Profitable relationships to benefit your business


Profitable relationships to benefit your business

How can you take your pharmacy business to the next level?

The aim of this series is usually to provide tips and techniques to help independent pharmacy owners and teams improve business performance. Rather than give yet more tips, let’s ask the following pertinent questions instead:

  • Do you really want to, or need to, take your business to the next level?
  • What are you prepared to do? How far are you prepared to go? (When I think of this second question, I can’t help imagine the Sean Connery scene in The Untouchables).

Possible topics that might be most useful to consider include:

  • First port of call. If you really want the public to come to your pharmacy before any other healthcare professional, what do you need to offer that’s different from today?
  • Looking ahead to winter. How can you develop your business to improve your profit over this important time for pharmacy?
  • What does community pharmacy do? How can you best promote the products, services and unique skills that your community pharmacy offers?
  • Adding the personal touch. How can you ensure the service you provide adds value?

However, the factor that will help in particular, and if you really want to take your business to the next level, is a focus on profitable relationships.

Focus group

When looking at profitable relationships, it’s useful to ask the following fundamental questions in relation to your business:

With whom? Your team, patients; customers

What? A community pharmacy, but also “my wellbeing partner”

Why? The market is changing. Expectations are rising for both your customers and your team

Where? Wherever the patient/customer chooses: in-store; website; on social media

When? Now, because soon it may be too late. The big boys and new online competitors are already two years ahead and Amazon may also be entering your market

How? Engage, challenge and coach your team, to help encourage more customers see your pharmacy as the “wellbeing provider I choose”.

This list is not exhaustive, and you will want to add in some of your own questions.

Why choose you?

What will you do to make the patient experience so good that they choose you? It is simple really. The key to this is simply a new way of working.

Most customers rate their experience as just “OK” and some prefer to choose the anodyne multiples experience over your pharmacy. If their feeling about your pharmacy is that it is not different enough they will choose convenience.

There is no doubt that you already have patients/customers who love you, and that you already have colleagues on your team who do a great job. For customers who don’t yet love you, just treat everyone as you would treat your own family.

Consumer behaviour is changing. Most now compare their experience across sectors and quickly grade their experience into convenience, branded and commodity. For example, the ‘Primarni’ – the nickname for Primark – concept is to buy a really expensive, aspirational product or service and then complete with basics.

Many people talk about wellbeing – treating the patient not just the condition – but what does that mean for each group, whether by age or condition or location? A list of services for each group helps customers tune in and choose you.

If you do me a favour, I feel obliged to return it. What ‘favours’ could you offer your target patient/customer groups that would encourage them to choose you, rather than use you for convenience only?

What difference will it make?

The aim is to have a larger percentage of people using more of your services and buying more of your products. To put this into perspective, if your average number of services sold is less than one third, then there is clearly a loyalty-building and commercial opportunity.

If your retail is less than 10 per cent of your business, then there is an opportunity. We know that 30 per cent growth is easily achievable.

Why should you bother?

Consider what you could achieve. What would it be worth if you could:

  • Increase your retail sales. There should be at least 30 per cent participation.
  • Ramp up the number of services. A mixture of commissioned and non-commissioned services should add another 30 per cent.

How to do it

Our experience of working with independent pharmacies is that your team already know what your patients/customers would appreciate once they have the focus of becoming “my pharmacy” for more patient groups.

Set up your team so that they share, learn from each other and learn from your customers, by tuning in to the key customer groups and understanding how buying habits are changing.

Action stations

Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Decide which patient groups to target

2. List the services and products they would be interested in

3. Challenge your team. Pick two or three things to introduce to patients

4. Best practice. Get the team to discuss the best way to implement these

5. Have weekly team huddles to discuss progress against targets 

6. Incentivise your team to sign up more patients to your EPS, but also a preferred service group

7. Consider introducing wellbeing discussion groups for patients.

Engage your team

The key is for you to engage your team, who will then engage in a better way with your patients. In turn, this will help to build a loyal community who choose you, more often, for more products and services.

Teams and individuals need five attributes to be at the top of their game. Why don’t you score your team out of 10? Everyone needs to be at nine to improve loyalty and grow your business:

  • Drive?
  • Knowledge?
  • Skill?
  • Focus/plan?
  • Match-fit?
  • Average score?

This will help you to decide what steps to take first. But don’t delay – do it now.

Next steps

It’s time to decide whether you really do want to take your business to the next level. If you do, here are some tips to get you on your way.

Do something different if you want to change the outcomes you achieve now.

Try whatever appeals to you.

Your team can make a real difference. Ask them.


Barry Martin is general manager at Retail Performance Specialists

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