When the pressure's on, delegation can be a game changer maintains Emma Charlesworth, head of marketing at Numark

Times are getting increasingly more challenging for independent pharmacy. The government wants more for less, prescription volumes continue to rise and patients are more demanding, with higher than ever expectations of pharmacy. This undoubtedly puts pressure on pharmacists and their teams to deliver excellence in every area of the business.

Admittedly, it can be hard to delegate within the pharmacy setting, but it is important to relinquish some control so that you can focus on areas that are going to drive business growth. Your team can be your biggest asset, but it is important to optimise their skills, knowledge and hand over responsibility of areas of the business where they can effect change.

There are some regular outgoings where it may be possible to make signifi cant savings by getting other team members involved. With a little work, access to the internet and regular statements, it is relatively easy to check what savings can be made. It’s easy to stay in your comfort zone and renew your insurance with the same provider or purchase your labels from the same supplier. Why not nominate a member of your team to consider areas to make savings and ask them to scope what they could be? You could offer them an incentive for every saving they make to help motivate them. Every little helps…

Identify your USP
Independent pharmacies have to be smart about their point of difference. You are in a position to build strong relationships with your customers as a trusted healthcare professional – something not accessible from a supermarket. So, you should try to develop a unique selling point (USP). This should be something that makes you stand out locally and not be widely accessible anywhere else.

You can generate a huge amount of loyalty through having a USP. Nominate a member of your team to identify and develop your USP. Ask them to visit the competition and see what they are doing and consider what your offering could be. Whether a service, unique OTC range or advice on a specialist subject, your USP will drive customer footfall and the prescriptions will follow.

Ask any community pharmacy customer what is important to them and the answer will always be service and advice. These are the two areas that customers expect pharmacy to excel at. Customers need to feel valued and to achieve this you should build rapport with them. Acknowledging customers as they enter your pharmacy is crucial. This facilitates the interaction between you and the customer and will make them feel comfortable to ask for help and advice.

Ensure your team understand the value of this, task them with researching customer service excellence and nominate a customer service specialist. They can be in control of all things customer-facing, from the front of shop to advice at the counter. Ask them to consider staff uniforms and name badges (if you don’t have these already). Remember first impressions count.

Window shopping
Look at your windows and ask yourself if you are effectively selling your offering. Look at every message and consider what it is communicating to your customers: is it appropriate for a healthcare setting? Advertise your services, your opening hours and some key pharmacy lines, paying particular attention to seasonality. Ensure the range you stock is appropriate and comprises the best sellers within pharmacy. Establish a robust and comprehensive promotional programme and use professional point of sale material to promote your products.

Nominate a member of the pharmacy team to be your OTC champion and allocate them specifi c categories or areas of the business to focus on each month. Make sure you recognise and reward your team for taking on additional responsibly; it will pay dividends in the long run.

Marketing your OTC range and pharmacy services within your community can have a huge impact on your business. It’s a tried and tested strategy that, if done effectively, will drive customer footfall, increase sales and boost prescription volumes.

There are a number of ways you can market your business, whether through van livery, an in-store event or local newspaper advertising. Why not put one of your team in charge of marketing your pharmacy? Task them with developing a simple marketing plan which could be a little as a leafl eting campaign or eye-catching window display or a large-scale event such as an open day or community health check programme.

The great thing about expanding the role of your team is that not only will it give them job satisfaction, but will also keep them motivated and invested in your pharmacy. You could even rotate responsibility across the team so they all share experiences and develop a wider depth of skills and knowledge. With the familiar scenario of pharmacy’s changing role and the increasing pressure from the NHS on pharmacy turnover, it can become easy to sideline the importance of your pharmacy team in helping to drive success throughout your business.

Use existing and untapped skills that no doubt exist and foster a culture that allows your team to develop. Achieving this will really drive value for your customers and deliver sustainable business growth for the future.

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