Monday, February 17, 2014

Here's the Problem with "I am a Customer"

A recent bulletin from one of our managers:

Please read the article below and share with all staff members. Everyone should keep this in mind when we come to work:

Allow me to introduce myself. I am the customer.

I am the person that makes the economic engine turn. I am the reason you take home a paycheck. I am the reason you are able to feed your family, pay your mortgage, go on vacation, buy a car, and contribute to your church or synagogue. Because of me, gigantic corporations and small businesses alike have risen and flourished. Because of my absence, they have faded from existence.

The roads you drive on, the police and fireman that protect your community, the teachers that teach your children all exist because of me. Politicians and postal workers, sanitation workers and soldiers all owe their jobs to me. Without me, no taxes would be paid and any and all societal advances would come to a halt.

The wise come to know, respect, and love me. The foolish disregard my importance and suffer accordingly.

By the way, you’ll notice that I didn’t introduce myself as your customer. That’s because I don’t belong to you. Even if I make a purchase from you, that doesn’t mean that I will do it again in the future. You are always on trial and I am always evaluating, measuring, and testing your product and service.

So pay attention to me. Get to know me. Learn my habits. My likes. My dislikes. My desires. My dreams. My values. Learn my language. Learn to recognize my moods.

Above all, treat me with respect. I will not be ill-treated, and why should I be? There are too many businesses vying for my attention. Every time you turn on the television, open a newspaper, or listen to the radio, you see and hear multitudes of companies competing for my attention. There are too many people who are willing to treat me right in exchange for my business.

And know this, I am not easily fooled. Businesses treat me right or suffer the consequences. Sooner or later I always discover dishonesty, disrespect, or disinterest. Most of the time, I don’t announce my displeasure. I simply take my business elsewhere.

Occasionally, we will have disagreements. I don’t like mistakes but I understand that you sometimes make them. The manner in which you handle my complaint determines any future interaction I have with you. And, in my mind, it also determines the character of your business. I rarely ever give you a second chance to make the same mistake twice.

So, watch for me in your business community. If you’re fortunate enough to see me, do everything in your power to woo me and make me your own, because I hold the key to your financial success. It is no exaggeration to say that when you interact with me, your future hangs in the balance.

Learn me. 
Know me.
I am a customer.

Cute little quip, isn't it? And the manager who sent this out is really proud of himself thinking this "captures" the "essence" of everything there is about customer service. 

1. The first problem with this is that it comes from another era, a typical 1950s narrow-minded paradigm that has no place in 2014 or the economy of today. If you're competing on a level playing field... something like selling vacuums or cars, everything you can do to earn and keep a customer makes sense. In the 1950s and 1960s, we were a prosperous nation. There was plenty of money around. Price didn't drive competition. Service was how you earned and kept your clients. 

BUT, in this economy, CASH is king. What drives our economy right now is PRICE. That's why Walmart and CostCo are growing by leaps and bounds. When's the last time anyone from Walmart ever tried to learn about your hopes and dreams? When's the last time you actually spoke English with anyone working at Walmart? At CostCo (who merged with PRICE club -- both names kinda tip you off what they're all about) there's no sales force. CostCo doesn't even do any advertising.

2. Grocery chain pharmacy is entirely different. Entirely. We run a healthcare business that just happens to be inside a grocery store. The rules are different. We take care of PATIENTS, not customers. The "What can I do to get you to drive this car off the lot today, Mr. Carbuyer?" mentality doesn't apply to healthcare. We're here to oversee the care of patients, and unfortunately that means NOT letting the patient have everything they want, and most of the time that's for THEIR safety. That's just a fact. We don't "woo" patients. We provide healthcare. We are professionals and not side-show carnival barkers. Doing "everything" the customer wants simply isn't possible all of the time, and often we end up protecting the patient from themselves. The customer wants her narcs three days early? Sorry, no can do. 

3. We have limitations. Due to the limited resources of the pharmacy, most specifically, technician hours, we simply don't have a time to "get to know" our patients' likes, dislikes, dreams, values, and moods. We're usually running around like mad just trying to keep up with the script count. Get to know our patients? Ha! We barely get to go to the restroom to pee.

Moreover, our PATIENTS probably would think that silly and/or intrusive into their personal life anyway: 

"Hello, Mrs. Zolofttaker, you sure are in a grumpy mood today. Are you depressed because your husband gets his Viagra filled just prior to going on his business trips?"  

Besides, we have yet another mind-numbing contradiction that might destroy the fabric of space-time. We're supposed to recognize and address our customers (patients) by name, but we also have to sign an acknowledgement every six months that directs us to verify every single patient by name, medication, date of birth, address, etc. How's it going to look when we have a conversation like this:

"Hello Mrs. Smith. How are you today? Here for your thyroid medication?"

"Why yes I am!" patient says, thinking... this is great, Crazy RxMan knows me... I feel so special.

"Mrs. Smith, can you verify your name?"

"Uh....  Mrs. Smith." What's with this guy? He's nuts.

"Thank you Mrs. Smith. What is the medication you're picking up today?"

"Uh... you just asked me if I was here for my thyroid medication." This guy is nuts.

So the ONLY thing we can really compete on with other pharmacies around us is speed. Many people are driven by price (See Price isn't Everything) even if it means spending half the day getting their prescription. Other people could care less if we know their name as long as they're getting their narcs pronto or have the best price. Since we don't always have the best price, our only way to drive more business is with speed. 

Sorry, the 1950s "I am a Customer" mantra sucks. I'm sure it impressed upper management and the guy who distributed it was patted on the back for sending this out. Might I recommend a mild soap to get the brown off your nose? After you get cleaned up, please pass on this letter to Corporate:

Allow me to introduce myself. I am one of your pharmacists.

We are the people that fill the prescriptions for the company, our patients, and your customers. We help you to have your stock dividends and bonuses. We are the major reason people come back to the pharmacy already. 

We work under stressful conditions, the likes of which you have absolutely no understanding or appreciation. If a clerk rings up a bottle of soda wrong, no one dies. If the bakery lady burns a batch of bagels, no one dies. But every day we check and recheck multiple prescriptions without adequate help for people who are always, always in a hurry. We make sure their medication is right every time, because if we screw up, someone can die.

Most of the decisions you make about how our pharmacies are run are made without you having any clue how a pharmacy actually operates. If you actually worked in a pharmacy for just one day, you would do away with most of your insane directives and policies.

You want us to get to know the customer's likes, dislikes, moods, dreams, and values? Ok, then give us adequate staffing so we may do so. We're so busy filling prescriptions and trying to keep up with the workload we hardly have time to get to know anyone.


I am a Pharmacist


Anonymous said...

Nice! Might want to fix the slight grammar mistake in the first sentence of the next to last paragraph though.

Anonymous said...

seriously, you can't make your point without statements like this: "when's the last time you actually spoke english with anyone working at walmart?"

ah well, maybe you don't have a point.

Anonymous said...

anon 805-

Over the years I've been to Walmart a number of times and have had several problems finding someone back in the aisles that speak English. It's ridiculous to think that any time you need help you need to go to the front of the store to get help. RxMan's point *IS* valid when you read it with the rest of the post. Customer service is not a concern at Walmart, price is the concern. Perhaps if you were less focused on political correctness the point would not have gone over your head.

Anonymous said...

To be treated as a "health care professional" is a dream that has long since faded away. Last week, we received a wonderful memo telling us that we must be in the department no later than 7 minutes before opening. The alarm signals will be audited to monitor this. If anyone cannot meet the "expectations" regarding customer service, he/she will be subject to "retraining".
Whoever coined the term "speed kills' was not kidding. It is disheartening to leave work every single day hoping and praying that we did not harm anyone.

pharmaciststeve said...

We are there to meet the needs of our customer/pts.. NOT THEIR WANTS !

Crazy RxMan said...

Post Script -- Another blogger kindly pointed out to me in an email that Price Club was named after Sol Price, the founder.

I guess it is really fortunate that the low cost warehouse that merged with CostCo had the last name of "Price." Imagine how the business might have been different if his name was "Highprice."