If you were to ask what makes a great community pharmacy business, you may receive answers that point to things like the numbers of prescriptions dispensed per month, or the plethora of additional services on offer, or maybe even the speedy service or the home delivery.

These are all important of course, but it’s much more than that. If you’re a pharmacy owner or an employee in a pharmacy, you’ll know that the reason why your business thrives and patients keep coming back to you time and time again is the way you make them feel.

If you’ve been involved in the buying or selling of a pharmacy, you’ll know that the goodwill calculation of a business can go a long way towards securing a successful sale. And while many would describe pharmacy’s goodwill as running low or completely run out, quite frankly without it you won’t be in business for very long. In other words, it’s this that you must work on in order to become an exceptional business.

Over the past few months, almost all of the work I have undertaken both with pharmacists and with pharmacy owners has been around this key concept of developing and maintaining strong relationships. If you do this and do it consistently and with sincerity, something really amazing happens: you begin to understand what people need, you respond to those needs through more effective solutions and you serve your community in a more meaningful way.

It’s easy to focus on the numbers, with the aim of increasing the transactions in your pharmacy. You might think, we should go online and start an ecommerce arm of our pharmacy, perhaps we should offer more services? And while this is a natural place to gravitate towards because it’s measurable, if you take a moment to think about the reason why patients keep coming back to you, 99% of the time it will be rooted in their emotional connection with you and your staff and whether you’re meeting their specific needs not the fact that you’re online or not.

Another way to look at it is to think about what you like most about the companies you purchase from and what makes you loyal to them? It’s unlikely the number of items they sell or the size of their shop - walk into any Apple store and there is very little ‘product’ to look at, but there are lots of engaged and knowledgeable staff members talking to customers, understanding their needs and finding the perfect solution for them.  If a concerted effort is placed on this in your pharmacy it really can elevate your business from being a great one to an exceptional one. Focus on your patient experience, with the aim that they will leave your pharmacy feeling like they’ve been truly listened to, and they will become a lifelong customer.

The Serve More Model

How do you develop relationships in your pharmacy? I like to recommend what I call the Serve More Model. 

The common rhetoric when we talk about serving more in pharmacy is often ‘we’re yet again being asked to do more for less’. I want you to reframe this thinking.

More often than not, you’re not viewing things from the perspective of your customer, client or patient, but from the lens of your own past experiences. While this is completely natural, it's not necessarily the best way to look at it.

Having spent time in the health and wellness space and the startup world, it is perfectly normal to ‘lead with generosity,’ knowing that you might not make any real money for several months or even years before you become profitable. Leading with generosity means that you are prepared to give time or impart knowledge without the expectation of any immediate financial gain. So, the question is, what will leading with generosity net you if you’re not making an immediate financial gain?

The answer is new and fruitful relationships. Relationships that will reward you at some point in the future. This is the way we have to view our community, the community that walks through our doors, day in, day out.

But you can’t do this overnight: you have to work on one relationship at a time. Ensuring that every person leaves the pharmacy feeling confident and cared for is the key to creating an exceptional pharmacy business that will stand the test of time.

So, how do you go about building those relationships and elevating your business?

Implement the Serve More Model
  1. Active listening. When you engage with a person in your pharmacy, give them your full undivided attention. Actively listen, as if nothing else matters. It’s easier said than done, especially if you’re the responsible pharmacist and you’re required to have an ear on all the conversations in the pharmacy. But try your best to remain present to the person you are helping by maintaining eye contact and not responding to distractions. This simple act can have a really profound impact on the patient, and they will want to come back and visit you again because they will have felt heard.
  2. Create fans, not just customers. Aiming to fully support one person at a time will change their lives and in doing so they will in turn recommend others to your pharmacy. True fans are the ones who will stick by you no matter what happens to you, and this is what you want to seek to achieve with your community. When you do this, the number of people walking into your pharmacy is no longer your primary concern. You are focused solely on exceptional customer service for every single person every single time.
  3. Share successful customer stories - both in your pharmacy and on your social media platforms. Like attracts like: if you helped a patient with their adult eczema and their skin has cleared up and they now have a new-found confidence, then share their story. Pop it on your pharmacy screens or on a thank you board in your pharmacy. Post an image of it on your social media. Someone else with adult eczema may well see that story and relate, and instantly think of visiting you because they too want the transformation you helped achieve.

If you want to elevate your business from a good one to an exceptional one, start focusing on relationships and you will always have a thriving business.

Komal is a former national level pharmacist on a mission to help pharmacy professionals grow their impact on their communities. You can find her on LinkedIn.

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