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Industry Voices

Your in-store pharmacist isn’t just a pill counter!

Retail food stores are missing a huge opportunity to drive loyalty with repeat customer interactions and sales as a result of thinking about the pharmacy as only a place to fill prescriptions. Retailers are so caught up in the cost of operating a pharmacy and the cost of the actual pharmacists that the idea of allowing them on the sales floor to actually interface with existing customers is just too foreign an idea to swallow. When will we get past the sales per man hour conversations in our heads…or in this case, the scripts per man hour?

For years, my friends in pharmacy have been telling me that they (pharmacists) don’t go to school to learn how to count pills! Imagine that, they actually go to school to join the medical field profession and to help fellow human beings live longer, better, and healthier lives. To this day, pharmacists are still the top recognized trusted professional. When was the last time you went in and spoke to a pharmacist and didn’t believe them? When was the last time a pharmacist recommended to you an over the counter product that you didn’t buy (without even looking at the price)? The answer is never. We always believe what the pharmacist tells us.

Pharmacists are a gold mine for driving more profitable sales each and every day — that is, if we let them. Pharmacists, even more so than nutritionists, are far better prepared and educated to discuss current health issues with our customers while on the sales floor, not just standing behind the pharmacy counters. Offering suggestions on what over the counter products can be combined with current prescriptions. Recommending food options for healthier diets, while selling fresh produce, wheat free products that also taste good. They can also give counsel on exercise.

Engaging in conversations around a health plan or insuring that our prescription customers actually take the full dose of the prescription. All of these opportunities create relationships with our customers that drive far more customer loyalty (and probably far cheaper) than any marketing exercises we’ve engaged in.

It’s a rare day that I see pharmacists on the retail sales floor with customers. But when I have, it’s usually in Giant Eagle food stores, Wegman’s, or H-E-B. Imagine that, food retailers who take customer engagement pretty darn seriously and know that they will drive more business (more profitable business) through customer engagement and interaction — offering services (like actually speaking to a “live” Pharmacist) that won’t be duplicated in most retail food stores.

All you have to do is figure out how to track sales produced by the interaction with our pharmacists. Because the UPC isn’t easily traced whether it’s sold on the sale floor by a pharmacist or without the pharmacist, we as food retailers tend to give up. It’s hard to do. But, it can be done. A little data would show just how much more we could sell and how much more loyalty we’d grow with a few hours of the pharmacists’ time scheduled to sell more. It’s not a manufacturing department. It can be a selling department.

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