Putting Customer Experience First – How Digital is Reshaping Pharmacies

Updated on May 18, 2023
Attractive middle-aged male pharmacist standing listening to a female patient in the pharmacy, over the shoulder view of his face

When you’re trying to figure out when and how you’ll get your prescriptions, the last thing most of us want to deal with is chatbots. Customers value speaking with pharmacy technicians on the phone. Through this, many feel that their needs are met in a more simple, personal way. 

Shifts within the healthcare industry in recent years have made this customer service an increasingly rare occurrence. Pharmacies, like many other businesses, are struggling with higher expenses and less staff. For many, prescription delays and setbacks have become business costs. This leads many customers to receive unsatisfactory or incomplete communication from their pharmacy about their prescription’s status. 

However, 39 percent of healthcare consumers say a good digital interaction has a big influence on their experience, according to a 2020 Accenture survey. Customers are looking for clear, individualized digital communication with their pharmacy that makes their life easier. 

The challenges–and opportunities—confronting pharmacies

There are many barriers to delivering this healthcare customer service fully, particularly in pharmacies. 

Many traditional pharmacies are struggling to balance their rising business costs and still provide quality customer service. They are feeling the weight of larger economic trends; including short staffing, increased labor costs, rising rent and overall inflation. Additionally, since COVID started, shortages have become a regular occurrence. However, when it comes to critical medications, customers need to know about delays and setbacks as soon as possible. 

This is why the pharmacy experience is ripe for a digital transformation. 

While some businesses accelerated their digital use because of the pandemic, others are beginning to transition to keep up with larger healthcare trends. Customers are increasingly seeking more convenience, control and customization within their healthcare experience. Digital health apps, wearable devices and telehealth have surged in popularity. Within the next three years, the digital health investments industry is projected to reach $650 billion. Today, nearly 80% of patients feel good about their providers using technology in their care experience.

This is not the only healthcare trend being driven by technology; e-pharmacy use is also increasing. According to Juniper Research, an estimated 1 billion healthcare consumers will use e-pharmacies to fill their prescriptions by 2027. Last year, 795,000 users were already purchasing their medications from an online pharmacy according to Juniper Research. These online services are increasingly being used by consumers for a more convenient and transparent process when it comes to getting their medications. 

How pharmacies can go digital  

There are a number of benefits for pharmacies that pursue digital transformation. Communication with customers is strengthened, with real-time updates such as medication delivery estimates being provided to customers. Second, customers can pick the best method of communication for them, whether it’s by phone call, email or text message. Third, customers can get their prescriptions more quickly. What does it take to achieve these advantages?

1. Manage customers’ expectations

Delays happen sometimes. Instead of hiding behind them, proactively communicate with customers that their medication may take longer to get to them than expected. Data shows this transparency goes a long way with customer satisfaction. Seventy-nine percent of Americans expect a more engagement with pharmacy staff when their order is disrupted, with 91% saying a good customer service makes delays acceptable. Customers are increasingly seeking out pharmacies that maintain transparency about what they can and can not deliver. Maintaining that information loop with customers has never been more important.

2. Empower customers to decide

Encourage customers to pick how they want to receive their medication, whether it’s at their neighborhood pharmacy or their mailbox. Some might register for an online healthcare service online and decide they want to pick it up in store. In that case, reach out to them directly to walk them through how to complete it or to complete it for them. When pharmacies combine technology and well-trained staff, communication pain points with customers are removed and client relationships become stronger. 

3. Establish personal connections

Each customer is unique. Our approach to them can not be one size fits all. It is important to understand that each individual has different health needs, histories, and goals for their customer service. Delivering quality care is about getting to know your customers and the services that will best support their health goals. The data produced by incorporating technology makes this process easier for pharmacy staff. It helps them to understand customers better across channels, and to react in real-time to changes in preference, behavior and health status.

It’s time for pharmacies to think outside of the box store for their customers. It’s go digital or go home, which is exactly where their customers want to be. Efficiently communicate with customers and offer excellent customer experience by adapting to the digital space today.

Lawrence Margolis is CEO at PersonalRX.
Lawrence Margolis

Lawrence Margolis is CEO at PersonalRX.