6. Set an example of how to treat your customers

November 25, 2015By 99 Ways to Make a Positive Difference in Your Pharmacy, Focus on the Pharmacy Front End Blog, Independent Pharmacy

by Angela Pinkstaff for our 99 Ways to Make a Positive Difference in Your Pharmacy series

Have you ever had a bad day? Have you ever locked your keys in the car, forgot to turn in a document with a deadline that can’t be extended, or gotten bad news about your health or the health of someone you love?

You have, have you? Me too.

The reality is, each of us and each of our customers are facing challenges just like this every single day. And much as we’d like to take all the time as we need to sort out these issues, we still need to leave the house and pick up our much-needed personal care products, prescription medications, or home health aids. That’s where the service we provide to our patients, customers, and clients can make such a difference in their daily lives.

Imagine the morning your patient has had as she tries to find the curcumin supplement her physician has just recommended. She’s new to taking anything other than a multivitamin and a joint health supplement. Everything is starting to look the same on the shelf and she’s exhausted already from a long, difficult day managing her healthcare appointments. How can you improve her afternoon and take some of that stress away? How can guide your staff to spend two extra minutes with a customer that will leave a lasting impression and ensure repeat business?your customer service approach

Here are a few suggestions for small tweaks to your customer service approach that may help both your patients and your staff:

  • Tune in. Have you noticed how many people wear headphones in public places these days? That’s what bad customer service feels like, as though everyone is listening to something else and you’re on the outside waiting to be heard. Listen and watch your patients. Observe body language. Listen for their verbal frustrations. Ask them questions: How has your day been so far? Are you finding what you’re looking for? Has my explanation helped you or can I provide more details?
  • Open up. Sometimes a non-verbal gesture goes a long way. Open your hands in front of your body so that your palms are up, or gesture toward the shelf. Addressing customers while holding a box full of product indicates that you’re already busy doing something else; having your hands in your pockets or across your chest can be interpreted as reserved or defensive.
  • Avoid the drive by.  If you’re speed walking past the aisles and see a shopper in Pain Relief, lofting a non-committal “Can I help you?” from three rows over isn’t going to be taken as a genuine offer. Slow down and consider making a suggestion to the patient for the products he’s reviewing, such as, I’ve used this topical analgesic and it worked very well. I’ve recommended it to a few patients who have given great feedback on it. Is there a specific type of Pain Relief item you’d like more information on?
  • Resist being the Wizard of Oz. I can’t count the number of times I’ve walked into a local shop and a headless voice has mumbled “Need anything?” from the back recesses behind the counter. Who said that? Where did it come from? Put a face to the voice. Walk out to the front-end and give a sincere hello when you can.
  • Meet your patients where they are. I admit it: sometimes I have no idea why I’m in an aisle just staring at toothpaste. Other times I can’t get there fast enough to make my selection and get out the door. People shop for different reasons. Give them permission to do so. “Can I help you locate an item or are you just enjoying a little shopping time?” Those who need help will let you know. The others who are decompressing with some retail therapy in the OTCs will appreciate not feeling rushed to make a purchase – and they might make a few extras if they feel welcomed to browse a little longer.
  • Empathize, empathize, empathize.  Your patient is the person who locked her keys in the car, who missed a deadline, who just got bad news. She may be struggling with the daily responsibilities of managing her home, health, workload and family. Her life is probably not unlike yours in many ways, and knowing this, you can meet her halfway.  Acknowledge frustrations; lend an ear. Two minutes of human interaction can do wonders!

Customer service is more than getting the right item into the hands of your patients. It’s also about everything else besides that item, about everything that money can’t buy from the shelf.

Angela Pinkstaff


Angela leads the business development team in their efforts to build relationships with manufacturer clients across the health, beauty and wellness categories. In addition, she develops and implements strategic partnerships with clients to create growth and revenue in the retail and wholesale channels.

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