Last week, I shared news that Walgreens is renouncing its corporate citizenship in the United States in a move to Switzerland.* I also encouraged independent pharmacies to consider how best to exploit this change to their advantage by promoting the strong community ties that any independent business is likely to have. I hope that in this past week you’ve thought about how best to turn bad press for Walgreens into good press for your independent pharmacy, and perhaps even started putting some plans into action.
So you start by spreading the word. You put up some posters in the windows of your store, take out a small ad in the local newspaper, get some flyers or business cards displayed in other area businesses, or even do a quick radio spot at the local station. Eventually, these efforts should result in some new business walking through your door. That’s a big success, but the battle is nowhere near won. The first step a new customer takes into your pharmacy is just that, a first step. Old habits die hard and the burden will now fall upon your shoulders to prove that your pharmacy is indeed different than the big box store your customer just abandoned. Here are some thoughts from the RMS sales team about how to re-enforce and maintain this new advantage in your pharmacy and keep new customers from falling back on old routines.
1) Consistency is key. Ensure that your staff understands store policies regarding customer service. Make sure that everyone is on the same page across the board. Customers should always receive the same level of knowledgeable, friendly service from any staff member, whether they’re talking to a store manager, part time clerk or pharmacy technician. Nothing dissatisfies customers quite like mixed messages.
2) Train your staff thoroughly. Your employees should understand how to use the technology in your pharmacy. It’s especially important that they can operate your point-of-sale system accurately and quickly to make sure that transactions are easy and efficient for your customers. Invest in ongoing training programs with your pharmacy technology service providers to make sure that you and your staff are always up to date with the latest and best practices. You should also consistently analyze employee performance reports to identify any potential training issues or improper employee activity such as excessive cash drawer popping or a large number of transaction voids.
3) Stock appropriately. Review the item sales and movement reports within your POS system to identify your top sellers and fast moving products. If you’re not stocked sufficiently on these popular products, customers will lose faith in your store’s capability to meet their needs and may take their business elsewhere.
4) Invest in a customer loyalty program. Almost every chain store has some sort of customer loyalty or rewards program. Consumers today expect these types of programs to be offered at any retailer they frequent. A well-built and effectively managed customer loyalty program can make a big difference in whether you lose or retain new customers that walk through your door. Download our Free E-Book, Increasing Customer Loyalty in Your Pharmacy, to learn all about different types of loyalty programs and how point-of-sale can help.
5) Continue to learn. At RMS, we are dedicated to helping our customers succeed in an ever more competitive industry. We hope you’ll join us right back at this blog every week for new blog posts and that you’ll check out the many case studies and e-books available on our website. You can also check out some other top resources for ongoing education here.
Remember, a multitude of factors help to determine whether or not customers shop in your store. You won’t always beat the competition in every category, but finding and exploiting your competitions weakness is a great way to gain a valuable advantage. As always, I hope to hear from you on what you do to edge out the competition and create a strong and loyal customer base.
*RMS would like to acknowledge that since the posting of this article, Walgreens has since announced that they will not be relocating their headquarters to avoid paying US taxes. We recognize that this action is unprecedented and is most certainly a step in the right direction. Nonetheless, at RMS we believe that buying local is the best policy and we encourage independent pharmacies to use the strategies outlined in this article.
Karen Deckard came to RMS with a background in retail and customer 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.