Customer is King Business mantra that still rocks
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Customer is King
Business mantra that still rocks

Customers are habituated to flit from one shop to another just like butterflies flit among flowers in search for sweeter nectar. Hence, as a retailer, one should know how to attract customers and prevent them from going to other retailers, whose business is more about services rather than sales. This is because the sale is affected with doctor writing the prescription, and pharmacy is all about servicing that prescription. A pharmacy can just service the prescription among hundreds of competitors (chemists) in the area by virtue of having an edge over a few important determinants that help making a buying decision.

7 ways to woo customers
Following are seven ways in which a pharmacy could attract customers. However, one should keep in mind that these points are not one-time activities, but are a continuous process for retailers.

Importance to customer:
A customer continues to visit a particular retail not just because he/she gets a product or a service, but also because he is considered in high regard by the employees and is hence given much importance. This is especially essential in the case of 'mom and pop stores'.

Customers prefer to travel an extra mile if they trust a particular outlet or staff. Hence retailers should strive to build trust in the locality and should earn a reputation for being a genuine medicine & advice provider.

One should ensure that all medicines are readily available and if not, the retailer should arrange for the medicine to be procured & delivered to the customer when required.

Customer believes that the pharmacy staff is knowledgeable enough to serve him with the right kind of advice, both in case of availability and non-availability.

One should have an efficient staff to serve customers and the home delivery service is also beneficial. Response time and ease of delivery is very important and hence, retailers must strive to improvise on the same.

The retail should be easy to reach and also get a convenient parking place.

VAS and prices:
The last determinants in case of medicines are prices or discounts, as no customer would want to gamble with his own or the lives of his family members when it comes to buying medicines. However, taking into consideration the competitive environment and market scenario, a customer would always welcome some value-added services (VAS) or quantity-based or loyalty-based discounts. With changing times, discounts will also be a driver, but not the only one.

Know your customers
Every pharma retailer should identify the potential customers in that locality. There are long-term loyal customers in every business and every loyal customer should have a reason to come back and make a repeat purchase. There are basically three categories of customers - chronic, geriatric and acute. Acute customers are seasonal ones and those who complain of short-term ailments, while chronic customers are long-term customers. The self-coined acronym ABCDE stands for arthritis, blood pressure, cardiac problems & cancer, diabetes and epilepsy or elderly people. Geriatric customers are mostly under multiple therapies and it makes good business sense to service them well. In fact, if every pharmacy focuses on ABCDE, then there is no reason why a pharmacy would not do maximum profit in that area. Hence, it is best advised to pharmacists and other staff to interact more and know more about chronic & geriatric customers so as to establish a stronger bond with such customers.

Customer retention
Products contribute a more 20 per cent when it comes to customer development and retention. Hence, one would see that in an area where there might be 50 chemists, only one or two of them have a prosperous business. Medicine selling is not just about selling medicines; one has to care about customers before as well as after the prescription. One should also keep in mind that customers prefer doing business with people they like. And, creating this like in the minds of the customers depends on the employee's commitment & capability and the way one delivers the product.
It is important that every retailer should do an analysis as to why customers move away from his retail. Figure 2 illustrates a practical analysis of the reasons for customers to visit another pharmacy. It has been found that 68 per cent of the time customers move away due to dissatisfaction with the products and services.

Types of retails
There are always some retails that do roaring business - these are 'preferred' outlets. Customers prefer to visit these outlets rather than other ones. Following is the broad categorisation of the class of outlets in a locality or an area:

Available outlets:
This includes all outlets in the locality

Considered outlets:
The main driver here is the distance from the customer's residence or office that he considers for making his purchase

Acceptable outlets:
These outlets meets the basic criteria for a customer to step in like proximity, ambience and having the basics in place

Preferred outlets:
This is the outlet where the customer decides to buy his medicines from. It enjoys the success a retailer aspires for. The success depends on a few important factors like excellent service & availability of products besides being a trusted place for genuine merchandise

How to become a 'preferred' outlet?
The first and foremost step in the direction of becoming a preferred outlet is having the retail at an ideal location. Then, the starting point for building a bond with the customer begins the minute he enters the outlet. One can start on a good note with customer by opening the door for him with a smile and making him feel welcome. After the customer has entered the outlet or rather is nearing the counter, it would make him feel good if someone greets him again. Most of the 'preferred outlets' would be busy with queues. But one can at least, acknowledge the customer and gesture that he or she will be shortly attended to. This makes customer feel important. Now the customer would have lesser chances of escaping unnoticed, and it is likely that the customer would wait for his turn, as he has been given the importance he needs. While the product is being 'serviced', it is important to 'engage' the customers in some talk that is in their interest like ask about the customer's well-being, his family or children (it is assumed that the preferred outlet would know its customers well, directly or through his details popping on the screen through his loyalty card). One could also ask the customer why he was not around for a long time or about the scheme that was being run by the pharmacy for customers or any activity that is being planned by the retails. In this manner, the time between ordering and billing is used productively. If a commitment has been given for making some product available or for home delivery, one should always deliver in time or keep the customer informed well about its arrival well in advance. Once the billing is done, one should make a gesture that would make the customer feel comfortable enough to be back again to experience the 'Importance' he or she gets at the store. However, most retailers make the mistake of attracting new customers but taking the old customers for granted. In fact, there must be a clear and a well-defined strategy for customer retention and development. Both are equally important and communication is the key.

From passive to active service
For ensuring a knowledgeable and customer-centered staff, the senior management must take training mandatory and at regular intervals. It is sad to see that pharmacists have become glorified billing clerks in India - instead of interacting with customers they simply bill whatever is written in the prescription or asked by the customer. This is what one could term as 'passive customer service'. One has to keep the customers engaged and make it 'proactive customer service'. People usually say that they lost their business due to poor service, but the rule of the market is as simple as the law of energy - 'You can never lose business, it goes to someone else and thus, your loss is someone else's gain'. Hence, in order to avoid such a scenario, every retailer's goal should be delivering outstanding customer service, thus making the customer one's salesman