We all know that first impressions are important. As children we dressed up for the first day of school and as we grew older we learned to put on our most professional attire for job interviews. For those of us in customer facing jobs, we make sure to be well groomed and dressed appropriately every day so that as we meet new people, they come away with a good impression of us. In retail, you have the opportunity to meet new people pretty much every day and each time you get a chance to make a positive first impression.
Personal image notwithstanding, your pharmacy itself makes an impression. When it comes to retail, image is everything, and a first impression really can play a big part in whether a new customer will become a loyal customer. By the time a customer is 10 steps inside the door, they’ve already formed an opinion about your pharmacy. Every person will have different expectations, and it’s impossible to satisfy everyone, but there are some things you can do to give your pharmacy an edge.
Optimize the front of your store. Everyone knows the main purpose of a pharmacy when we walk in and has certain expectations of what products we can and can’t purchase. But you and I know that successful independent pharmacies are all about breaking the mold. If you have unique products and best sellers, put them within easy sight of the front of your store. Do something that will tell people that you’re more than just a place to grab prescriptions and cold meds. Make sure that by the time a customer is 10 steps inside your front door they can get a sense of who you are before they can come to the wrong conclusion on their own.
Train staff to greet customers. Customers should also get a sense of the level of customer service that your store offers almost immediately upon entering your store. Staff should be trained to greet customers as they walk in and offer assistance. Knowing that staff is available and ready to help can greatly aid in the overall impression people take away from their first experience in your pharmacy.
Avoid long lines. According to a 2012 study 48% of customers that are forced to wait longer than they expect will assume that your business is not being run effectively and 52% will simply shop elsewhere. If you have lines out the door, you need to look into what you can do to make those lines shorter. The last thing you want to have happen is for a customer to walk in, see long lines and turn right back around because they don’t want to wait to be helped. An efficiently run point-of-sale system helps to keep lines short. If you still have problems, and don’t have space to expand your register area, try a handheld register to quickly pull customers from line and assist them. This line busting process is also great if you don’t need an additional register 100% of the time.
Stay clean and organized. Dust bunnies are the last thing that I want to see when I walk into any retail store, let alone someplace where I purchase health products. Investing time in the overall appearance of your store so that it appears modern and uncluttered will make the shopping experience much more pleasant for your customers. This should extend to the cash register area as well. Use modern looking technology (No calculators or CRT Monitors) and keep that front counter free from excess junk to further cement the image you are trying to project. If you don’t believe me, visit an Apple or Microsoft store, or even your local Starbucks and take a page from their books.
Label clearly. New customers don’t generally stop in just to browse. They’re often on a mission and in a hurry. The best thing you can do is to make it easy for them to find what they need by marking aisles and compare prices with easy to read shelf labels rather than putting price stickers on each individual item.
I encourage you to think about the last time you dramatically shifted your perceptions after forming an initial opinion. Then it’s probably time to start making some changes. If you do something special to create a good first impression, please comment below. I’d love to hear from you!
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.