (by design or good fortune) are clearly seeing who is making a positive impact on the business and who is not.

Watch out for the people on your team; can you see clearly who are the “energy providers” and who are the “energy sappers”? Maybe it’s time to recognize both and act to surround yourself with the best team possible.