Customer Service

Do You Know What Costco Pharmacy Doesn’t About the Lifetime Value of a Customer?

February 9, 2015

I’m writing this as I’m waiting for a flu shot at a Costco pharmacy. And waiting. And waiting.

Like a dry cleaner, healthcare providers have to screw up to lose a customer’s loyalty. Dry cleaners know that once they attract a customer, it’s extremely likely that he or she will continue to patronize the store for years unless the dry cleaner does something to wreck the relationship. Like break the buttons on your shirts two weeks in a row.

It’s all about customer satisfaction.

But the larger the organization is, the lower the overall buy in-to customer satisfaction. The more removed someone is from the bottom line, the less the loss of any single customer is perceived to cost him or her. The employee, or so he thinks, will continue to collect a paycheck and, maybe, just maybe, get measured by his “efficiency,” such as, in the case of a chain store pharmacy, the number of pills the employee pushes out the door each month.

Compare a big box pharmacy with one owned by an independent pharmacist. The independent pharmacist knows that she profits from filling more prescriptions but she also knows that without a customer there are no prescriptions to fill. And, very importantly, even at a $13 profit on the average prescription transaction, if the customer has a family of 4 whose scripts she also fills, the customer is worth at least several thousand dollars in profit over a four or five year period.

So what’s this mean for you?

Done right, a customer isn’t a discrete transaction. Instead it’s a long term relationship with a lifetime value. And, it’s the same if your “customer” is a patient, a referral source, or a hospital . . . or anyone or anything else. Appreciate the value of that lifetime relationship. It highlights the essential fact that you can invest far more than you thought in money and in interaction to create and nurture it.

It’s easier for smaller competitors to compete for business that depends on a relationship than it is for larger ones.  And, all business depends on relationships. So if your practice or business is small, take advantage of it. Develop deep and lasting relationships.

If you’re the leader of a larger organization, be afraid of what you don’t consider to be your competition. There might be economies of scale in terms of purchasing and administration, but customer service is one at a time. Make sure that your hiring focuses on the skills required for customer satisfaction, train for it, fire for lack of it, and reward those who deliver it, not only for how many pills they push out the door or how many billing units they generate.

I’m still waiting for that flu shot. And I’m about to Google for another pharmacy.

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