More than ever before, customers have a wealth of choices at their fingertips when it comes to goods and services, and pharmacies have not escaped that fact.
The marketplace for medications as well as beauty and wellness products has crowded over the years, driven by the entrance of digital-first businesses and tech titans like Amazon.
It’s become clear that it’s no longer enough to rely on the random hand of luck or foot traffic. Instead, pharmacies must work to build strong relationships with an invaluable asset: loyalty.
Understanding the loyal customer
Loyal customers are, very simply, repeat customers. There could be any number of reasons why customers choose to remain loyal to a brand — it could be that they know the person behind the counter, or maybe they had a great experience in the past.
Loyal customers don’t see a brand as a business to buy from, but something they have a relationship with. And as Sina Hosseini and Shane Desselle write in Pharmacy Times: “Customer loyalty is borne not from mere satisfaction, but from extreme satisfaction and positive confirmation of expectations.”
Digging into the numbers of customer loyalty
If the idea of a “loyal customer” appears quaint at first, here are some hard facts that underscore the importance of these types of customers.
For one, loyal customers are more valuable in terms of pure numbers: according to consulting firm Accenture, most customers say they tend to spend more on brands they are loyal to as compared to competitors. They spend more in-store if they like a brand and they’re also likelier to tell their friends and family about their positive experience, leading to potentially even more business.
Furthermore, since loyal customers are also existing customers, they cost less to acquire. Studies have shown that it’s 5x more expensive to acquire new customers. With new customers, businesses rack up costs in terms of marketing, onboarding and referrals. In comparison, customer retention costs are much lower because you don’t have to spend all that money and time making the case for your brand.
Despite its importance, customer loyalty is a rare commodity. The wide range of available platforms, services and retailers mean that there is a vanishingly small cost to consumers for switching brands. As a result, retailers and pharmacies are locked in increasingly close competition for every customer, further underscoring the need for a new strategy, one that takes customer loyalty into serious account.
Next, we’ll look at an example of how community pharmacists can maximise the impact of consumer loyalty through the use of digital vaccine appointments.
Digital vaccine appointments driving loyalty
The promise of digital booking solutions lies in the ability to book and manage appointments with convenience and ease. Since pharmacies have become key players in vaccine rollouts in Ireland and the United Kingdom, they have been inundated with calls from people looking for appointments for Covid-19 shots and boosters, making it impossible to manage with manual processes.
The problem is further compounded by the limitations imposed by staffing and opening hours — there are only so many calls a single staff member can manage, and patients may not be able to make a call during regular work hours.
Digitised appointments do away with the limitations and complexities of manual appointment bookings by introducing a shot of convenience into the system. Through a single, user-friendly interface, patients can view and book available slots at their leisure, through any device with a functioning web browser. If they are unable to make an appointment, it’s easy to manage their booking through the same system.
A digitised booking system could even be accompanied by a link to a website or fact sheet so pharmacy staff aren’t occupied with answering multiple questions from patients on a call or in-store.
The convenience introduced by digitised vaccine appointments streamlines the entire customer experience, thus creating the “extreme satisfaction” that can lead to customer loyalty. But more than that, digital vaccine appointments can act as a gateway towards building a robust customer retention programme for your pharmacy.
On its face, a digital booking system can appear to have only one function, but once a patient has made an appointment, it also opens up opportunities for pharmacists to continue offering support. Vaccine side-effects are fairly common, so pharmacists may want a way to follow up with patients.
A digitised booking system may come with a secure chat function that alerts pharmacy staff to make regular check-ups on high-risk patients, and help them monitor any side effects. Beyond the vaccine, the chat function could even be used as a way for pharmacists to offer telehealth services to patients with other health concerns.
Through after-care communication, pharmacists can create a strong feeling of intimacy and trust that is the foundation of any relationship between a care provider and patient. That sense of trust will naturally lead to more customer loyalty.
An automated, data-driven approach to patient care
Through a digitised system, pharmacists can also easily gather patient history and information in order to create more personalised experiences for patients. For example, once a patient has made a vaccine appointment, a digital system can easily recommend a date for a second shot or boosters.
With patients’ medical histories at their fingertips, pharmacists can also advise patients on the kinds of shots, medications, or services that would best suit their particular needs. The system can also be calibrated to send automated reminders to patients about appointments, medication refills, recommended shots, or check-ups, based on data like age, seasons or preference.
For patients, this automated system could prove to be a boon as it is one less thing they have to manage in their lives. They’re not having to manage the “choice overload” of having to make certain decisions or do research on their own. By taking this added responsibility out of their hands, pharmacists make healthcare an easy and convenient thing to manage, leading to better customer experiences and outcomes.
Rewarding repeat customers
The data collected by a digitised system should not go unused either. Pharmacies can use data on repeat customers to build a loyalty programme to reward them for their patronage with specific perks like discounts, preferred appointment slots, and so on. Research has shown that using small rewards can lead to increased customer loyalty, and the cost of these programmes is outweighed by their benefits. According to Bain & Co., by increasing customer retention by 5% you may gain a 25% increase in profits.
Leveraging community pharmacy’s competitive advantage
Community pharmacists are in a particularly advantageous position to build loyal customer bases with the power of digitised appointments. Many pharmacists in community dispensaries are already working closely with patients to manage their health and field questions about medication. This value-added service highlights their importance as a source of medical support, while also reflecting why the community pharmacist can leverage their skills to build more loyal customer bases.
By digitising vaccine appointments, community pharmacists can leverage their skills and capabilities as medical practitioners, and boost their competitive advantage against digital-first retailers. And as services become an increasingly important part of the community pharmacists’ toolkit, the opportunities to capture more loyal customers will also arise.
Grow with the power of loyalty
HasHealth offers pharmacies the tools they need to cultivate a base of loyal customers through the power of digitised vaccine appointments. Book a call to learn how we can help you deliver a better customer experience.
Images from Unsplash by Blake Wisz, John Schnobrich and Firmbee.com.