In an increasingly competitive market and with new challenges to pharmacy profitability popping up every week, it’s time to focus on what you can control. Surely it would be madness to focus on anything else?
If you like what you read below and want to know more come and see us face to face on stand PB50 at The Pharmacy Show this year and ask us why branding and marketing matter in pharmacy. Even better come and see my talk in the Business Theatre on Monday 7th – my birthday!
Recognise, understand and manage your customer experience to give yourself a sustainable competitive advantage that will help you satisfy and delight your existing customers and win new ones.
WHERE DOES CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE FIT IN?
You’ve got to start with the customer experience and work back towards the technology, not the other way round.Steve Jobs
Speaking with many pharmacy contractors over the last five years I have noticed something. When I ask them what sets them apart from their competitors and gives their customers a reason to choose their pharmacy, almost everyone of them says the same thing…
Not a surprise, customer service is important and as highly trained pharmacy professionals with little formal business training it’s not a surprise that this is the stock answer. We all know customer service is important, it’s the concept closest to the surface of the wealth of ideas describing how to interact with your customers. However it is only a part of the challenge and if everyone is saying this is their golden egg then how much can it really set them apart?
Customer experience is the big brother of customer service.
When thinking about customer experience you don’t limit yourself to considering one interaction or lump everything together under one convenient heading. You take a more nuanced approach reflecting the actual reality of how customers interact with your pharmacy in a range of ways. Start at the beginning of the customer journey and consider each step. The specific steps involved depend on the particular service but here is a simple example assuming the customer has already decided to use your pharmacy:
- First contact – the customer searches for the help they need and comes into contact with your pharmacy – this may be in person, on the phone, by e-mail, on social media, on your website, on another website, via recommendation or a whole host of other ways. List as many as you can think of.
- Service delivery – the customer receives the service – this may be in person, at the counter, in a consultation room, via delivery, on the phone etc – you get the idea. Service delivery is becoming much more varied. List the steps involved – arrival, waiting, consultation room, departing etc.
- After sales – the customer just wanders off and we don’t think any more about it – perhaps this is how we have always worked but there is a better way – take the opportunity to enhance the customer experience by delivering suitable after sales care and support where relevant – this may be in person, on the phone, by e-mail…
The rest is not rocket science. Find out how satisfied your customers are at each point in the journey and work out how to make them more satisfied. This doesn’t always mean more work, it can mean stopping doing things or just making them simpler and easier. Make sure all of the points are joined up and you are getting there. Measure twice, cut once.
CUSTOMER SATISFACTION IS WHAT YOU NEED
A satisfied customer is the best business strategy of all.Michael LeBouef
While there are myriad goals and objectives running through your mind every day when operating a pharmacy, keep in mind that customer satisfaction has to be the number one, holier than holy, no holds barred goal. Satisfied customers multiply and are more likely to remain loyal. Dissatisfied ones complain and then disappear sometimes making a lot of noise and taking other customers with them . In an industry where market share is still king can you afford to prioritise anything above customer satisfaction?
Customer experience is one of the most important tools you have to manage customer satisfaction. No single step involved in managing customer experience is difficult. Pharmacists are capable of all of them. Heck, we are more than capable, we are arguably the most commercially developed healthcare professional in many ways. We always perceive our retail association as a weakness but it has taught us a lot that others don’t know.
Overcoming the barriers of understanding, prioritisation and time are more difficult than actually putting into action the steps involved in managing customer experience. We’ve always done what we’ve always done and it’s never involved this sort of stuff so why start now?
SURVIVE OR THRIVE: YOU CHOOSE
This is the most fantastic time for pharmacy ever.Keith Ridge
Keith Ridge has a difficult job and whether you love him or loathe him his recent comment in the Pharmaceutical Journal is one of the only positive ones I could find in the pharmacy press. That is one reason I use it but the other, more important one, is that it is in many way very true. Keith clearly knows his pharmacy history and anyone else who does would be hard pressed to disagree with him.
The long history of human use of materia pharma and the ensuing battle for guardianship of that materia, with its associated spoils, is fascinating and puts the situation today into perspective. If you don’t have that perspective Keith’s comment seems ridiculous. If you do it seems appropriate.
There are many, many external pressures on the profession however there are equally as many opportunities. Taking advantage of those opportunities is going to depend on us approaching things differently and those who adapt quickly will thrive while those who don’t will struggle to survive. That is the way of it. We have no innate right to exist and must earn that right daily.
A key part of that adaptation is the ability to focus on the customer and deliver satisfaction through both NHS commissioned services and those where the patient pays themselves. Growth is not going to come through the NHS contract, that is clear, so if you want to grow, look elsewhere and compete using everything you have. If you focus on your customer and work on delivering customer satisfaction through experience management you will be ahead of the vast majority.
Start now because the winds of change are blowing stronger than they have in over a decade. It’s a race to adapt so get ahead by getting started. You can choose whether to survive or thrive.
Nobody said it was easy, no one ever said it would be so hard.The Scientist, Coldplay