What we learnt from APP2018

Another year, another APP. This is the fourth one I have attended and it keeps getting better and better.

475 stands (at times a little overwhelming) and 6,200 delegates. It is certainly a huge exercise and a massive few days.

This year Helen Yu joined me for the trip to learn, meet a lot of new people and have fun. Overall it is a chance for us to listen to some of the industry heavyweights, learn about pharmacy best practices and then take this knowledge back to the Peak Pharmacy Community.

Now it’s all over, the real fun begins! It’s time to start planning and implementing what we’ve learnt. This is especially important for all pharmacy owners and pharmacists that attended last week. To keep doing the same things year after year is not feasible in modern day community pharmacy. Your community expects more from you, so use your APP experience to help grow your pharmacy. For those who were unable to attend, keep reading! We have recapped the sessions below and some of the key highlights.

Our top insights from this year’s APP2018 sessions.

1.      Experience from the USA

Ask yourself “how can you keep a patient out of the hospital?”. Change your focus from a transactional basis to a patient health basis. This way, you will always serve customers with the goal to improve their health. This will also distinguish you as a health professional, rather than a retail sales assistant.

2.      In the Amazon era what are the key areas you need to excel at?

·        Local personal pharmacist advice

·        Price match on core brands

·        Build exclusive product ranges

·        Make the payment options seamless

·        Accelerate delivery options

Always keep in mind how can you make the process easier and more convenient for your customers.

3.      Some key points we learnt from the three Pharmacy of the Year contenders.

3.1  They employ pharmacists to provide advice, not sell a product.

3.2  All had a very active involvement in their communities.

3.3  All invested significant time into training their team.

3.4  They invested in knowledge in specialist areas which gave them a competitive edge over their competitors.

4.      There are many brands out there all promising lots of things.

There are some on the retail/price end of the spectrum, and those at the other end who are high end service focused. In the middle seems to be an endless black hole of others trying to be all things to all men.

Remember, not all brands suit every location. There are also quite a few brands out there who aren’t in WA. If you are looking at changing brands or looking to go from an independent to a brand, make sure you do your homework and investigate as many brands as possible. Including those not in WA. The brand must align to your location, your community’s demographics and your pharmacy business goals/values.

When choosing your brand focus on the four pillars: -

Purpose – why are you doing this? Why do you want to run this business? What do you want to achieve? What makes you different?

Craft – the strategies you put in place to achieve your purpose

Experiences – the customers experience, make it valuable and memorable

Community – how does your business interact with others and how can you interact for a better outcome?

5.      Future of Healthcare

Changes in technology are inevitable, don’t resist change or you will be overrun. There are plenty of examples out there of businesses that have failed because they didn’t embrace change. Embracing it all, innovate and find better solutions. Don’t let technology replace your team. Retrain your team to create a better customer experience.

It is interesting but not surprising to see, the pharmacies that innovate and lead changes, generally are the ones that outperforms the ones that don’t change and evolve with time and technology.

6.      When choosing a pharmacy what is important to customers?

·        Convenient Location

·        Speed of Service

·        Price

·        Advice and Personalised Service

·        Product Range

·        Rewards and Benefits (Loyalty Program)

7.      What are the key actions you need to excel at to grow loyalty from customers

·        They expect value, convenience and quality of service

·        Simplify the experience

·        Recognise the customer and reward them

·        Customer experience – “services need to be provided at a shocking level of excellence”

Research also shown some surprising results – customers are more loyal to the pharmacy, rather than to a pharmacist. Your whole team and pharmacy environment also work toward building that complete customer experience. The responsibility never lies just with the pharmacist.

We will certainly be learning from these issues and discussing these with our clients. What ideas did you have and what will you be implementing? You must change, evolve and excel at what customers want and need. 

A special thanks to our Financial Systems Manager Helen Yu for sharing some of her notes with me to write this article.