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High touch means high score

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When J.D. Power released the results of its annual “U.S. Pharmacy Study” back in August, Good Neighbor Pharmacy ranked highest among drug chains in customer satisfaction with a score of 903, well above the 846 average in a segment whose stock-in-trade is taking care of the patient.

It was the seventh time in the last nine years that the pharmacy network supported by drug wholesaler AmerisourceBergen earned that distinction.

The ability to satisfy customers on a consistent basis is a prerequisite for success in community pharmacy — and in the broader marketplace. A look at Good Neighbor Pharmacy’s outstanding track record can offer useful insights for any business whose mission is to meet consumer needs.

“What our stores provide aligns very well with the expectations of independent pharmacy customers,” says Brian Nightengale, president of Good Neighbor Pharmacy, which comprises some 3,000 locations that carry the brand name and another 1,500 or so independents that rely on the company’s services. “Our network is perfectly suited to provide personalized care by highly trained, highly accessible pharmacy professionals who know the customers personally. They care about them, their experiences within the store, and their communities. Personalized care and people wanting to shop where they’re known — those are the key drivers.”

Nightengale’s assertion is borne out by the results of the J.D. Power survey, where Good Neighbor Pharmacy finished first in its category across all five ratings criteria, including prescription ordering and filling, nonpharmacy staff, and overall store experience. The company gives independent pharmacy owners ample help in all those areas.

“We don’t want to take a lot of credit for the results, because our stores and their staff are who is delivering that great experience each and every day,” says Nightengale, who also serves as senior vice president of community and specialty pharmacy at AmerisourceBergen. “But I do think one of the key differentiators between us and some of our competitors is that we provide specific training modules, resources and business coaches that are aligned very closely with a lot of these metrics measured by J.D. Power.

“So, for example, we develop staff training modules, and our business coaches go out physically into the Good Neighbor Pharmacy member stores and spend time with the owners, teaching them and their staff how to engage with the customer, how to make sure the stores are clean, how to motivate the front-end staff to represent you as an owner, and how to create that optimal customer experience. When I look at the training and the high-touch services that we provide and compare them with how Good Neighbor Pharmacy scored in the survey, they match up very nicely.”

Success in driving customer satisfaction hasn’t made Good Neighbor Pharmacy complacent. The company is currently working on programs to retool its branding and advertising efforts, and to restructure its offerings to maximize their impact on member pharmacies.

“We are making a pretty transformational shift from the traditional TV advertising that we’ve done over the years to digital and social media,” says Nightengale, adding that the change will start to become apparent to customers early next year. “There are a lot of reasons for that. Of course, the demographics support that but, quite frankly, this new approach will allow our independents to be the strongest versions of themselves, not something we think they should look like. We know that our independent pharmacies don’t want to look and feel like a chain, they want to provide something that is unique and special in their community.”

The new branding campaign is intended to meld the local identity of the store and its ties with the surrounding community with the understanding that the pharmacy is backed by a national network with robust resources.

“The Good Neighbor Pharmacy name is not going away, and we will still promote that very strongly,” Nightengale explains. “But, at the local level, we’re also going to support our independents to help their brand shine through.”

More fundamentally, Nightengale and his colleagues are realigning Good Neighbor Pharmacy’s suite of services to make them easier for pharmacy owners to understand and access.

“We have a successful program that’s been built over a period of almost four decades, and new things get added every year,” says Nightengale. “Over time, that has sometimes made it confusing for the owners to grasp everything we provide. So the first thing that we’ve done is redesign our offerings into four value centers that allow us to engage with our stores in a much simpler and more efficient way.”

“The first value center is focused around the in-store experience. What is the experience of that patient or customer when they walk into your pharmacy? The next one focuses on branding and advertising, that awareness component.

“The third value center encompasses all of the activities related to managed care and reimbursement, and making sure that we’re advocating on behalf of our members for fair and accurate compensation for what they do. The fourth value center contains services that enable optimal business performance, looking holistically with all the data that we have, all of the coaching and expertise that we provide, to help an independent make sure that the store is operating at its highest performance level.”

The new structure, which is already in place and will receive a formal rollout in January, is intended to increase engagement with members. They will find a willing partner in Good ­Neighbor Pharmacy.

“We’ve never been more committed to the growth and success of independent community pharmacies,” Nightengale says. “I’m very happy about the support that I’m getting as the leader who is ultimately responsible for these independent solutions from AmerisourceBergen. Our goal is to provide scale support and expertise at a large chain-like level, but customization at the local level.”

If Good Neighbor Pharmacy can continue to deliver on that promise, both members and their customers should be more than satisfied.


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