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Pharmacy retailers can promote brand advocacy with superior customer service, study finds

Empathica study finds ways drug, mass chains can learn from each other

TORONTO — Customer service is the key driver of brand advocacy in retail pharmacy, according to a new study.

Customer experience management firm Empathica released results of a survey of more than 1,500 consumers, polling customers on their perception, attitude and opinion toward the retail pharmacy experience. Across brands, three main factors — choice, service and trust — drove brand advocacy. Of the top six pharmacy retailers in terms of market share — Costco, CVS, Kroger, Rite Aid, Walgreens and Walmart — Kroger received top marks in nearly all customer service categories, with 4-in-5 Kroger customers agreeing or strongly agreeing that they would recommend it to friends and family.

"Retail pharmacies can create a win-win relationship with customers by providing exemplary customer service; in turn, there is an opportunity for customers to 'work' for their primary pharmacy as brand advocates," Empathica CEO Gary Edwards said. "There is little room for winning a price war in pharmacy retail. The real battlefront for pharmacies is in customer service and convenience."

The study also found differences in how drug store chains and mass merchandise chains and supermarkets promote their business and how they can learn from each other. For example, only one-third of mass-retail customers indicated they were aware of loyalty programs, compared with 43% of drug store customers. Meanwhile, drug store chains could look to mass retailers for how to provide in-store promotions; 32% of drug store customers answered that they "always" found attractively priced promotions, compared with 44% of mass retail customers.

"To build a stronger, more loyal customer base, mass retailers and specialty drug chain retailers can look to what the other has to offer," Edwards said. "Rather than focusing exclusively on general customer service or in-store promotions, all pharmacy retailers have an opportunity to better manage the key moments of truth on the customer journey. This includes providing more choices, offering superior service throughout the experience and promoting loyalty programs to create deeper relationships with customers. When customers experience exceptionality in these areas, regardless of price, it definitely builds brand advocacy."

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