Whether it’s an ice cream flavor, sports team, or route home from work, everyone picks favorites.
It didn’t take Bethany Cannon-Meadows very long to figure out that customers have favorite pharmacies.
“I’ve only spent a year and eight months in retail pharmacy, but in that time I’ve learned a lot about how to treat a customer,” said the pharmacy technician at Louis Morgan Drugs #4 in Longview, Texas.
The technician quickly learned there’s a difference between being just another body behind the counter and becoming a pharmacy professional customers ask for by name.
The difference is empathy.
“Empathy and patience are the tell-tale qualities of a special technician, one that really cares about their customers,” Ms. Cannon-Meadows said.
Here’s an example.
One of Ms. Cannon-Meadows’ regular customers is an elderly woman who has a daughter with down syndrome. This special needs patient sometimes has trouble expressing her medical needs. “As the mother gets older, and becomes less able to care for her special needs daughter, she worries that something tragic will happen,” Ms. Cannon-Meadows said.
“The mom gets worried and upset if her daughter doesn’t have her medications on time.” Ms. Cannon-Meadows understood that the mother’s frustration was not with her, but rather extended from feelings of not being able to help.
“As a technician with a long line of customers and tons of prescriptions to fill, it would be easy for me to lose my cool with a difficult patient,” she said. “Maybe that customer is just a rude person, but what’s more likely is that the patient is anxious, scared, or stressed about their condition or medication. I’ve been in a similar situation myself, so I can relate.”
Channeling calm through patience allows pharmacy staff to understand a customer’s point-of-view and find a solution that address the heart of the problem.
“I put her daughter’s prescription on an auto-refill plan, so our pharmacy would call them and let them know when it’s ready,” she said. As Ms. Cannon-Meadows observed firsthand, pharmacy customers can experience a range of emotions, from anxiety and fear to anger and frustration.
“Technicians must try to understand their customers’ background because when you empathize with your customer, it will become clear how to care for them,” said Ms. Cannon-Meadows. “Sometimes patients get short with pharmacy staff because they’re embarrassed, so an effective tech knows when to be discreet.”
Accordingly, Louis Morgan Drugs #4 purposefully built private areas for customers and pharmacy staff to have sensitive discussions about their medication. Once a patient feels secure, they will open up about their concerns and begin to ask questions, which is when the technician can be most helpful.
“Maybe the patient has never taken a certain medication before or they’re wondering why their doctor prescribed that medication in the first place,” Ms. Cannon-Meadows said. “Empathy reduces the stigma associated with certain drugs and ensures you never single out a patient.”
Pharmacy staff should want to know what “better” looks like to their patients.
“The secret is to pay close attention to what people say and how they say it,” Ms. Cannon-Meadows said.
“The trick is to treat your customers like family, because each customer is trusting you with their health - they are putting their lives in your hand,” she said. “I greet each returning customer by their first name. It’s important to have a personal relationship with your patients because they trust you with their health. Customers come into our pharmacy to pick up important medications that directly impact their well being; they need to talk about that medicine and often we’re the only people they can talk to about it - we’re more accessible than their doctors!”
Pharmacies that show up in their communities - regularly, consistently, and generously - are the ones who win. Revenue is not the primary focus for successful pharmacies. Rather, they focus on delivering extraordinary customer care.
“I know these people matter. They’re not just dollar signs at the cash register,” Ms. Cannon-Meadows said. Great pharmacy technicians understand that time, trust, and attention are precious resources. Stellar technicians earn customer loyalty by going above and beyond for their customers. Or as Ms. Cannon-Meadows put it: “I don’t just fill their prescriptions; I’m there to share in the special moments of their lives.”