As it appeared in the daily nation of June 23rd 2015
Once in a while, I run errands refilling my mom’s prescriptions. I often wish some Pharmacies would do home delivery or even allow a re-order on phone, on email or online for collection at a convenient location. I have had varied experiences with different pharmacies some located at hospitals, others at malls, others at the Nairobi Central Business District and even some upcountry. What has been evident is that there is nothing outstanding about the level of customer interaction at most pharmacies. Worse still is that none of the pharmacies I have ever interacted with has a system of capturing the prescriptions for ease of reordering.
Reordering is not the only concern; many of the front line staff at the pharmacies seem uninterested. Why do they not show any sign of empathy? Do they understand that most of their customers or patients are not at their best? Why don’t they give adequate information? Why don’t they know their customers? Why don’t they keep track of their customers? Why do they dispense prescription medicine without a prescription? Is everyone in a white lab coat at a pharmacy a real pharmacist? Do they really care about serving their customers in a way that they would want to come back? I have had these questions going through my mind.
Every time I visit a pharmacy, I watch the staff interact with the customers. In some instances the interactions at a neighbourhood Kiosk may be much better. If you ask for bread, many kiosk owners will give options. If you ask for a multivitamin at a busy pharmacy they may not take time to explain the various options available. I remember one time missing one of mom’s medications, fortunately though the cost was negligible and I did not follow through. When I mentioned to the staff at the next visit, he brushed it off. I bet the Kiosk owner would have noticed this.
Most customers visit the pharmacies at vulnerable times. Some are straight from the doctor, a diagnosis has just been made and emotions are high. Such customers are in need of empathy. Empathy is simply the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. Several studies show that empathy is a powerful, efficient communication tool when used during patient interactions not only in hospitals but also at pharmacies. I wish the staff at Pharmacies would pause for a second to imagine how the patient might be feeling and care a little more.
It is widely recognized that there is a higher cost of bringing in new customers compared to retaining existing ones. Retaining existing customers significantly improves business performance. Sometimes I wish we had a major retailer who runs a chain of well stocked, well run pharmacies and conveniently located pharmacies and who makes it easy for every Kenyan in need of refills to order painlessly. If you have ever interacted with CVs or Walgreens both based in the USA you know what I am talking about. I do hope that one day refills for millions of Kenyans on medication will be as easy as 123 and that pharmacies would be more interested in their customers.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer and can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org/old or via twitter @kiruthulucy