New survey results from Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc. show that pharmacy customer satisfaction remains at a high level, and the vast majority of consumers aim to stay with their primary pharmacy.


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Poll: Pharmacy customers highly satisfied

May 17th, 2013

NEW YORK – New survey results from Boehringer Ingelheim Pharmaceuticals Inc. show that pharmacy customer satisfaction remains at a high level, and the vast majority of consumers aim to stay with their primary pharmacy.

BI has released the latest findings of its annual Pharmacy Pulse Satisfaction Survey, conducted in October and November 2012. The nationally representative sample encompasses 34,401 U.S. adult pharmacy customers from 46 metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs). All respondents filled six or more prescriptions (including refills) in the previous 12 months.

The latest iteration of the poll indicates 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 correlates closely with wait time, while satisfaction with pharmacists and staff is associated with the ability of those personnel to answer patient 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. Still, 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.

Pharmacy Customer
Satisfaction by Channel

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In the 2012 survey, more participants expressed satisfaction with prescription pricing (77% versus 74% in 2011). 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 — with 86% of Rx customers saying they were "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied" with their primary pharmacy — satisfaction scores for the various 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. Drug chains lost a percentage point with an 86% score and slipped into next-to-last place ahead of mail order/online only. Meanwhile, 89% of supermarket pharmacy customers and 87% of mass merchant pharmacy customers were "very satisfied" or "somewhat satisfied."

The percentage of participants whose primary pharmacy is a chain outlet 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%.

One important implication of the latest study is that customer conversion will be challenging: 94% of respondents indicated they intend to continue filling their prescriptions at their primary pharmacy.

The reasons for that high figure may stem from a new question included in BI's most recent poll, which asked customers their main reason for using their primary pharmacy. Overall, location and price turned out to be the most important variables.

What's Important to Rx Customers

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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, 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. 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 for supermarket, mass merchant and mail order/online Rx customers.

Other findings in BI's Pulse survey illustrate why customer satisfaction matters for pharmacies. Respondents are classified into loyal, neutral and at-risk segments, defined by an index based on the likelihood of customers filling future prescriptions at their primary pharmacy and recommending the pharmacy to friends or relatives. Among customers who describe themselves as highly satisfied, 93% are classified as loyal and 6% as neutral, with only 1% at-risk. Among dissatisfied customers, only 45% qualify as loyal, while 29% are at-risk and 27% are neutral.

The 2012 Pulse survey sample also reflects a key demographic shift for the retail pharmacy industry: the aging population.

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%. In turn, the younger segments have all been reduced: Ages 45 to 54 dropped to 22% from 26%, and the 35-to-44 bracket has contracted to 13% from 16%. Representation of 25- to 34-year-olds also decreased to 10% from 13%.

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