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Excellence in Pharmaceutical Support: Executive Interview with Kari Baker

Kari Baker - VP of Customer Success and Operations - has built Phizzle’s Support and Customer Success teams from the ground up to suit the pharmaceutical manufacturing industry. Her background in social work and commitment to excellence has helped Phizzle create trusted relationships with its Pharma customers, partners, and stakeholders. Kari dedicates herself to work she believes in, which is why she has been with Phizzle for 13 years.

What makes the pharmaceutical industry unique from a Customer Service perspective?

Big picture, the pharma industry is highly regulated with intense scrutiny of documentation and process. For good reason, the quality of drugs and therapeutics have lives at stake and FDA audits are a mission-critical, 24/7/365, requirement for partners. As a result, there’s no room for error. In CS, it’s our mission to keep customers happy – we know that’s only possible as long as we manage the multitude of layers of process required to maintain the rigors of Pharma regulation.

How does the pharmaceutical industry’s intense regulation affect outside partners like Phizzle?

We have to walk in our customers’ shoes and that means knowing the details of GMP. Our team often deals with expansive regulations like GMP 21 CFR 11, one key industry standard related to electronic signatures. This is an area where Phizzle disrupted the pharmaceutical industry by having a good handle on the basic fundamentals of its regulation when designing Support.

From a CS perspective – what does it take to gain the confidence of customers as large as Fortune 100 Pharma when integrating new technology?

It takes testing, validation steps, and documentation. Then more testing. And repeat!

Pharma customers can’t take our word for anything – and shouldn’t have to. There are GMP protocols in place to protect workers and the people who take their drugs. No stone is left unturned.

What advice would you give to businesses looking to bring their technology to the pharmaceutical industry?

I’d recommend having a really strong understanding of GMP, GAMP, and cGMP. GMP covers audits, process maintenance, and validation testing. If Phizzle didn’t understand GMP we couldn’t provide quality support and vice versa. It’s a standard for us to implement the same rigor in our development and testing so customers can have confidence and the necessary documentation for their production processes. In Pharma, customers can’t just take our word that a bug fix or release is ready. We have to prove it. The pharmaceutical industry is interested in disruption to improve speed-to-market so that more people can be helped. COVID-19 has made this incredibly clear. If you can speed up their manufacturing process without bogging them down, you’ve got something.

What are the most important factors in Enterprise Support?

Having experience with enterprise support is crucial. Ed Lau, our President, has brought that background to our team. Pharmaceutical manufacturing is a very different experience from Phizzle’s previous products. Pharma Support has layers of complexity and precision required in every communication, issue replication, documentation and resolution which shape what we do.

Our team sets up processes for shared communication, releases, upgrades, new instrument certifications, security, maintenance and more. Each one is critical to the success of our solution in a new environment.

Supporting a pharma customer requires significant collaboration as we can’t directly access production environments in real-time. We have to find collaborative ways to troubleshoot test environments in order to solve problems. Working internally with groups like Engineering, Sales and Product then becomes incredibly important to creating a cohesive support organization.

You’ve built a support team from scratch, from the ground up. How have you created connections with a distributed, virtual, global, new to the company, and new to the product team?

First of all, having great leadership is important. Our Director, Nick Long and I have worked together for 8 years, and we are the only two on the team who are not new. There is a symbiotic thinking between us that is irreplaceable.

Our President brought the experience of doing Enterprise support and our technical leads who have been invaluable. We also have a great manager who helped us find our key talent for support engineers. He’s compassionate, commands dedication, initiative, and commitment from the people he brings to the table. Because of our size, everyone plays a huge part in getting our systems set up and determining and implementing processes. This brings a sense of ownership and contribution immediately into our team. I am incredibly proud of our team. The Support Engineers have learned a very complex, unique, and disruptive technology that requires them to “lean in” every, single day.

Creating team bonding has been crucial to our team’s success. I brought in our company’s wellness coach, Patricia Barrett. She brings mindfulness and personal connection for the first 15 minutes of our weekly team meetings. We do a team meditation and she asks us a personal, thoughtful question that we all answer. I wasn’t sure how it would go over but as Patricia is well-trained she knew exactly how to approach our global team of thinkers that are scientists first and others who lead with empathy. She brought us all together. After our first group meditation, the team expressed how much they loved it and we immediately started to bond. We went from cameras off during meditation to now everyone leaves their camera on during the meditation. I can honestly say, meditating together and sharing just 1 answer of something personal, has really created a bond. Oh, and there is a lot of laughter in these first 15 minutes with Patricia.

How do you plan to scale? What’s your opinion on keeping support in-house versus outsourcing?

We are in-house until we aren’t. That has been our initial attitude. Then, we’ve been fortunate to bring on some fantastic partners that really understand pharma and IAQ that add to our ability to scale.

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