The theme song to The Jetson’s is running through my head. I feel like it’s been on an endless loop since I read the news that Lowes has introduced a Robot as a customer service representative in one of its stores. And although it doesn’t happen very often, I was definitely at a loss for words. (At least temporarily) Like it wasn’t already bad enough that hardware stores seem to rely more on glitch prone self-checkout lanes than cashiers, now they are piloting robots? There are so many things wrong with this that I’m not even sure where to start. And I probably don’t need to. A successful independent pharmacy realizes what most of the chains obviously don’t, that friendly, knowledgeable staff, can be a business’s most valuable resource.
It’s plain to see that the timing for the pilot of this program isn’t a coincidence. It falls during the busiest season of the year. With Thanksgiving only a week away, stores are already busy with holiday shoppers and the crowds will only get worse in the coming weeks as Black Friday and Small Business Saturday kick off the holiday countdown. And of course higher volumes of shoppers creates the necessity for extra staff. And perhaps for a big corporation, rolling out a fleet of programmable rolling computers is cheaper. But for my part, I don’t believe that you can replace the benefits of personal customer interaction.
Instead of betting on gimmick’s to provide the service your customers need, bet on your employees and make sure that they have what they need to survive the busy holiday season. Here are a few easy things that you can do to help your staff thrive this holiday season so that they can continue to provide the excellent service that your customers expect.
1) Staff for your busiest times. Your Pharmacy POS system should allow you to review transaction volumes by date and time. This will help you identify the times of day when you need the most staff. Nothing can frustrate a cashier quite like a seemingly never ending line of increasingly impatient customers. Ample staffing will make sure that your store is running as efficiently as possible and stress is kept to a minimum.
2) Schedule breaks and lunches. It’s important that your staff is allowed and encouraged to take the time to refuel and recharge. An employee that has had the time to relax and rest will be far more effective than one who is tired and stressed out. Use the same information above to determine staffing levels to figure out when the best times to send employees on breaks will be. You can even provide some healthy snacks in the break room to help employees fuel up for the long haul.
3) Provide new staff with proper resources. If you’ve done any hiring for the busy season, you may have some employees that are still a little overwhelmed. Make sure that they know who to go to with questions or concerns. A seasoned staff member who is well versed in policies, procedures and use of store technologies is always helpful to new employees. Giving them every opportunity to succeed means that they’ll provide better service to your customers.
4) Make sure your technology is in working order. Talk with your staff to make sure that they aren’t having any problems with the different systems in your pharmacy. Is one of your computers extra slow or making concerning noises? Is a stylus pen on a signature pad starting to have connection issues? Is there a process that’s taking way too much time that could be done differently? Identifying potential problems and being proactive about addressing them can save you a lot of time, money and trouble in the long run. Better to fix a problem before it happens than have something go wrong at the busiest time of day. Remember Murphy’s Law. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong.
5) Have a back-up plan. The holiday season is also the season of less than clement weather. So be prepared for the worst. What will you do if the power goes out or your internet goes down, preventing you from processing credit cards? Do you have a manual process in place? Talk with your credit card processing rep about calling in authorization and make sure you have all the materials you need to get through a temporary loss of functionality. If your staff knows what’s expected of them in these circumstances, they’ll be much more capable of handling any emergency situations that arise.
As an independent retailer, customers expect more from you. And the hectic holiday season is no excuse to fall short. But giving your staff the resources they need to provide the best service possible is easy and your customers will remember how much better the experience at your store was compared to any big box stores they visited.
Until that customer service robot can clean my house for me just like Rosie on The Jetson’s, I don’t think I’m interested. I would rather have the recommendations, expertise and personal interaction with an actual person. How about you?
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.