1. Be Personable
Kristi C. Torres, PharmD, pharmacist-in-charge at the Austin Diagnostic Clinic Pharmacy in Austin, TX, says pharmacists sometimes get so busy that they become almost automated.
“It’s so important to slow down and really listen to your patients,” she says. “They’ll often share quite a bit, both about health and personal issues. Make it a point to ask them about those things again later. When patients feel like you’re listening and paying attention to them, they feel a sense of loyalty to you as a health practitioner and a business.”
Keep your entire pharmacy staff engaged around the level of personal service you expect for your patients to receive. One staff member who is not on board with providing this level of service can drive away many patients. Provide positive reinforcement for the staff who meet this expectation, and quickly correct and reset expectations for any who fall short of exceptional service.
Torres has also had success improving loyalty by going that extra mile to do the little things, such as mailing or delivering prescriptions to those who can’t get to the pharmacy.
“I also let them know when I am aware of available savings on a prescription, such as through manufacturer rebate or copay programs,” she says. “When patients feel like you’re looking out for them as individuals, they feel a sense of loyalty to you and will continue choosing you as their pharmacist.”
2. Start a Conversation
Biermaas says one of the most effective ways a retail pharmacist can drive loyalty is by stepping out from behind the counter to speak with patients.
“Many customers are visiting to add OTC products to their basket, which is an opportune time to start engagement,” she says. “When shoppers see a pharmacist in their white coat out in the store, they feel more comfortable asking questions and seeking out help.” These interactions can help create a meaningful relationship with patients, and make a big impact on customer experience. They also encourage customers to visit the pharmacy in the future, and can give a boost to front-end sales.”
3. Use Technology
Michael Morgan, CEO of Updox, a healthcare technology company in Dublin, OH, says offering two-way text messaging and video connectivity with patients are among the best ways pharmacies can differentiate themselves and build loyalty with patients.
“In rural areas, where the closest pharmacy might be a 30-minute drive or more, pharmacists can counsel elderly patients on their medication use without them having to get their family to drive them to the store and wait in line,” he says.
“Similarly, for homebound patients, pharmacies can offer diabetes education or weight loss counseling via live video.”
These tech solutions can help pharmacies cut down on manual phone calls for refills, insurance card information, and other daily tasks, as well as expand their clinical and patient counseling services.
“Providers who are engaging patients online and using technology to offer flexibility, while also keeping the human touch, have the best opportunity to forge lasting consumer relationships and improve patient loyalty,” Morgan says.
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