BOSTON — Supermarkets with pharmacies are outpacing chain drug stores by many important customer-service measures, according to data presented here by James Wilson, president, Wilson Health Information, New Hope, Pa., during the recent Pharmacy and Technology Conference of the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, Alexandria, Va.
For example, when asked, “How much do you trust your pharmacist as a source of information on medications,” 60% of those saying they chose a supermarket pharmacy most often said druggists in the food channel were most trusted, while chain drug registered 55%, and mass merchants 57%.
More supermarket customers have a personal relationship with their pharmacist, the study noted, with 16% saying they had a very close relationship, while 10% said they had such a relationship with drug chains, and 12% for mass merchants.
Customers saying they were satisfied with the counseling and advice from a pharmacist also registered higher at supermarkets, with 59% saying they were very satisfied, while 53% said they were very satisfied at chain drug stores, and 55% for mass merchants.
“Supermarket pharmacies have done a pretty nice job of satisfying the customer. The ones in particular that jump out — Kroger, Publix — are highly satisfying to their customers and compete well in those marketplaces,” Wilson told SN after his presentation.
“There's a commitment. I think the supermarket with pharmacies realizes that pharmacy can be a very valuable addition to the store mix, and also increase overall satisfaction,” he said.
In part, he noted, this can be attributed to supermarket pharmacies not being as busy as their chain drug counterparts, and the pharmacists having more time to spend with customers. However, the supermarket customers “were very highly satisfied with the advice they did receive from their pharmacists,” he said.
In the Wilson study, which was sponsored by the German pharmaceutical company Boehringer Ingelheim, independent drug stores generally ranked highest, with mail order at the bottom of the list.
Supermarkets were No. 2 in overall satisfaction with the professional services offered by the pharmacy; independent drug stores were No. 1, he said.
One area where supermarkets need to improve, Wilson said, is in taking advantage of convenience, especially stores that are open longer than the pharmacy department.
While food stores had the second-highest level of satisfaction with convenience — again second to independents — many customers find the pharmacy closed when they come to an otherwise open store. Offering the opportunity to call ahead to arrange for prescriptions to be ready, or installing the new prescription pick-up kiosks, could help alleviate this problem, Wilson said.
Supermarket pharmacy customers also were less satisfied with retailers' websites than other channels offering pharmacy, he said. “At least offer a website that is useful to help order refills; or a website to help manage prescriptions online maybe. Most people want help in saving money on their prescriptions. You want a website that is easy to use and that is useful for drug and health information,” Wilson said.
Overall, supermarkets are doing well in the pharmacy business, he said. “They are making the kind of commitment such that pharmacists can be the kind of professionals that they are trained to be, and I think they are creating that management environment,” he said.