Spend one or two more quality minutes with a customer and you will have them for life.
By Talbot Boggs
Photography by Ben Welland
That was one of the principles which guided Wayne Law when he was deciding to transform his Kanata Pharmasave near Ottawa.
Since the store opened its doors in 1991, first under the Guardian, then the Pharmasave banner, the pharmacy industry has changed a lot. Community pharmacies like Law’s have come under increased competition from other chains and big box retailers such as Walmart and Costco. During those years the store underwent three renovations, growing from its original 1,200 sq. ft. to the current 4,000 sq. ft. But Law realized he needed to make some real strategic changes to his business if he was going to compete and succeed in the future.
“When looking to build for the future it became evident that we needed to modernize to build a better brand and add professional services in order to compete with other banners but, more specifically in our situation, big box stores like Costco,” says Law. “When they can undercut script fees and other prices, you have to do something to draw and maintain your customers, and one way to do that is to improve your operational efficiencies so you can spend more time with your customers and provide a higher and broader range of services.”
And that’s what he did. Law invested $250,000 to reorganize the pharmacy, bring in new technology and make some cosmetic changes such as new flooring and colour scheme. He moved the dispensary from the west side of the building to the east to take advantage of more windows and more and better natural light, added two new semi-private counselling counters and one private counselling room in the new layout, and new in-take/out-take counters. He also installed nine Kroll computer terminals in the new dispensary, has since added a ScriptPro automatic counter, and blocked off room in the dispensary for a compound lab for future use.
“In the new dispensary we have really been able to improve work flow, and with the addition of the new computer system – there are terminals everywhere – we are working towards having a paperless system in 2016,” says Law. “The addition of the consultation room has allowed us to increase our flu vaccinations, do more meds checks and diabetes and other clinics, and I hope soon to introduce a travel medicine practice. These all are great revenue-generating services, but they also are enabling our pharmacists and staff to service our customers much more efficiently and personally.”
Law realized his front shop was not up to scratch with some of his competitors and downsized and eliminated poor-performing categories and products and focused on niche areas that customers were seeking. He moved and expanded the home healthcare section, concentrated on sports injury braces and products, beefed up his line of natural health products, and increased his confectionery, food and beverage offering by 12 linear feet, adding more gluten-free food and convenience snacks.
Being a small business, Law had to be strategic with his expenditures. Since the work was completed a year ago, he has received great response from his customers. Volumes in both the dispensary and the front shop have increased with the changes, and Law has created a technological and physical platform to build and expand a thriving service-oriented business practice. “Being small, you just can’t afford to throw money around,” Law says. “You have to spend strategically and wisely. We now are holding our own very nicely and have polished our image and brand. In this competitive industry you just have to keep up to date and modernize.”