Transforming Retail Customer Experience in retail – spotlight on pharmacies

Posted by thecxadmin on 19/05/2016

portrait of a female pharmacist at pharmacy

Effective Customer Experience in retail comes from the top. The company Managing Director or CEO needs to passionately drive this agenda and have the power to act on it! Leadership drives an organisation.


All decisions must be made with an awareness that the customer is in control of purchasing decisions. Customers will not be hoodwinked with discount signs, when they can very easily check prices with competing shops close by and online. They are ever better informed and more demanding.


It is imperative that healthcare practitioners and advisors be available close by when customer wants them. They also need a culture focused on staff; employing, nurturing, motivating and ongoing training the right crew who will provide up to the minute personalised care and product knowledge.


According to Gerard O’Neill of Amarach Research, when it comes to retailing in general and pharmacies in particular there is one vital ingredient: ‘Ingredient X’ – the people.

“Even in today’s omni-channel world, the best retailers from a customer experience perspective are those who combine a traditional focus on staff/customer engagement with best in class loyalty programmes, mobile apps and strong brand values.” Why? Because we all want to belong to ‘our tribe’, and great customer experience – especially involving staff – giving both customers and staff that essential sense of belonging which is key to loyalty.


Start by recruiting the right people; every staff member must be a customer experience champion, aware of their role and what is expected of them and they are regularly appraised and rewarded on these criteria. Ongoing product and service training helps ensure advisors are equipped with the knowledge required to carry out their role.


Employee engagement is critical to success. Customers have massive expectations around expertise in health and beauty products. They expect advisers to know not only about the product and the various ways it can be used, but also where to access reviews and further information online. Staff must be on hand to look after customers where and when required.


Although the concept of a loyalty card is nothing new it can be very effective. We know from surveying a sample that most women in Dublin possess a Boots loyalty card. A personalised offering greatly effects loyalty to pharmacies. Some pharmacies, for example Boots, have made great strides in offering a personalised service. This is done in many ways including personalised omni-channel communications and offers based on customers purchase history. There is plenty of scope here, including further customisation on an individual level. Such a service would see individually relevant online offers for each customer, for example, using knowledge about your skin to inform you about products of interest. Retailers should aim to provide customers with products and knowledge that is genuinely right for them.


Non Food Retail is leading the way in Irish Customer Experience with an overall score of 7.30 out of 10 in the CXi CX Survey 2015. The rankings show that Pharmacies are ahead of other retailers with a customer experience score of 7.46. This compares very favourably against an average score of 7.06 across all surveyed sectors*.


Pharmacies perform particularly well in saving people ‘Time and Effort’. This is not surprising when it’s possible to order via apps, online, instore and over the phone and expect to collect in store or at home.


While all organisations should employ Corporate Social Responsibility this is particularly relevant to pharmacies. One of the most obvious benefits of having a strong CSR ethic is the employee engagement it fosters. Active participation in raising awareness of charities and directly enabling staff to help people in the community motivates staff and increases their sense of belonging. An ethos of helping others should be designed to bring comfort to the community rather than raise profits and it helps staff feel they are contributing to the community. This kind of activity shows companies care. Lloyds pharmacy does this with their blog offering guidance and informative tips helping customers live healthier lives.


But all these things are not enough. Pharmacies must also continually innovate in their products and services to meet customer expectations.


All retailers will do well to differentiate themselves on customer experience because it’s a long term commitment that will pay off. Positioning yourself as having the best product, or the best prices, is no longer a viable differentiation strategy. Competitors are doing the same thing. As competition and buyer empowerment increases, customer experience itself is proving to be the only durable competitive advantage.


As stated by O’Neill “We are at a turning point in Ireland’s economic fortunes as consumers move away from a focus mainly on price (and switching) to a focus on value and belonging.”