What makes customers loyal to a pharmacy?

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on August 1, 2001

Quite often, customer retention and customer acquisition programmes need to be different. Sometimes they are even mutually exclusive: discounted subscriptions to new subscribers do little for loyal, regular subscribers. Neither does deeply subsidising the price of handsets for new customers but then charging higher rates for calls. But one strategy that does help both acquisition and retention is to give customers what they really want.

Pharmacy is a sector that is seldom written about in the context of customer loyalty. That's why news of a new survey (the AmeriSource Index), released by US-based AmeriSource Health Corporation, caught my eye. The survey polled 1,022 consumers about a range of what they would like in a pharmacy.

It reveals that 56% of customers would, quite predictably, prefer pharmacies to be located next to doctors' surgeries. Shopping malls were a distant second - with 19% of respondents selecting this choice. Trailing behind were the internet (5%), office buildings (3%), health clubs and gyms (2%), and restaurants (1%).

Interestingly, while the internet has not made the difference that many predicted, its inroads have been quite significant. Clearly, most consumers still purchase prescription medicines through conventional channels: some 65% of respondents said they had not purchased medicines over the Internet and did not intend to do so in the future. These findings mirror the results from the first AmeriSource Index, conducted in May 2001. But that means the 35% - a significant proportion � have purchased medicines via the internet. That's a figure that bricks and mortar pharmacies cannot ignore.

With many pharmacies providing good high quality core services, the 'little bit extra' that could lead to building customer loyalty probably comes from additional services. And who better to ask about which are most useful that the customers themselves? In this survey,  nutrition information, dietary aids, vitamins and minerals topped the list of choices offered to respondents, with 21%  making this selection. Next were general health education programmes (15%), followed by diabetes prevention and treatment programmes (12%), health screenings (11%) and diet and weight loss information or programmes (10%). Cholesterol reduction information or programmes came in sixth place (7%), followed by pain management programmes (6%) and immunizations (5%).

Consumers were almost evenly split on whether they would be willing to pay a modest service fee for these special services. Some 49% said they would, while 48% said they would not.

When asked what offerings their pharmacies should add or expand, the top choice was literature or diagnostic information on diseases, with 28% selecting this option from a list of five choices. Vitamins and herbal medicines, however, also scored high, coming second, with 25% of respondents making this choice. Patient counselling services came in third at 23%. Film development and photocopying, and cosmetics trailed, at 8% and 3% respectively.

Of the factors that led them to select a particular pharmacy to fill most of their prescriptions, a convenient location was the top choice. Other than that, accepting an insurance card came next. Next were low prices and personalized service (sadly, near the bottom of the list!), which nearly tied, then trust.

When asked which type of pharmacy offers the best service, locally owned neighbourhood drugs stores just beat chains, 39% to 36%. Supermarkets were a distant third at 15%, with mass merchandisers far behind at 4%.

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