A 2016 edition of Forefront featured the Pharmacy Guild of Australia’s Customer Experience Index (CEI).

The index found:

  • 98 per cent of customers said pharmacy staff respected their privacy
  • 97 per cent agreed that pharmacy staff understood their health conditions
  • 93 per cent of customers agreed that pharmacy staff ensured non-prescription medicine was safe for them
  • 95 per cent of customers agreed that pharmacy staff provided medicine information to support their health needs.
  • 96 per cent of customers reported that pharmacy staff offered assistance and asked questions to clarify their needs

Of course the Guild’s CEI is but one of numerous such barometers that can be checked over time throughout the industry press.  Interestingly enough, despite the variety of sources, sample sizes and methodologies employed, we see a consistency in results … Scores in the 90’s – often high 90’s tend to prevail.

Yet data collected by The Next Level, an independent pharmacy services provider, from more than 300 dispensary customer experience  studies over seven years, and across a very good cross-section of the industry tends to paint an alternative picture.

  • Average script customer dwell time = 5m 3s per visit;  OTC customers = 2m 23s
  • Only 53% of the script customer dwell time is spent engaged with staff; 80% for OTC customers
  • Of this 2m 23s script customer engagement duration, 2m 14s is invested reacting/responding/ fulfilling on demonstrable customer expectation, leaving only 12s <8%> for the staff member to pre-empt/proact in leading the conversation, to exceed customer expectations … 4s of this 12s  on average, is specifically dedicated to proactively attempt to sell an add-on in support of an appropriate, more complete solution
  • Of the 1m 55s OTC customer engagement, only 17s <15%> features pre-empting/proacting/exceeding expectations, as conversationally led by the staff member … 8s of this 17s on average is specifically dedicated to proactively attempt to sell an add-on in support of an appropriate, more complete solution
  • What industry averages do we see as a result of this DOMINANT react/respond mode of conversing with customers?
    • 34 s3/s2/unsched add-ons for every 100 script customer visits … ie around two out of three script customers leave with nothing more than the items the doctor prescribed
    • 120 s3/s2/unsched prod basket size for every 100 otc customer visits … ie little more than a one-to-one ratio, health product to customer
  • What do we see for the upper quintile performers?
    • At least  18s proactively educating and attempting to add-on <tailored, more complete solution> for the script customer…yielding at least 45 add-ons per 100 such customers…can go as high as 100 add-ons
    • At least 28s proactively educating and attempting to add-on <tailored, more complete solution>  for the OTC customer…yielding at least 135 non script health items per basket…can go as high as 190 items
  • But for these results to happen, we see…
    • Right people <white coats> in…
    • Right place <serving counters, ie script in; script out; OTC counters…not over the back processing>, at…
    • Right time… NOT the current reality which shows that with 55% frequency, a pharmacist does the processing over the back – TOO HIGH; 63% of scripts are handed back by pharmacist – TOO LOW; 46% of OTC customers are served by pharmacist – TOO LOW , doing…
    • Right things…NOT the current reality which shows that with only 51% frequency script customers are educated/reminded on how to take their meds properly at script out counter … Only 54% frequency at OTC
      • “right things” should be leveraging reactive/responsive conversation to springboard into prompting/proacting conversation…challenging and teaching the customers things they don’t know about their health and well-being in relation to their condition/s…providing a more complete product/service/advice solution

So, how do we reconcile the fantastic customer satisfaction scores we often see with barometers like the CEI, against the confronting scores produced  via independent workflow and customer experience observational audit.  It is all to do with conditioning.  For decades, the Australian retail pharmacy consumer has been conditioned that the staff activity and behavioural scores exemplified above equate to the very high customer experience scores evinced in the CEI.  There are simply not enough pharmacies doing it fundamentally differently to cause a reconditioning across the board.

Disruptors love this sort of disconnect, because they come into a mature market and show customers a new way, thereby highlighting the disconnect between mediocre service  which had been associated with high customer service satisfaction, due to long-standing paradigms in which customers are conditioned.  CWH et al have successfully executed this sort of disruption based on price …. Who will do it on service?   And when?


*Please note: Since the video was filmed the figures above have been updated for 2019.