Customer satisfaction with pharmacies is high overall, but the level of satisfaction varies noticeably by channel, according to research from Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc.

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Pharmacy customer satisfaction: A closer look

August 30th, 2012

NEW YORK – Customer satisfaction with pharmacies is high overall, but the level of satisfaction varies noticeably by channel, according to research from Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc.

The Pharmacy Satisfaction Pulse Household Study, Boehringer Ingelheim's annual survey of customer satisfaction, gauges responses from online interviews from a sample of 34,424 adult pharmacy customers who have filled six or more prescriptions (new or refills) in the prior 12 months. The fundamental goal of the study is to help pharmacy operators learn more about their customers' attitudes and, in turn, create a stronger model for patient care.

Of those in the sample, 38% defined their primary pharmacy as a chain drug store, while 16% relied on a mass merchant pharmacy and 16% used online or mail-order pharmacies primarily. Supermarket pharmacies and independent drug stores were the first choice of 11% each, followed by clinics, which were the primary pharmacy of 8%.

The good news revealed by the poll is that overall customer satisfaction with primary pharmacies is consistently high (SEE CHART AT END OF ARTICLE). Of the more than 34,000 adults surveyed, 63% said they were "very satisfied" with their primary pharmacy, and 23% said they were "somewhat satisfied."

Only 5% of respondents were "very dissatisfied" and 4% were "somewhat dissatisfied." Another 5% were neither satisfied nor dissatisfied.

By channel, however, chain drug stores substantially trailed independent drug stores and food retailers, although they showed improvement year over year.

Of the nearly 12,900 respondents identifying a chain drug store as their primary pharmacy in the 2012 study, 62% were very satisfied (vs. 59% in 2011), and 25% were somewhat satisfied (27% in 2011). Just 5% said they were very dissatisfied (sames as in 2011) and 4% were somewhat dissatisfied (vs. 5% in 2011).

Independent pharmacies led the field, with 76% of customers saying they were very satisfied and 14% being somewhat satisfied. Supermarket pharmacy customers also expressed a high level of satisfaction (68% very satisfied, 21% somewhat satisfied).

Compared with chain drug stores, a greater percentage of clinic pharmacy patients were very satisfied (65%). Pharmacy customers of mass merchants (61% very satisfied, 24% somewhat satisfied) and mail order/online services (55% very satisfied, 26% somewhat satisfied) exhibited a lower level of satisfaction than did those of chain drug stores.

As would be expected, filling prescriptions accurately and efficiently is considered the sine qua non for any pharmacy, and overall satisfaction scores are consistently high. Yet here, too, drug chains trail independent pharmacies and food retailers, with 69% of respondents declaring themselves "very satisfied" with their chain drug primary pharmacy. By comparison, 83% of independents' customers were very satisfied.

Digging deeper into the various components of customer satisfaction, convenience rates as very important and satisfaction generally was high, with chain drug trailing only independents and food retailers. When it comes to waiting time for prescriptions, though, chain drug stores trailed all other types except clinics, with a median wait time of one hour, compared with 20 minutes at an independent. However, the wait at chain drug outlets at least was unchanged from 2011, whereas all other pharmacy types had seen their wait time extended.

While customer satisfaction with prescription drug pricing declined across all types of pharmacies between 2010 and 2011, it stabilized in 2012, with nearly all types seeing increases in the percentage of "very satisfied" customers.

Pharmacists themselves and pharmacy staff are a key aspect of the pharmacy experience in retail pharmacies, and respondents expressed high levels of satisfaction. Printed health information and additional medical services, however, are significantly less important to the pharmacy customer.

Overall Satisfaction Among Pharmacy Customers

Source: Pharmacy Satisfaction Pulse Household Study, 2012, by Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals.