Monday, February 10, 2014

Interacting with the Customer

Another email arrived from The Authorities. To summarize several long paragraphs: 

Another great year... yada yada yada... our "opportunities" are profitability. Costs of meds are up, reimbursements remain the same, we have no control over cost and reimbursement, so we (read that YOU, PHARMACIST) needs to minimize costs to increase productivity. The only thing we CAN control is inventory and labor. Inventory is good but we can't do anything about labor (then why do they constantly play around with tech hours?). Sooooo... YOU, PHARAMACIST, YOU need to concentrate on INTERACTION with the front store customers to drive volume and thereby increase profitability.

YOU, PHARMACIST, YOU need to offer to take our customers to items on the floor and engage in conversation, talk to them about "one stop shopping" and ASK them for their pharmacy business!

What it amounts to is this... Corporate has determined that there are a ton of people who shop at the store but get their prescriptions elsewhere. And this is Corporate's brilliant answer to increasing profit: Drive sales by having pharmacists run all over the store begging for business. 

Last year The Authorities used a direct marketing campaign. They mailed $30 transfer coupons directly to this specific demographic -- people who shop in the store but don't get prescriptions here. Yeah, we did some transfers and handed out a lot of gift cards. Transfers add a tremendous burden to the pharmacy workload, but we did it. And as you guessed already, most of those people transferred back out to their regular pharmacy in 30 days. An expensive and complete defeat was handed to someone in upper management over that one, I'm sure.

I don't have all the answers. If I did I'd be incredibly rich and sitting on the beach right now in Hawaii getting a tan. But I do know this:

* We've been here for several years. The competitors close by us have been here for several years. The customer base has been consistently the same for several years. Whatever drives people to Goofmart Pharmacy, Wagmart, or SVC pharmacy is likely a consistent factor as well. People are largely driven by force of habit. Most of our NEW business comes when Wagmart really pisses someone off or we have something the other two pharmacies don't have. 

* We have plenty to do. We have prescriptions to fill and are always fighting for our technician hours. Just a few weeks ago The Authorities cut our technician hours by 10%. I reminded our regional manager that Corporate did the same thing last year and a week later after that our volume went way, way up. We were hit pretty hard that week last year. Corporate was not convinced. What happened? This year a week after they cut the tech hours we set a new record in number of scripts. Even after that it still took another two weeks for Corporate to restore the technician hours. My point? We're busy. We don't have time to be running around the store drumming up business like carnival barkers.

* We're pharmacists and technicians, not marketing specialists, salesman, or carnival barkers. When I took this job at Goofmart, I signed on to provide pharmacy healthcare to patients. I've worked in sales. I'm not a salesman. I hate sales. MOREOVER, this is a profession. We're professionals. Corporate had their noses bloodied with last year's failed campaign so now they're trying to add to the burden of pharmacists. Let's see... Quake-N-Zap, Medication Therapy Management, Immunizations, Insurance Specialists, Loss Prevention... all ON TOP of filling prescriptions accurately and quickly while dealing with all the regular insanity... and NOW you want us to run a sideshow too?


Hildy said...

Thought-provoking post. It made me examine the reasons I choose the store-pharmacies I go to:
1- price. My one med is $30/month at A and $10/3 months at B. So of course I'm going to B.

2- convenience. If money is no object, then distance determines my choice.

3- avoidance. A bad experience will cause me to never go to C. Price and convenience be damned.

As you say, there are "consistent factors" in the decision, factors you don't have any control over.

But, good grief! If I were shopping and the pharmacist accosted me with a view toward persuading me to use his pharmacy, it would unnerve me to the point that I'd avoid the store altogether. Do your corporate people have no working brain cells at all?

In general, a person will pay more/drive out of his way only if there is some perceived value to doing so. If they want more pharmacy business, do something extra for pharmacy customers (NOT transfer cards; that's a one-time value; I'm talking long-term value). But as you say, don't ask your pharmacist, who is already busy enough, to start trolling the aisles. You have my sympathy.

Jono said...

The easiest way to increase profits is to increase the number of sick people. Start promoting smoking, a sedentary lifestyle, risky behavior, etc. Then there will be more business for all the pharmacies. Don't forget to increase the rate births to replace the premature deaths caused by the above. Win!

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

As a retired former employee of Goofmart I find your comments to be spot on.
I understand the cleaning police call to ask if your bathroom is clean. One should tell them yes my bathroom at home is clean that is what you were referring to wasn't it?

Anonymous said...

What Hildy said. I would never use a pharmacy where I was essentially cold-called by a pharmacist.