Sometimes I think that “efficiency” sounds like a very cold word. Something that sharply contrasts with the general warm feeling of a community minded pharmacy. But as I was reminded while out at dinner the other night, a lack of efficiency can ruin a customer’s overall experience. You see, the food was amazing, and our service was great, right up until we were ready to leave. Dessert plates had been cleared, wine glasses were empty, and the credit card was laid out on the table. But our server was nowhere in sight to bring us the bill and let us leave. 5 minutes turned into 10, and finally I saw her walk by with a couple of empty plates, at which point she could have easily grabbed the check on her way through, but she didn’t, and I got more and more irritated. Not because it was a Friday night and she was very busy, but because she obviously wasn’t using her time effectively, and in the process, wasn’t respecting mine.
When it comes to your customers, that’s what efficiency comes down to. Showing them that you are mindful of their valuable time by not wasting it unnecessarily. This means having your processes and procedures down to a science. It means being streamlined so that the customer interaction can run smoothly. What it doesn’t mean is turning your pharmacy into an assembly line with one-size-fits-all service. And it definitely doesn’t mean robotic, impersonal exchanges. If you define efficiency in these ways, your pharmacy will not only run like a well-oiled machine, you’ll have excellent customer service. Better yet, dealing with the process related part of your business will give you more time to spend with your customers. So let’s break it down a little further.
Defining processes and procedures: Consistency is a huge part of efficiency. If everyone does the same task a different way, not only is your staff probably wasting time, but you can bet mistakes are being made. Not every way can be the best way to do something so your challenge is finding the way that works best for your pharmacy. Once you’ve done that, invest in training so that everyone understands the established procedure. Allow time for practice and make time for practice so that processes and procedures become habitual, rather than a trial for any employee to complete. It’s also important to listen to your employees and take any suggestions they have for improvement into consideration.
Streamlining: This is all about your pharmacy technology. It’s what allows you to take the processes and procedures you have identified and take things to the next level. From getting rid of paper by going to electronic storage of signatures and other data, to policies in your POS system that restrict certain activities and prompt others. Investing in training is also a must, but you may need to enlist other parties, like your technology service providers and partners, to provide it.
Defeat the assembly line and get personal: Every customer is unique, so why in the world would anyone treat all of their customers the same? But some do. In a line 5 people deep, you’ll hear the same interaction 5 times. It may be a tried and true format for not upsetting customers, but just because you like a song, doesn’t mean you’re going to put it on repeat and listen to it 10 times instead of listening to the whole album. It would get pretty old pretty darn fast. Breaking this pattern can be difficult for some as not everyone’s an expert at small talk. My advice, start by sharing your passion for what you do. You’ll create a new culture with your staff and your customers and “Hi how are you today? Did you find everything you need?” suddenly turns into “Hi Mrs. Smith. How are the kids? Oh no, that’s a lot of Kleenex, I hope James isn’t sick again!” Think about which interaction you’d rather have.
Just like in any aspect of your life, balance is one of the hardest things to achieve. But balancing good practices with good customer service is of the utmost importance in the overall success of your pharmacy.
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.