Independent pharmacy franchises, supermarkets and mass merchandisers topped traditional chain drug stores in terms of pharmacy customer satisfaction in the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. National Pharmacy Study.

J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. National Pharmacy Study, pharmacy customer satisfaction, chain drug stores, J.D. Power and Associates, brick-and-mortar pharmacies, independent pharmacy franchise, supermarkets, mass merchandisers, mail order pharmacies, national pharmacy study, J.D. Power pharmacy study, Rick Millard, Good Neighbor Pharmacy, Health Mart, Publix, Target, Mike Cantrell, chain drug store customers, prescription, pharmacy staff, Russell Redman

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Good Neighbor, Health Mart lead in Rx satisfaction

September 20th, 2011

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. – Independent pharmacy franchises, supermarkets and mass merchandisers topped traditional chain drug stores in terms of pharmacy customer satisfaction in the J.D. Power and Associates 2011 U.S. National Pharmacy Study.

The J.D. Power pharmacy study, now in its fifth year, gauges customer satisfaction with brick-and-mortar pharmacies (including chain drug stores, supermarkets and mass merchandisers) and mail order pharmacies.

For the second straight year, AmerisourceBergen Corp.'s Good Neighbor Pharmacy had the highest score in the chain drug segment, but for the 2011 study it shared that honor with McKesson Corp.'s Health Mart franchise. Also this year, Publix Super Markets came in first overall among brick-and-mortar pharmacies, edging out last year's top finisher, Good Neighbor Pharmacy.

The 2011 U.S. National Pharmacy Study, based on responses from over 12,300 customers who filled a new prescription or refilled a prescription in the last three months, measures five key factors in satisfaction with brick-and-mortar pharmacies — the prescription ordering and pick-up process, the store, cost competitiveness, pharmacists and nonpharmacist staff — and rates them on a 1,000-point scale.

Among brick-and-mortar pharmacies, supermarkets again turned in the highest average score at 826. Traditional chain drug stores had an average rating of 808, and mass merchandisers again posted the lowest average score (797) overall in the study.

Good Neighbor Pharmacy and Health Mart, part of McKesson Corp., ranked highest in pharmacy customer satisfaction among chain drug stores with scores of 851, followed by Cardinal Health Inc.'s Medicine Shoppe franchise at 831.

"We recognize the importance of the independently owned community pharmacy, where the pharmacist has the opportunity to help personally manage their patients' health. We are pleased to see the patients' recognition of the superior service for two years in a row," Mike Cantrell, president of Good Neighbor Pharmacy, said in a statement.

Of the nation's largest drug chains, Walgreens saw the highest rating at 810, slightly above the average, followed by Rite Aid (804) and CVS/pharmacy (789). Duane Reade, now part of Walgreen Co., had a score of 724.

"Brick-and-mortar pharmacies are able to better differentiate themselves by offering additional services from the pharmacy staff."

— Rick Millard, J.D. Power

With a score of 867, Publix led the brick-and-mortar pharmacy field overall and for the second consecutive year was No. 1 in pharmacy customer satisfaction the supermarket segment. Rounding out the top 10 in supermarket pharmacies were Wegmans Food Markets (848), Winn-Dixie Stores (834), Jewel-Osco (828), Vons (827), Hy-Vee (824), Kroger (823), Safeway (823), Ralphs (819) and Alberstons (816).

Target rated highest in pharmacy customer satisfaction among mass merchandisers, including discount stores and warehouse clubs, for a fifth straight year with a score of 846, followed by Sam's Club (837), Costco (834), Kmart (816) and Walmart (777). J.D. Power noted that although the mass merchandiser segment had the lowest average satisfaction score among brick-and-mortar pharmacies, they perform particularly well in cost competitiveness. 

Overall, the J.D. Power study revealed that customers want more service from the pharmacy staff and expect to be helped more quickly. In fact, the marketing firm found that pharmacy customers have increasingly higher expectations when it comes to wait time.

Among chain drug store customers who wait less than three minutes to give their prescription information to pharmacy staff, satisfaction averages 836 on the 1,000-point scale, while satisfaction declines to 783 among those who have to wait more than three minutes. In comparison, satisfaction in 2010 significantly increased or decreased at seven minutes, J.D. Power noted.

"Customers are expecting more from their brick-and-mortar pharmacy — not just in terms of wait time but also in terms of contact with the pharmacist and pharmacy staff," explained Rick Millard, senior director of the health care practice at J.D. Power. “In fact, brick-and-mortar pharmacies are able to better differentiate themselves by offering additional services from the pharmacy staff. These personal contacts may help distinguish the store experience as satisfying for pharmacy customers."

Millard also pointed out that some customers benefit from speaking with a pharmacist and that satisfaction is highest among those can have such conversations in a private area. In addition, he said that many customers appreciate such pharmacy extras as health testing and wellness services, and he recommended that customers sign up for automatic refills, if available.

On the mail order side, J.D. Power found that satisfaction with mail order pharmacies has fallen considerably since last year's study, mainly because of decreases in satisfaction with prescription ordering and prescription delivery. Still, the marketing firm noted that fewer mail order customers than in any year the study has been conducted say they would switch to purchasing prescriptions at a drug store. Four factors were measured in the mail order segment: cost competitiveness, prescription delivery, prescription ordering and customer service.

"In an era when online retailers like Amazon and Zappos have set new standards for speed and convenience, customers are looking for more efficiency in their pharmacy transactions, as well," stated Millard, who recommended that mail order pharmacy customers should look for options to track a prescription order or arrange for expedited delivery. "There's a clear opportunity for mail order pharmacies to improve on the logistical aspects of the transaction."

About a third of customers are required by their insurer to use mail order for maintenance and repeat prescriptions, and those customers are even less satisfied with their pharmacy than those who are not required to use mail order (771 versus 836, respectively), according to J.D. Power. Mail-order pharmacy customers are much more satisfied when they are able to request overnight delivery and it's included free. Just 12% of mail order customers say they are aware of and have access to that service, the study found. 

Kaiser Permanente Pharmacy ranked highest among mail order pharmacies for a third straight year with a score of 848, followed by Humana RightSourceRx (840), Express Scripts (813), Prescription Solutions (808), Medco (800), Caremark (783), Walmart Pharmacy Mail Services (771), Walgreens Mail Service (754), Prime Therapeutics (740) and Cigna Tel-Drug (737). Mail order pharmacies posted an average score of 806.