Independent pharmacies show why they top in customer service

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — Anyone who has ever managed a retail operation at the store level knows — perception is reality.

(THE NEWS: Independent pharmacies earn top scores from Consumer Reports readers. For the full story, click here.)

And the perception among Consumer Reports readers is that the little mom and pops do pharmacy better than the big chain stores do. That’s nothing new. What is interesting to note is the way they perceive some of the country’s biggest independent operators, such as the fast-growing McKesson franchise group Health Mart. In just five years, Health Mart has grown from 260 stores to more than 2,700, and along the way has carved out the brand presence of a national chain while still maintaining the focus on individualized service that independents traditionally are known for.

And it’s certainly not all done with smoke and mirrors. The group, led by president Tim Canning, has built a broad menu of tools, technology and clinically oriented health-and-wellness services for its customers, as well as a range of capabilities that give it some of the national branding, marketing and purchasing strength of a corporately owned pharmacy chain, and thus enabling its franchisees to compete against the big chains. Two strong examples of its big-brand presence are the TV ad campaign it kicked off in early 2010, which debuted against high-profile events like the Super Bowl and the Winter Olympics; and the company’s annual Health Mart Healthy Living Tour, which visited 80 stores in 18 states last year.

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