The four rules of customer engagement in pharmacy

In the face of today’s ruthless challenges, that are happening at the speed of light, pharmacies have had to impulsively adapt in order to reduce their losses.
Napoleon was asked why he was viewed as such a great strategist. His said, “We engage and then we see.”

Sadly, most pharmacy teams are disengaged from their work, they’re only there for the pay-check. On the other hand; many owners and managers are too preoccupied with running their business instead of developing their teams’ skills.

We all know that pharmacies used to primarily derive a large proportion of their net profit from dispensing prescription medication, with a smaller proportion derived from front-of-store operations. This dependency on prescriptions prevented many pharmacies from adequately training their teams in other parameters within the pharmacy. Now, with the effects of the harsh reforms in full swing, what was a relatively easy profit that didn’t need major selling and communication skills has significantly been reduced, in response the compensation needed to come from the front of store, the section that has been neglected over the years, has resulted in savage price wars and the pressure to up-sell to customers and shove the sales pill down the customers throat.

This immense wound that bleeds over $90,000 of pure profit every year, has created pharmacy anaemia, and we all know the signs and symptoms of anaemia, extreme fatigue, pale skin, weakness, shortness of breath, chest pain, frequent infections, headaches, dizziness and lightheadedness.

Do these feelings sound familiar within your pharmacy? Does your team show signs of fatigue through lack of drive? Do they need to be constantly pushed to do things? Are they infected with the dis-engaged virus? Do you get headaches constantly having to administer transfusions to boost their productivity?  Does your team always call in sick?

The point is that when someone is anaemic, they usually go to the pharmacy and are given treatments to effectively compensate the losses and increase the patients iron levels, which helps increase blood cells, boost energy levels and bolsters the bodies immunity. On the other hand, I have never heard a pharmacist advise their customer to cut off their limbs so that more blood can go to their vital organs.

On the contrary, when our pharmacies are bleeding due to reforms, price wars and rising overheads, we cut staff numbers, cut down our prices, cut down the quality of our service, cut down our ability to manage our time due to less staff and cut down our teams livelihood and energy levels due to higher pressures. So, Why do we amputate our limbs when we advise our customers not to?

Our self-made rules of engagement have inflicted damage to the reputation of one of the most respected professions in the world. The annual Australian Readers Digest Most Trusted Professions survey for 2014 reveals that pharmacists are ranked at seventh place, once upon a time pharmacists were ranked as number one. Our retailer mentality has commoditised people’s health and as a consequence lost their trust.

Enough is enough my dear friends, too many lives have been lost,there have been more pharmacy bankruptcies in the past three years than there has ever been in the whole history of Australian pharmacy. If we continue this price driven war, we are fighting a losing battle… all of us!

It’s time to devise a new set of rules of engagement called, “Customer Engagement”.

Rule of engagement number 1:


We need to believe that we are up to the challenge. No one can change what is in a pharmacy, team, customers or community unless they change on an individual level. As Michael Jackson said in his song Man in the mirror: “I’m starting with the man in the mirror, I’m asking him to change his ways, no message could have been any clearer, if you wanna make the world a better place, take a look at yourself and make that change”.

Rule of engagement number 2:

 Create your purpose.

Imagine a pharmacy team whose soul purpose is to wake up every morning inspired to touch people’s lives with empathy and trust, so that each individual life is valued.

With absolute conviction in my heart. By clearly defining your purpose on what you stand for in life, you  will change the way you lead your team, customers and community, you become a true leader that inspires others to think and act like you do, that sense of purpose in supporting others selflessly, is in itself the greatest sales and marketing tool any pharmacy can ever create if done with sincerity.

N.B: If you are interested in finding your purpose, I have a valuable exercise that has profoundly changed even the most seasoned sceptics. Please let me know if you are interested by leaving a comment in the comments section and I will get in touch, it is my greatest pleasure to support you in every way.

Rule of engagement number 3:


People’s lives have no price tag, so as a pharmacy profession we need to unite in the cause of making our lives and the lives of others better. Like any tightly knit team in the world, who all wear the same uniform and have the same signature on their pay-check… we must all unite in our mission, to put each individual in our community first and advance in the cause of health and wellbeing for our community, our nation… our world.

Rule of engagement number 4:


Napoleon based his success during battles on engaging first and then evaluating the results. Like Napoleon, we are at war. At war with the deep urge to survive and grow our pharmacies to higher levels of growth and prosperity despite the never ending barrage of fire thrown at us from the likes of the PBS reforms, supermarkets, other pharmacies, news agencies, wholesalers, rent, wages etc… We have all tried the discount tactics and the only way you have a return customer is if you are ‘always the lowest price’.

So why? Why compete on price in a world full of low prices? It’s time to engage in different tactics, engage with your customers. Even though it is easier to drop prices and bleed profits, engaging with compassion, trust, empathy and sincerity to improve the health of your customers and their loved ones is what creates sincere customer loyalty, this means that your customer will not buy from a cheaper place, because they see value beyond the few cents or dollars they are going to save. We must have a sincere desire to serve others and look beyond money to make more money. So engage with your customers remembering that loyalty is like a marriage, couples don’t usually say we are going to get married the first day they meet, it takes quality time to understand each other and build feelings of trust, respect, empathy, sacrifice and joy in order to walk down the aisle and say, I do. Customer loyalty isn’t any different, be patient and the results will come, like Napoleon, you need to engage with your customers first then see.

In conclusion, with the growing number of pharmacies in negative growth and record bankruptcies, it seems that the tactics of discounting in tough times to entice customers through the doors is showing very harsh side effects. What we need to understand is that pharmacy differs from supermarkets and other retail stores because we directly deal with the most valuable asset any human being possesses and that is life. Health and life are interlinked, if health is compromised then life is compromised. With this in mind, pharmacy has an amazing ability to touch people’s hearts through sincere customer engagement and care. Dig deep, believe in your abilities and find your purpose in life, filter it through your team and lead them to become motivated to wake up every morning inspired to touch people’s lives so that they can make their mark in the community.  

2 responses to “The four rules of customer engagement in pharmacy”

  1. I wonder what role the emergence of “marketing groups” has had on disengagement? Has it been an easy option to hand the opportunity to engage, over to a person brilliantly trained in Coca Cola and used car tyres, but not able to understand the role of the pharmacist? Has the pharmacist “dropped the ball” in the game of engagement?

    • I appreciate your valued comment Gerald.
      The retail disease has given rise to the pursuit of financial gains where we see organisations such as banks robbing their customers even though they have credo’s and missions you would think were an extension of a holy book.
      Gerald, we live in the era of the bottom line, an infection so strong it has manipulated the minds of governments, business, not for profit organisations and is spreading faster and stronger than any disease seen on the face of this earth.
      Its’ symptoms are a degeneration of the backbone of moral cultures accompanied with the pain of neglecting societies, this will and has started to lead to a community up-rising where people don’t want to be seen as numbers anymore and would rather be seen as humans.
      With pharmacies having to juggle reforms, rising overhead costs, rent, wages, stock…. they haven’t just dropped one ball, they are dropping many balls.
      How can pharmacies sincerely engage with customers when they are having to relieve staff due to significant losses? and Has the governments’ reforms thrown a heavy medicine ball to the juggler instead of a tennis ball?
      I would love to know your views and the readers views about this topic.
      Thank you Gerald

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