What Pharmacy Customers Really Want

Pharmacist talking with patient

Knowing what people like and dislike about pharmacies will help you attract more customers and earn their loyalty.

All successful business owners consistently ask this essential question: “What factors will drive customers to choose my business over my competitors?” Fortunately, new research reveals some major insights into the answers for community pharmacy owners.

According to a new study, co-sponsored by health education media company AccentHealth and Drug Store News, if price were not an issue, then location and customer service would be the top two aspects consumers consider when choosing a pharmacy. The survey of 745 patients (conducted in July and August of 2012) revealed these additional reasons as well:

  • Prescription fill time
  • Operating hours
  • Nonpharmaceutical inventory
  • Accuracy
  • Trust
  • Mailing option
  • Privacy
  • Cleanliness

The Perils of “Polypharmacy”

Another essential question for community pharmacy owners: “How can I encourage customers to use only my store?”

The question is important because even customers who have a preferred pharmacy often choose to use additional pharmacies to meet their needs. In fact, a whopping 34% of the participants in the AccentHealth survey say they rely on multiple pharmacies. They cited location, cost, medication availability and urgent needs as the top four reasons for using more than one store.

A survey by consumer consultancy Empathica also reveals a significant lack of loyalty among pharmacy customers. Empathica’s recent Consumer Insights Panel on retail pharmacy found that 60% of consumers are not loyal to any one pharmacy.

Note: Customers who are loyal say that choice, service and trust are the top reasons.

What the Data Means for Your Community Pharmacy

It’s clear that consumers place a premium on location and service. And while it is very difficult to change your location, community pharmacies already are known for providing excellent service. More than 90% of Consumer Reports readers recently rated independents “excellent” or “very good” for pharmacists’ knowledge about drugs and other products, helpfulness and courtesy, speed and accuracy, and personal service.

So, in all of your outreach/promotional efforts, make sure that you reinforce those positive perceptions. Call attention to key elements such as expertise, accessibility, accuracy, trust, privacy, consultations, wellness and convenience.

Kick It Up a Notch

Another thing to consider is whether you are doing all you can to facilitate customer loyalty.

According to the AccentHealth survey, waiting is what people dislike most about their preferred pharmacies. With that in mind, pharmacy owners can take three steps to reduce wait times and improve loyalty:

  1. Streamline procedures. Reevaluate your entire process for filling prescriptions to see what you can do faster and in fewer steps. Maximize your pharmacy workflow by embracing key technologies and standardized workflow procedures.
  2. Minimize wait time. Implement refill technology and med synchronization programs to reduce wait times. Sometimes a wait is inevitable, so consider offering Wi-Fi or coffee and a few comfortable chairs.
  3. Consider providing delivery services — if you don’t already do so. This will keep customers from having to wait at all, thus boosting loyalty.

In addition, make sure you are doing your best to meet customer expectations for operating hours and medication availability.

Other steps to take include:

  • Educate customers about the benefits of pharmacy loyalty and the potential pitfalls of “pharmacy hopping.” Pharmacists are trained to spot harmful drug interactions, but they need access to a person’s complete medication history to do so properly. So, display warning signs prominently, place information inserts into prescription packages, or post cautionary notices on Facebook — anything to get the message out.
  • Consider a loyalty program. Empathica’s research shows that customers who use a pharmacy loyalty program are almost twice as likely to recommend that pharmacy to friends and family.
  • Expand your use of technology. Some amount of “disloyalty” among pharmacy consumers can be attributed to slow adoption of technology, say Empathica’s analysts. That’s a problem because online prescription drug sales are growing at a faster rate than in-store sales, and 40% of pharmacies still lack an online presence.
  • Reevaluate your nonpharmacy mix. Make sure you offer essential over-the-counter (OTC) products.. 

Putting It All Together

Understanding what current and potential customers want is arguably the most important part of running a successful community pharmacy. You must know what drives them to choose your store over a competitor or why they might use more than one pharmacy to meet their needs. Once you understand those needs and desires, you can adjust your product and service offerings to better meet their expectations.

The information provided here is for reference use only and does not constitute the rendering of legal or other professional advice by McKesson. Readers should consult appropriate professionals for advice and assistance prior to making important decisions regarding their business. McKesson is not advocating any particular program or approach herein. McKesson is not responsible for, nor will it bear any liability for, the content provided herein.