5 Ways for your pharmacy to listen better

If you described me as verbose, it would probably be an understatement.  I talk quite a bit. At work, I’m often on the phone with customers and co-workers.  At home, I am constantly chattering at my toddlers, trying to get them to say something besides “mom” and “puppy”.    

How we speak and what we say is a big part of how we are perceived both personally and professionally.  But there’s another big piece of the puzzle that’s just as important.  How effective we are at listening. 

If you’ve ever had to repeat yourself for a spouse or friend or kid because they weren’t paying attention, you know how irritating it can be.  It’s even more irritating when you feel like someone who should be completely focused on you, like a healthcare provider, isn’t.  In your pharmacy, listening to customers should be a primary focus for all of your employees.  Whether Pharmacist, technician or clerk, if they aren’t listening well, they could be fracturing your relationship with that customer for good.

Here is a great article on why you should try to improve listening skills and how to go about it.  Let’s take a closer look at a few of these tips and how they apply directly to your pharmacy. 

“Focus” Have you ever been in a conversation and been so busy figuring out what you were going to say next that you failed to really focus on what the other person was saying?  We’ve all done it.  Instead of jumping right out with a response, really listen to what your pharmacy customer is saying, wait a beat to let it sink in, and then respond appropriately.  Failing to do this can mean you’re responding inaccurately, which can have devastating consequences, especially in the pharmacy and healthcare industries.

“Put away your phone” You can also refer to this as minimizing distractions.  Employees shouldn’t have their cell phones with them on the floor.  Even if they never take their phones out in front of customers, that vibrating phone hidden away in a pocket can disrupt your employee’s concentration.  Likewise, employees shouldn’t be tempted by personal email, Facebook, and other computer applications.  Systems in your pharmacy should be dedicated to a specific function, like your point-of sale system or pharmacy system.  You can use content blocking services to black list certain websites or entire website categories.

“Ask good questions” Unwavering eye contact and head nods only do so much to convince an audience that you are listening.  Pharmacy staff shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions.  Asking a clarifying question helps customers know that you’re paying attention.  Make sure they are relevant to the conversation and not something that’s been answered already. Questions also help customers to know that you care because you’re taking the time to push a little deeper into the conversation. No assembly line customer service in your independent pharmacy. 

“Practice Reflective Listening” Reflective listening basically means repeating back what the customer said in different words.  It’s your way of showing you heard what they said and understood it.  It also gives patients an opportunity to correct any misinformation. They won’t have to question later whether they really got the right answer because you proved your understanding of their problem. This is especially important when you’re dealing with disease state management or answering questions about medication. 

“Don’t pass Judgment”  and “keep your mouth shut” The existence of sites like WebMD means that many people already have some sort of opinion on what’s wrong with them before they ever visit a doctor or pharmacist.  When they get a prescription, they’ve probably already looked it up on their smart phone and know the good, the bad and the ugly.  They already think they are the experts on their ailment.  But it’s quite likely they have some misinformation.  Your job isn’t to shut them down and tell them they are wrong. It’s to listen until they finish stating their peace and then calmly correct any misinformation without talking down to them.  Interrupting patients and shutting them down only leads to them feeling like you aren’t listening. 

Here’s the bottom line: If your pharmacy customers don’t feel like you’re listening, they aren’t as likely to listen to you.  And if they don’t respect your opinion and actually hear the advice that you provide, their overall experience at your independent pharmacy will leave them wanting something more.  Something more that they might just look for at another pharmacy.