Beginning last August on roughly a monthly basis, Chain Drug Review explored in some detail the findings of an annual survey on pharmacy customer satisfaction conducted for Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc. The results of the latest poll, conducted in October and November 2012, have now been released in the latest Pharmacy Pulse Satisfaction Survey and will be examined in this and future issues.


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Inside This Issue - News

Majority of consumers find pharmacy experience satisfying

May 20th, 2013

NEW YORK – Beginning last August on roughly a monthly basis, Chain Drug Review explored in some detail the findings of an annual survey on pharmacy customer satisfaction conducted for Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc. The results of the latest poll, conducted in October and November 2012, have now been released in the latest Pharmacy Pulse Satisfaction Survey and will be examined in this and future issues.

It might be worthwhile to start by discussing why customers’ satisfaction matters. The Pulse report classifies customers into loyal, neutral and at-risk segments, which are defined by an index based on the likelihood of the customers filling future prescriptions at their primary pharmacy and the likelihood of their recommending the pharmacy to friends or relatives.

Pharmacy Customer
Satisfaction by Channel

CLICK ON IMAGE TO ENLARGE

Among customers who describe themselves as highly satisfied, 93% are classed as loyal and 6% as neutral, with only 1% at risk. Among dissatisfied customers, on the other hand, only 45% qualify as loyal, while 29% are at risk and 27% are neutral.

Perhaps the most reassuring finding to emerge from the latest iteration of the poll is that satisfaction with the key elements of pharmacy operation continues to be very high, with 86% of respondents (unchanged from 2011) describing themselves as very (63%) or somewhat (23%) satisfied with their overall pharmacy experience.

The industry once again achieved high, and slightly improved, marks for its performance in correctly filling prescriptions, convenience, and the performance of pharmacists and pharmacy staff.

Convenience, of course, correlates closely with wait time, while satisfaction with pharmacists and staff is associated with the ability of those personnel to answer patients’ questions about their medications, help explain insurance matters and address general needs and concerns.

Prescription pricing also improved somewhat, but it remains an important area with room for improvement. Additional medical services, however, declined both in importance and in perceived performance. Nonetheless, the study points out that some services, such as health screenings and bone density tests, can indirectly help enhance perceptions of the pharmacists and staff.

It is worth pointing out that more participants expressed satisfaction with prescription pricing (77% versus 74% in 2011) this time around. Even customers of chain drug, which tied with mail order/online for the lowest (73%) score on that measure, gave the channel two additional percentage points in 2012.

Although overall satisfaction with the pharmacy experience was unchanged at 86%, satisfaction scores for the different pharmacy channels showed little change as well. Independent pharmacies again achieved the highest satisfaction scores (91%), while mail order/online came in last once again with an 81% satisfaction rating. Chain pharmacy, on the other hand, lost a percentage point with an 86% score, and slipped into next-to-last place ahead of mail order/online only.

What's Important to Rx Customers

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One important implication of these figures, according to the study, is that customer conversion will be challenging. That conclusion is backed up by the fact that 94% of customers surveyed indicated they intend to continue filling their prescriptions at their primary pharmacy.

The reasons for that high figure are perhaps suggested by a new question included in the most recent poll, which asked subjects their main reason for using their primary pharmacy. Overall, location and price turned out to be the most important variables.

For example, 57% of chain drug customers picked their pharmacy because of its location, which is one facet of convenience, while only 10% based their choice on pricing or insurance coverage. Among mass merchant pharmacy customers, on the other hand, 38% cited price and insurance as key.

For independent pharmacy customers, the pharmacy staff loomed large, being cited by 30% of respondents. By contrast, only 9% of chain drug customers and 7% of mass merchant pharmacy patients considered pharmacy staff the most important factor.

Satisfaction levels are further reflected in the willingness of customers to recommend their primary pharmacy to others. Not unnaturally, independents score highest on this metric (expressed as somewhat or very likely to recommend) with an 86% rating. Chain drug, which scored 79%, followed supermarkets and mass merchants as well as independents, but finished well ahead of clinics (63%) and mail order/online (54%).

One positive indicator for chain pharmacies, though, is the fact that 25% of customers had an improved opinion of their pharmacy, a higher percentage than that for supermarket or mass merchant pharmacy customers, not to mention mail order/online.

The latest iteration of the Pharmacy Pulse Satisfaction Survey reveals a great deal of continuity in its key measures, but the makeup of the survey sample itself reveals some interesting and significant changes.

As in the past, care has been taken to ensure that the results are statistically meaningful by securing a nationally representative sample of U.S. adults (age 18 and above), consisting of 34,401 respondents drawn from 46 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) to reflect geographic distribution in this country. Moreover, all participants are genuine pharmacy customers, meeting a requirement of having filled six or more prescriptions (including refills) within the prior 12 months.

The percentage of participants whose primary pharmacy is a chain outlet has decreased to 35% from 38% in the fall 2011 survey, while the percentage of those relying on online/mail order has increased to 20% from 16%. Supermarket pharmacy users picked up a percentage point to 12% while independent drug stores lost a point to 10%.

The demographic breakdown has also altered somewhat. Older consumers are more heavily represented, as the 65-plus segment has increased to 24% from 17%, while participants ages 55 to 64 have expanded to 28% from 23%. Correspondingly, the younger segments have all been reduced: Ages 45 to 54 dropped to 22% from 26%, while the 35-to-44 bracket has contracted to 13% from 16%. Representation of 25- to 34-year-olds also decreased, to 10% from 13%.

The ethnic diversity of the sample also narrowed, with the number of Whites rising to 89% from 85%, while the percentage of African-Americans fell to 7% from 10%, and of Hispanics to 5% from 8%.

Income segmentation also shifted significantly upward. The percentage of participants with household incomes above $100,000 rose to 15% from 12%, while the $75,000-to-$100,000 bracket also grew three percentage points to 15%. The number of consumers with incomes less than $25,000 per year, on the other hand, fell to 16% from 23% in 2011.

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