Last night I saw something truly frightening on TV. It wasn’t a scary movie or even something terrible on the news. It was actually a commercial. A commercial where a drug company was touting their new program allowing patients to fill their prescriptions online, directly through the manufacturer’s website. One more facet of competition for independent pharmacies already fighting to thrive in an environment where they already face competition at every turn.
Of course, I mulled over this different form of competition all evening, wondering if this will become a major trend and pondering how an independent pharmacy can effectively combat drug manufacturers trying to take a bigger piece of the pie. I tried to think about how many people would actually use a service like that, rather than going to their local pharmacy. I suppose only time will tell whether this is a trend that will catch on or whether it will eventually fizzle out but personally, I think that there are a number of things that give independent pharmacies an edge, not only in this situation, but over box stores, chain grocery store pharmacies and many more forms of competition.
The most successful independent pharmacies that I have had the opportunity to work with seem to embody everything that box stores aren’t. Here are the three top things I notice about some of RMS’ most successful customers.
1) Their patients are more than names on a label- Our customers are extremely busy during the day, so when I speak with pharmacies, I’m always conscious that I’m probably interrupting something. So I definitely don’t mind being put on hold for a while or the pharmacist setting the phone down for a few minutes to handle something else. More often than not, the pharmacist, pharmacy manager or technician will ask me to hold on for a moment, simply to greet a patient that’s come in. I hear them greet the patient by their name, ask how the kids are, or how work is. That personal relationship can help to solidify a customer’s loyalty to your pharmacy and it’s something no one is getting from the box store down the street.
2) They consider their patients overall health as their responsibility- Independent pharmacies are more than just a place to pick up prescriptions. It may be what gets a customer through the door the first time, but it isn’t what makes them stay. Successful pharmacies try to engage their customers to work with them on disease state management and be a part of their healthcare team, rather than assembly line prescription filling. Instead of hold music, I often hear custom greetings, inviting patients to take advantage of programs to better their health such as smoking cessation or weight loss.
3) They use technology to its fullest advantage. There are vast array of different technology solutions out there to allow pharmacies to achieve their goals. Being aware of and comfortable with new technology options for pharmacy systems, point-of-sale systems, robotics, IVR and more makes sure that your pharmacy stays on the cutting edge and helps you project a modern, professional and efficient image to match the above and beyond service that your pharmacy provides. In 15 years working exclusively with independent and institutional pharmacies, we’ve found that the right technology can make the difference and truly help a pharmacy to thrive.
While these 3 qualities are by no means all-encompassing when it comes to what makes a pharmacy successful, they definitely are a key component of that overall success. What do you think? What helps your pharmacy to flourish with every increasing competition?
Karen Deckard came to RMS with a background in retail and customers service, and was initially brought on board as a Sales Assistant and managed IIAS certifications for RMS's pharmacy POS customers. Today, Karen works as a Customer Success Manager, striving to provide independent and institutional pharmacies with the tools and resources they need to succeed in today's competitive pharmacy market.