Customer engagement – where do I start?

These days, when a customer enters a pharmacy they expect to be greeted by an experience they can’t get anywhere else, says John Koot.

If you don’t give them this experience, price will become the driver of their behaviour. The way you and your team engages with your customers has a huge impact on whether or not they will remain loyal or take their business elsewhere.

Pharmacists often ask me where to start when it comes to improving customer engagement. I tell them, as with any change or initiative, that they first need to know where they want to go and what you want to achieve.

Consider what effective customer engagement looks like. Yelling across benches and counter displays, “Just be sure to have that one with food!” is not effective customer engagement. Neither is giving the good old pharmacist nod of approval when the assistant holds up an over the counter product and says, “She’s had it before and knows not more than eight per day – so is it okay?” These are not interactions you should take heed and learn from.

Knowing where you want to go and establishing some goals is all well and good, but you won’t get far without the right team behind you. Now it’s time for a culture check.

Culture is a powerful thing that can affect people positively or negatively and can have equally powerful repercussions for your business. Though it sounds obvious, effective communication and onboarding staff is rarely carried out effectively – if at all.

Make sure you involve your staff. Let them know exactly what you want them to do and, ultimately, make sure they are the right people with the right attitude. Staff that are disengaged, disinterested or do not enjoy a customer service based role are not likely to be the best advocates for your business.

Think about how that impacts on your customers and their impression of your pharmacy. Fostering a positive culture, where staff are enthusiastic about their work and their workplace, is a key starting point.

Once you have the right team behind you, you need to provide them with the right tools. You wouldn’t take a sports car four-wheel driving, so how can you expect your staff to effectively engage with customers when their working environment isn’t up to scratch?

Poor design equals poor engagement – and it doesn’t end with the service counters at the dispensary. What about the cluttered aisles, the confusing promotional messages in the front window, a consultation room that could be mistaken for a dumping ground, and that overloaded trolley blocking the entrance to your pharmacy?

A space like this isn’t conducive to any sort of customer engagement, let alone a reflection of your ability to provide the flu injections that scrappy looking poster in the window is promoting. Provide your staff with a professional workspace and see what a difference it makes.

If you get the environment right you’re a step closer to effective customer engagement, which in turn impacts the entire customer experience. Make your team feel like they work in a healthcare environment – and maybe they will begin to act that way.

For more from John Koot, catch his presentation ‘Connecting with the modern day pharmacy consumer’ at the Pharmacy Connect conference in Sydney on September 9.

About the author:

John Koot is the Managing Director of Willach Australasia. With more than 25 years of international senior management experience in retail and wholesale businesses, John is a passionate campaigner for the pharmacist to be more actively engaged with customers. His vision for pharmacy to be a health destination is founded on providing a unique and superior experience for pharmacy customers – achieved by leveraging the value of the pharmacist. Today, John continues to set the benchmark for customer engagement strategies, design and operating procedures in Australian retail pharmacy and through this role at Willach, acts as mentor and advisor across the industry.


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