Consumers’ needs and expectations are constantly evolving in the healthcare market. But the one thing that’s never changed in any business is listening to your customers.
By Gerry Spitzner
The customer’s experience is the greatest determinant of success in any business. Customer experience and loyalty are harmonious, and nothing differentiates one pharmacy retailer from another more than the ability to engage customers and build relationships with patients.
I’m often asked what the difference is between “customer service” and the “customer experience.” “Customer service” is the action of serving customers, while the “customer experience” is the long-lasting emotion customers take away with them, which makes them come back and rave about you and your brand –now more important to retail pharmacy success than ever.
People buy YOU way before they buy your products or services.
In many markets, I’m seeing a fundamental shift in the way value is created for customers. The shift is from value that resides in the product or service to value that is created for the customer during the experience of interacting with the service provider. Increasingly, it is at the points of interaction where value is created, not in the marketing or what the service itself does.
In the consumer market, think of the truly special experience of browsing in an Apple retail store, or the high-end lounges that airlines like Lufthansa and British Airways have created to complement the in-air experience with a luxurious on-the-ground experience.
This phenomenon is poised to dramatically affect the world of professional services. Most firms say they offer a unique client experience, but few actually do. The challenge is to create new, refreshing, and valuable client interactions which become part of the total package of your value proposition. The issue is that most professional services are delivered today in almost exactly the same way as they were 40 years ago. There is more on-site work, for sure, but still very little client involvement in defining the desired relationship experience.
Healthcare for a patient isn’t an intellectual decision; it’s an emotional one.
Take, for example, patient engagement and patient activation, which are often used interchangeably.
Engagement and activation are, in fact, very different. Patients are often most engaged, but least personally empowered, to take action. Fact is, we give people the tools and knowledge to proactively manage their health; the problem is they don’t use them. Most people don’t really care about their health until it takes them away from their normal lives. Anyone who can help them return to their productive lives provides value.
Active care plans work.
Health is optimized when both patients and pharmacists participate in an active care plan. Ninety-nine per cent of effective disease and health management is in the hands of individuals and their families. People will do what you ask (aka compliance, adherence) only if they believe they’ll fulfill their own personal needs by doing so. Fulfilling that intention with the positive results they get from an active care plan can be a powerful motivator to their returning and buying other pharmacy patient services.
Whether customers want to hear a reassuring voice following up on the phone, being connected through email or engaging on social media, you should strive to exceed their expectations by offering an experience based on empathy, emotional intelligence and comprehensive service to fulfill their needs.
Those enlightened pharmacists who embrace these guiding principles to activate their patients will enjoy a competitive advantage. This approach will create trust and give your customers a reason to come back and refer you and your patient services to others.
Gerry Spitzner is the founder and principal consultant of pharmacySOS.ca, a Vancouver-based business management consultancy providing strategic operations services focused on drug stores and pharmacies. For more information: http://pharmacysos.ca/