If anyone knows the value of first-rate customer service, it’s Pat Piquette, who for 40 years has been a pharmacist and store manager for the Lovell Drugs chain in eastern Ontario.
By Randy Ray
Her pharmacy on the main street of Cornwall is close to more than half a dozen big box competitors. Yet it and another Lovell outlet in the St. Lawrence River community continue to grow.
“To beat back the competition, you have to be at the top of your game, and customer service is one way we do it,” says Piquette, BSc. Phm., who leads a team of employees at the store, which has occupied the same downtown corner for close to 80 years under the Fullerton Drugs banner.
Since the beginning of Lovell’s, excellent service has been a key component of the business, says Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Rita Winn, BScPhm, RPh. About 20 years ago customer service was written in stone as part of a corporate mission statement, and in 2007, management took its commitment to service a step further by establishing a process that ensured all staff understood that providing clients with the best possible service was the responsibility of each employee.
7 top tips to promote staffing excellence
- Train staff to acknowledge customers upon first contact.
- Use customer knowledge in dispensary files to cater to customer needs.
- Take customers to a product when possible and make them aware of specials, but do not constantly upsell.
- Train staff to provide efficient customer service and empower them to make routine small exchanges and refunds which don’t affect store security.
- Train employees to understand the store layout and provide knowledge of new products as often as possible.
- Offer extra services but use common sense. If you have one person on the floor, don’t offer to gift wrap if you have three other customers to serve.
- Hire outgoing and friendly people who will help develop your business.
Part of that process is a program designed by Winn to build customer loyalty by capitalizing on what she refers to as “moments of magic” that take place each time staff interact with a customer. Winn’s top 10 magic moments are taught to new employees and reinforced to all staff during staff meetings using videos and real life examples of good service.
These include providing a positive first impression with neat and tidy stores and appropriately attired staff; employees who know their products and services; greeting customers by name and chatting about their interests; on-the-job enthusiasm; good communication skills; quality products; the ability to solve a customer’s problems and showing appreciation every time a customer walks through the door.
Winn’s strategy, which she borrowed from a retail expert she met at a conference, is welcomed by staff, who recognize first-rate customer service is behind the chain’s success when competition from much larger chains is intense.
“Customer service is not exciting, so to teach it properly, I need examples and stories to make it hit home with staff. I use stories based on things I have seen, read and done myself … it resonates and they get it, recognizing that the better things go with customers and service, the better their jobs will go.”
One such example is the Johnny the Bagger video, which tells the story of a youngster who takes very seriously his job bagging items at a grocery store. He pleases customers by placing personal, handwritten notes of encouragement in their grocery bags, a strategy that works wonders for the store’s business.
Based on her days working in pharmacies, she teaches her staff how to approach customers and determine their needs by reading their body language and starting a conversation that enables customers to be open.