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How to build customer trust

Retail & Merchandising

How to build customer trust

Trust is hard to gain, but easy to lose. Building trust and loyalty is most often the result of sustained positive customer experiences delivered on every occasion by all the pharmacy team.

Owning an independent community pharmacy means you don’t have the resources and backing of a national chain, and so you don’t benefit from frequent TV advertising campaigns, national leaflet drops or decades of brand loyalty that are enjoyed by larger entities.

You have to build that trust. You will have plenty of customers who love you already, but could you have more? Make gaining trust a fundamental building block for your community pharmacy – trusting in you means customers will choose your products and services over others, even if their current pharmacy is more convenient and has a larger marketing budget.

Many potential customers do not see much difference between you and the multiples, despite your excellent service, and mainly choose their pharmacy based solely on convenience. To change that mindset, and leverage the trust you already engender, you need to focus on the following:

  • Who to target?
  • The dramatic difference
  • Simple starters – treat everyone like your mum
  • The law of expectancy
  • Trust framework
  • Standards
  • Customer journey
  • Persuasion and influence.

Who to target?

Many businesses waste their time giving their loyal customers even better service, but they aren’t the ones who need it, because they love you already. The key is getting those who do not know you well enough to love you, such as new or infrequent customers.

How do you start this process? First, make sure you and your team treat everyone as if they are part of your family – it works. Make this a routine and check it happens every time.

When identifying target customers, look to understand why they need your products and services. For example, their reasons could include:

  • “My pharmacist is the best for my condition”
  • “Every time I visit they remind me of things that I might have had to go elsewhere for”
  • “They always have time and put me at ease”
  • “I know I can go back any time to ask further questions or get clarification.”

Do you know why your customers come to you?

The dramatic difference

The difference that your pharmacy offers has to be significant enough for customers to deliberately choose you and to say, “I am going to my trusted pharmacist.” Some pharmacies already achieve this type of loyalty. For example, one pharmacy that exhibits this best practice dispenses about 56 per cent of the scripts in the area, despite having only 20 per cent of the prime locations.

While the difference you provide has to be sufficiently dramatic to be noticed, it also has to be of use to customers – 68 per cent of people who do not return to a business say it is because the retailer did not care enough about them. Consider how “dramatic” or noticeable the service is that you give to customers and whether it is enough for them to recommend you to their family. Get this right and the difference will be measurable.

To become “my trusted pharmacy” and take the largest share of pharmacy business in your area, ask yourself the following questions:

  • What do I have to be?
  • What do I have to do?
  • What do my patients have to experience?

Mum’s the word

It is critical that every patient receives a personal experience from you, including new or infrequent customers.

1. Treat the person, not the ailment. What else might they need to make their life easier? Take their individual circumstances into account. If they are a mum or have a condition such as diabetes or hypertension, for example, consider what product or service you can offer to help them

2. Useful reminders. Offer a helpful shopping list of things that people often forget

3. Give reasons for customers to return or to recommend you. Introduce services, products or treatments for next time

4. Provide genuine, personal care, use notes to follow up and check how the treatment you recommended or provided is going.

The law of expectancy

All pharmacists and healthcare professionals are aware of the law of expectancy: it is similar to the placebo effect. The power of expectation in influencing behaviour is remarkable. For example, our expectations and behaviour differ entering a five-star hotel compared to visiting a two-star hotel.

What can we learn from this? You need to create an experience and build expectation with more of your patients through delivering a consistently dramatic (and noticeable) difference.

Creating a trust framework

Research into consumer trust has identified five key elements crucial to building a business that ensures customers will choose you over the competition. This model is called the RATER model:

Reliability – consistently deliver all aspects of the expected service
Assurance – you know what you’re talking about and can reassure me in a language I understand
Tangible – the standards of the people and the shopping environment reinforce the message of quality
Empathy – you take time to understand my values, needs and wishes
Responsiveness – you find solutions for me and help me on my terms.

The RAT elements are the essentials, whereas the ER elements help to differentiate us and, importantly, they influence customer choices.

Setting standards

Set out the standards and best practice you need to ensure each of your customers has a dramatically different experience, sufficient for them to choose you over convenience. Make sure your pharmacy team are aware of these standards and adhere to them at all times.

Create a customer journey

The trust framework is integral to the customer journey. Create the ideal experience that you want your customers to have, and your team to deliver, and then practise it until it becomes the new way of working.

The customer journey should cover the basics and the flow of conversation you want every customer to experience to set the level of expectation you intend.

Create your journey based on what your best people do already, and discuss this with your team. A list of headings is a great way to start such a session. For example, “Acknowledgment”, “Personal chat”, “Discover and understanding”, “Choices and/or recommending”, “Deciding and buying”, “Leaving a lasting impression” and “Giving reasons to return”.

Persuasion and influence

Everyone in your business is responsible for the customer experience, because you want all your customers to:
1. Buy from you
2. Spend more with you as a percentage of their weekly spend
3. Purchase repeatedly
4. Recommend your products and services.

There are many proven persuaders that influence buying decisions. Most of us have no idea what motivates us to buy, but often our partners know better, because they see what we do but are not emotionally connected to our buying behaviours.

Do one more thing

Dennis Reid of Retail Performance Specialists is a retail specialist who helps companies increase sales, performance and profitability. He has more than 35 years’ experience and has worked with major companies including Nike, Gucci, Nokia and Marks & Spencer.

He now works with community pharmacies to deliver the Pharmacy Growth Programme, and is so confident in the team’s expertise that the company is guaranteeing a 10-fold return on investment over 18 months or your fee returned.

To explore how the Pharmacy Growth Programme could benefit your business, call Andrew Reid on 01344 849397, or email

Techniques to build loyalty

There are a number of components to building trust and loyalty. They include:

Reciprocity – the law of the favour. If you help your customers, they will want to return the favour. Give them something useful for free, such as advice. A free pen doesn’t cut it (unless, of course, it’s a pen they need).
Expectancy – talk to your customers and express an interest to encourage them to raise their expectations of a personal service. Give guarantees or genuine promises. “We will review your medicines monthly. Which week would suit you best?”
Dramatic difference – you have a wonderful opportunity to build personal service to a level that it would take years for a chain to achieve. Make it happen.
Popular – people like affirmation that they are making a good decision. Let them know when you are offering a bestseller or top brand. “We sell more of these than any other.”
Social proof – we all love people like us. Tell customers when people like them choose something. “People who like natural remedies choose this; people with this condition appreciate XYZ.”

Finally, remember these two golden rules:
Rule 1. The customer always comes first.
Rule 2. When you are too busy dispensing, or on a break, read Rule 1: If your mum came in and you were busy, you would still say hello and tell her how long you would be.

Building for the future

Many things can give you a dramatic difference, including ranging, stock control, merchandising, promotions, ease of navigation and flow. But the best place to start is to put the customer first and build trust, ensuring that you can compete in a crowded marketplace in these challenging times.



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Retail & Merchandising