Lester Nathan, MS
A powerhouse in the world of independent pharmacy, Lester offers free business resources for Pharmacy Owners on his website, ThePharmacySage.com. Offering insight, wisdom, and strategy, Lester is an esteemed voice in pharmacy business. Lester helps his clients increase patients and profits in spite of the 3rd party payment fiasco.
The first may well be setting standards of excellence. In fact, the hallmark of any truly great pharmacy is decidedly having such standards.
Standards of excellence are especially valuable because they help ensure that you will get the correct behaviors from your team members in the areas that are important to you. Unfortunately, these standards are overlooked by far too many owners.
To me, excellence means approaching perfection but not necessarily achieving it. While goals represent a one-time achievement at a specific time, standards are something to which you hold yourself and/or your staff accountable on a repetitive basis, which may be whenever a particular task is done or on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis.
Examples of such standards can be:
- Answering the phone by the third ring
- Calling a patient back by the end of the day
- Not allowing a patient to remain on the phone awaiting an answer or another individual for more than 60 seconds
Great pharmacies have great customer service, and they do not deviate from it. Perhaps the reason is that they put their standards in writing and post them for all of their team members to see. Sometimes, they will even take one, reproduce it in large print, frame it, and hang it where the customers can see it.
Such a standard would then be written from the customers’ viewpoint, such as, “You will never wait more than 60 seconds without being re-contacted; otherwise, you may ask to speak to the pharmacy manager.”
I always suggest putting such a standard in quotes to make the expression more effective.
How Do You Cultivate a Culture?
Having standards in some areas is one thing. Having enough of them in all areas is another.
You should have standards in the following areas of your pharmacy business:
- Patient care
- Employee relationships
- Vendor relationships
You are constantly, perhaps incessantly, performing the standards yourself and then making certain that all team members likewise perform them.
For instance, if you set a standard that no phone call will go unreturned before leaving at the close of the day, then that is something that you will want to enforce. You do so by asking everyone, on a daily basis, which phone calls they didn’t return.
Poll each person, perhaps 30 minutes before closing time, to make certain that those individuals will have a chance to return any such phone calls not yet properly handled. Continue to use this technique until the behavior becomes repetitive and rhythmical.
How Many Standards Should You Have?
The number of standards you should have in each area depends on the level of excellence you want to achieve for your independent pharmacy.
While it is not the purpose of this article to present the infinite number of instances in which your standards can be put to use, one that should be mentioned applies to a subject that may escape your attention, and that is profitability.
Your standard for profitability could well be an average gross profit that is no lower than 25% for the pharmacy as a whole, If you ever find that it declines below that level in any particular month, then you should do the following 2 things very quickly: examine your monthly trends to see if the decline is the result of a trend, and then do something about it.
Doing something about it means analyzing the causes, starting with the trends, and then taking action. A true culture of excellence will manifest from the viewpoint of your customers. But, if you want to have a viewpoint with lasting value to your patients, then it needs to be based around the future, and that requires profitability.
The Pharmacy Sage can be reached at (518) 346-7021 or Lester@ThePharmacySage.com