Gary Paragpuri explains how pharmacy teams can benefit from a back-to-basics technique of taking a walk in their customers’ shoes…
How are you? It’s a question you will either ask, be asked or hear others asking countless times every day. But, even in a pharmacy setting, it’s one where the answer is not necessarily reflective of the whole truth.
Some people might be happy to give you chapter and verse on the specific details of everything that ails them, but plenty of others are more comfortable suppressing the raw honesty of a genuine response. Instead, you might get a cursory “Fine, thanks” to acknowledge the question but indicate there is no need to scratch further beneath the surface.
Appearance v reality
These situations are evidence that, quite often, what we say and what we mean are very different things. At various points and for a variety of reasons, every one of us will have used words and phrases that serve a purpose but don’t reflect our true feelings.
In a literal sense, statements such as “I’m fine”, “I get what you’re saying” or “You must come for dinner!” are absolutely clear, but confusion comes from the fact that the person uttering them actually means precisely the opposite.
And so it is with patients. For every “Fine, thanks” that you hear, it’s worth considering there is an unvarnished version that goes more along the lines of “Fine, thanks – apart from the fact that the kids were a nightmare on the school-run, I’ve got back-to-back Zoom meetings all day, an unexpected deadline to meet, and a window of precisely 13 minutes in which to grab something for dinner from the shop before picking up my elderly mother’s medicines from the pharmacy, which is just about to shut for lunch.”
Of course, as a key pillar in many communities, pharmacies and the people who work in them know their patients well, and maintaining relationships with people of all ages through the provision of professional healthcare services is at the heart of the sector’s purpose.
It is also true, however, that there are benefits in taking that understanding of customers and patients to the next level – in getting as close as possible to the emotions and forces influencing the behaviour of the people walking through the door every day. Being equipped with this deeper understanding means you are able to more closely tailor the services and experiences you provide to their exact wants and needs.
One method of achieving this is to give proper consideration to – or ideally experience – a day in the life of a customer. Sometimes abbreviated in management speak to the acronym DITLOC, this is a back-to-basics technique that forces you to see the world from the point of view of those who are most important to your business.
By stepping into their shoes, it enables business owners to uncover the specific challenges and pain points that customers might experience when using your services, while gaining insight into the wider context of how they feel when interacting with your business.
In pharmacy, the DITLOC approach can quickly reveal what life is like on the other side of the counter – good and bad. For example, it might serve to highlight the high standards of professional service but, at the same time, it might bring into sharp focus the levels of discomfort and anxiety that patients feel when having to wait for any length of time in a socially distanced queue when all they want is to grab their medicines and go.
The other aspect of the DITLOC is to imagine how the pain points uncovered as part of your experience could be enhanced by altering the pharmacy environment. What are the changes that could be implemented to improve the patient experience, build their loyalty and avoid the risk of losing them to rivals nearby?
Use of technology
The ability to offer ‘self-service’ medicine collection via the Pharmaself24 is something that our customers have found answers several of the challenges their customers face on a daily basis. And while it’s not uncommon to hear predictions that there will be some patients who “definitely won’t want to use technology like that”, in the overwhelming majority of cases, those patients are won round by its sheer convenience and ease of use.
Learning about supposedly surprising behaviour such as this is further evidence that we don’t always know what’s really going on beneath the surface with the people we meet. It’s only by truly opening our minds and putting ourselves in their shoes that we can start to imagine whether they’re really “fine” or whether we can do more to help.
Gary Paragpuri is CEO of Hub & Spoke Innovations Ltd.
The above article also appears in the November issue of Pharmacy Business.