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Friday, September 28, 2012

The Golden Rule of Pharmacy

We were always taught to obey the Golden Rule-treat others as you would have them treat you. Great for kids, bad for business.  The Pharmacy Interpretation should be-Treat others the way they want to be treated. Business books agree with this, and I adopted it in my pharmacies without realizing how relevant it truly was. In fact, I was practicing it before I read its witticisms.
We all deal with the same customers every day. I have worked inner-city, affluent suburb, blue-collar, college, and every other town in which there is a pharmacy. In every one of these, the customers are the same: quiet ones who cause no problems; loud, boisterous ones who want you to know they are there; dedicated ones who love their pharmacy staff; fickle ones looking for an excuse to leave you; and the whimsies-those who shop wherever they happen to be at the moment they decide they need a refill.
I am truly focused only on the ones who make our life hell at work. Why do people find it necessary to yell and argue with pharmacy staff? I am very good at conflict resolution and solving problems. I often find that most perceived problems are misunderstandings that we have not been allowed to explain. At my most recent store, I was warned of a number of customers who cause problems every time they call or visit. My staff always find it necessary to tell me so-and-so is on the phone, or here, and that he always causes a problem. Why do my staff feel threatened or intimidated by these people? Because this is the situation the customers have fostered and the staff have felt powerless to change it. (To that I say, Thank You Corporate 1-800 Customer Service Calls! Thank You for making my staff feel powerless to stop abuse from customers.)
ATypical (True) Interaction: Lady complains that she had to wait for something until the next day and was gracious enough to bring it in the night before to give us plenty of time to work on it. (Nice, but her doctor put a Do Not Dispense date on it until the next day so she wasn't exactly trying to help us.) She arrived earlier than we told her it would be ready and she complained. I was already warned of her history so I was prepared. She kindly explained how she went out of her way to bring it in early, how we're her only pharmacy, but she's considering changing after this, blah, blah, blah. I offered her an apology and a $5 Gift Card for the inconvenience of having to wait an extra 10 minutes-though she was early. She ignored that and told me how, every time the other 3 pharmacies she uses make a mistake, they give her something without her even asking. How they buy her off just to shut her up, apparently. Not backing down, I apologized again. Now, 19 minutes into this conversation I had had enough. I interrupted her and asked "What do you want?" Taken aback, she said "Excuse me?" I told her "Listen. You have had me on the phone for 20 minutes now. I offered an apology and $5. You are not happy with that. In my experience there are only 2 types of people who call 1-800 numbers:         1.) Those who like a place and want it to improve and found something a little off during a recent visit.  2.) Those who want something.  This is you. Now. What. Do. You. Want? She told me she wanted a gift card. I told her I already offered that and she could pick up with her next refill, but not to yell at me or my staff again.  She has been back a number of times and no longer strikes fear in the hearts of my staff.  All it took was someone to stand up to her and call her out on her attitude.

Grouchy Guy refused to give my tech his wife's date of birth. He threw the Rx at her and told to fill it, he'd be around. I paged him back to the pharmacy and asked him why he was so mean. He said my job was just to fill it and he walked away. I shouted back to him to come back here, stuck out my arm with his script and said "Here. Take this. We're not filling this for you. There are plenty of pharmacies around and I don't need your business if you're going to treat my staff that way." Dumbfounded, he took it back and left. The funny follow-up is that his wife brought it back later and ignored the issue from earlier. Her husband has been back a few times and is always a model customer. Why did it take all of that to arrive at an amicable situation?

Why do we let customers abuse us? I love my technicians, for without them, I am nothing. At all of my stores, I have taken it upon myself to run interference between them and problem customers. My reasoning is simple and I have told many techs and customers this: They have a job to do. They don't get paid enough to get yelled at by you. Neither do I, but I can refuse to fill your prescription if I choose.  The only person who can yell at my techs is me.  I don't understand why other pharmacists won't stand up for their techs and themselves in these situations. We are still a profession. Doctors can discharge patients with a letter if they don't want them anymore. We have to do it face-to-face. What other profession gets yelled at as much as we do? What other profession rewards customers with the opportunity to call a 1-800 number for feedback that could impact that professional's career?
I elect to take a stand. I have a job to do. It does not involve getting yelled at for things that are way beyond my control. If you want to treat me that way, expect me to think that's how you prefer to be handled and I'll give it right back.

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