Maintaining quality in practice

Delivering and maintaining high-quality service is vital to building trust and loyalty among customers. But how does the independent pharmacist stay on top of standards during busy periods and unforeseen events? Warman-Freed Pharmacy shares how it handles this challenging issue

Delivering the highest standards is nowhere more important than in consumer healthcare, where offering quality services and products can help to improve the overall health and wellbeing of customers. The World Health Organization defines quality as “the extent to which healthcare services provided to individuals and patient populations improve desired health outcomes”.

“For me, quality is centred around providing a customer-focused service and products that meet the needs of individuals,” says Farah Ali, general manager at Warman-Freed, Perrigo’s learning pharmacy. “By looking at what we do and keeping in mind the factors that drive quality, we are able to ensure what we do will be valued by our customers.”

In the detail

Ms Ali says she measures the quality of service provided by her team against three factors – the interaction between customers and staff, the products being offered, and the level of service and advice given to customers.

Warman-Freed provides a robust training programme on key areas such as customer service, contrasting good and poor examples of quality service so that staff are able to recognise best practice and apply this when speaking with customers. In addition, staff are also regularly informed of new and upcoming developments in the healthcare sector and given regular training opportunities to enable them to better handle queries from customers.

“Pharmacy is an environment that is highly reactive, so ensuring staff are updated on local, national and international health concerns is really important,” says Ms Ali. “For example, during the zika virus outbreak last year, we kept up to date with the latest developments so we could support customers with the right information and ensure they had confidence in the quality of advice we were giving them.”

Keeping the pharmacy clean, tidy and well merchandised in order to improve customers’ overall experience during their visit is also an important part of the quality mix. “Quality is not only what can be seen, but also what people can hear, feel and experience,” says Ms Ali.

“By understanding our community, we have been able to centre the pharmacy around their needs, such as making aisles wide enough for buggies and a large private waiting area, offering customer-specific products and cleanly merchandised ranges to make selection easier.”

Expect the unexpected

Unforeseen circumstances such as medicine shortages, supply issues and staff sick days can prove challenging when it comes to maintaining standards. “There are things that we may have to prioritise during difficult situations or when the pressure mounts due to low staff levels, health scares, failure of deliveries or other events,” says Ms Ali.

“However, one of the key things that should remain a high priority is the quality of service and advice that we provide as a pharmacy.”

Ms Ali says any issues that may potentially affect service are communicated with the team and customers as early as possible to ensure they are fully aware of the situation. Staff have also received additional training in handling delivery failures and how to manage queues and waiting times to ensure customers continue to receive excellent service during difficult trading periods.

“Quality is about delivering efficient, safe and appropriate service and products, so it is crucial that quality remains at the forefront of our minds,” says Ms Ali. “Doing this means our roles are made easier and we have consistency, which is something that helps us to reduce stress in pressured situations.”

Supercharge your service

  • Communication is key when dealing with unexpected and unforeseen issues. Keeping your pharmacy team up to speed with the latest developments or healthcare challenges will help to avoid confusion during difficult situations

  • Training staff on how to prioritise work and handle difficult and busy trading periods will help to reduce stress and maintain efficiency in high-pressured situations – an important ‘softer’ skill

  • Learn from other retailers to see how you can improve your customer service. “As a manager, I look at other pharmacies and retailers to see what they have done on customer service and how we can adapt this to add value to our business,” says Ms Ali.

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