Hang on, they didn’t want the discount?
What do we take away from customers choosing the safety net ahead of the $1 co-payment discount?
Nothing. 12 combined pharmacies and Cincotta Discount Chemist (CDC) stores had almost all of their safety net customers choose to pay their pharmacist $6.20 rather than receive the $1 co-payment discount. These stores notably gave their customers something — an option to choose.
On February 29 pharmacy consultant Peter Feros told the Australian Journal of Pharmacy their Medicare safety net customers were identified and informed well before the 1st of January when the government’s co-payment first came into effect. After speaking with their pharmacists these customers decided to pay the pharmacy $6.20 instead of needing to fill 12 scripts to get the $1 discount and pay $5.20.
Customers are willing to learn more about their health benefits and options from their pharmacists. Surveys from Roy Morgan over 20 years highlight pharmacists remain in the top trusted professions across Australia alongside nurses, doctors and school teachers who respectively took out first, third and fourth spots in 2015’s results.
At second place it stands to reason that despite debates on how convenience ranks against professional advice, there will be situations where one will rank higher than the other. What is the thing that will make customers choose going out of their way to consult a professional over convenience?
From working closely with pharmacists for several years our insights show us it is when the pharmacist becomes more than just a white coat behind the counter. They become Sarah or John who got someone’s kids back to school sooner or a customer better use out of their asthma puffer because they knew which medicine would work best and the puffer needed a spacer for maximum benefit.
The expert education pharmacists can engage their customers in creates a minor ailment patient relationship that emphasises why pharmacists are among the most trusted professionals.
So when the combination of pharmacies found that nearly all of their safety net customers chose to pay the pharmacist the $6.20 and give up the discount, it was because those stores had surpassed the point where convenience is preferred to professional advice.
Consumer experience was the buzzword for 2015 businesses to focus on their consumers, but that doesn’t mean it’s outdated for pharmacy in 2016. Pharmacies are in the business of medicine and healthcare, however any business also has a similar primal need to humans — a fundamental need to survive.
The next logical question to ask beyond the script is what business do pharmacists need to be in to face industry challenges?
Pharmacists need to be in the business of sustaining the $1 co-payment discount, outperforming the competition of large discount chains and a growing resilience to changes that may come out of the Pharmacy Remuneration and Regulation Review. They need to engage as a team from within the pharmacy and collectively project to their customers options and benefits available to them.
Feros and CDC’s pharmacy examples are merely the first to reach public space and do not need to be the only case we read in the media. The more meaningful conversations are actively engaged in between pharmacists and customers the more loyal they will become from the experience of receiving a complete health solution every visit.