Be the pharmacy customers rave about

male pharmacist and female customer

7 ways to build referrals to your store

In brief:

  • Customers don’t talk about good service, because they expect it. To create positive word-of-mouth advertising, create exceptional experiences.
  • Seek opportunities to stand out as a pharmacy in your community, so customers talk about why they prefer you to other stores.

Being a good pharmacy that serves customers well isn’t enough to build your business. To grow your customer base, create the exceptional experiences that will have people raving about what you do and recommending your pharmacy to friends and family.

Nobody tells people about the time an airline didn’t lose their luggage, noted Bruce Kneeland, a pharmacy marketing consultant, during a presentation at McKesson’s 2017 ideaShare conference in July.

“What’s new, what’s different, what’s bigger, what’s better, what’s faster, what’s more fun, those are the kinds of things we talk about,” Kneeland said.

Delighting one customer has a ripple effect — 72% of customers will share a positive experience with six or more people.1

Here are seven ways to become the pharmacy that people are raving about:

  1. Turn negatives into positives. Bad news spreads quickly, so be faster at turning the experience around. “Just because something bad happens doesn’t mean that causes a bad comment,” Kneeland told pharmacy owners. “It’s how you handle the bad things that matters.”

    If customers are inconvenienced, compensate them in a way that reinforces your pharmacy’s image as a brand that takes care of them. If you can’t fully fill a prescription and they must return for more pills, for example, apologize, explain how you will fill the order, and show them a voucher that you will mail to them for a dollar or more off at their next visit. When it arrives at their home in a few days, it will remind customers that you are taking care of them. “You get to assuage their anxiety three times with a positive response to a negative incident,” Kneeland said.

  2. Solve their problems. Pharmacy staff members can focus on helping customers and increase sales at the same time. “Don’t be afraid to make product recommendations when there are things that you know are solidly appropriate for what a person needs,” Kneeland said.

    “Drug nutrient depletion is your emerging goldmine.” (See “5 Profitable OTC Solutions to Common Side Effects” and “Supplement Prescription Sales with Profitable OTC Recommendations.”) Customers will tell others about how they are feeling better because of a product from your pharmacy or the convenience of the compliance packaging you offer.

  3. Do what other businesses won’t. Figure out what you can provide that other stores don’t. One pharmacy in a downtown pedestrian mall area posted a sign in the window that said, “Twinkle, Sprinkle, Tinkle, Yes … Public Restroom.” Another in an area with parking meters gave away free quarters. Kneeland also explained why a pharmacy could tell customers, “We don’t need to see your driver’s license; we trust you; we know your check will always be good here.” As he said, “Anything she was buying with a check had her name, address and phone number on it. If the check bounced, how hard was it to figure out how to find her?”

  4. Be the go-to place for special orders. “Special orders are a sleeping giant for you,” he told the Health Mart® “Everybody here can go to their McKesson system and order something and have it tomorrow.” When you take a special order, write down the person’s contact information and call when it arrives. If the person already picked up the item elsewhere, don’t embarrass the person by showing frustration. Instead, say, “Mrs. Jones, I’m so happy you got what you needed. I’ll return it to my supplier. The next time you need anything, please let me know.” Mrs. Jones will tell her neighbors that if they need anything to visit your pharmacy.

  5. Offer something unexpected. Give people a reason to visit your pharmacy beyond filling prescriptions. “The front end might only be 5 or 10% of sales, but it’s 80 or 90% of the image that your pharmacy presents to the public,” Kneeland said. He gave the example of a pharmacy where people go just to buy fudge. When the staff visits physician offices and other places to talk about their durable medical equipment business, he said, “They take a business card, but what else do you think they take?” The pharmacy also gives free fudge to people who join its mailing list.

  6. Make your challenges your strengths. Find the opportunities in problems you face as a business. For example, Butt Drugs didn’t have room for a drive-thru window, so it put up a sign in the parking lot that says, “Curbside Service, Please Honk for Assistance,” and an employee goes out to the cars. Along with other “I (heart) Butt Drugs” merchandise, the store sells a “Cheeky Tee” that says, “Free Parking in the Rear.”

  7. Reward referrals. Make it easy for patients to refer your store to others by giving them a special card to hand out, which includes information about your pharmacy and their name. Offer a $10 or more voucher for each referral on a future purchase at your store.

The value of positive referrals is even greater in today’s connected world. Before they buy or try a product or store, 96% of consumers seek opinions and recommendations from others, and 91% go beyond family and friends to their social networks.2 Position your pharmacy to be the one people are recommending.



1 “32 Customer Experience Statistics You Need to Know for 2017,” Toma Kulbytė, SuperOffice, Aug. 2, 2017. LINK
2 “How the Rise of Social Media Recommendations Sparked a Transformative Moment,” Stacy DeBroff, The Social Media Monthly, Jan. 31, 2017. LINK