Internet pharmacies such as PillPack.com, soon to be a $1 billion acquisition by Amazon, Capsule.com and other startups are touted by e-commerce analysts as the drugstores of the future.
But for now, it seems, most consumers prefer placing and picking up their prescriptions at a bricks and mortar drugstore or in the mail from a specialty pharmacy, says new research and rankings from consumer research company J.D. Power.
The average customer satisfaction score for bricks-and-mortar pharmacies (847 on a 1,000-point scale) and mail order (859) compare favorably with other high-scoring industries evaluated by J.D. Power, such as direct banks (863), property and casualty insurance companies (860) and full-service investment advisors (839). Among the different pharmacy segments, supermarkets have the highest levels of overall satisfaction (863).
Availability of health and wellness services, such as walk-in clinics and telehealth programs, is associated with a 66-point improvement in overall satisfaction. Such services are currently present in 86% of chain drug stores, 83% of supermarket pharmacies and 75% of mass-merchandiser pharmacies, says J.D. Power.
Amidst industry discussion about distribution channels, supply chains and drug costs, some of the most significant drivers of customer satisfaction in all pharmacy segments includes friendly, engaging service, says J.D. Power. Among bricks-and-mortar pharmacies, the second-most effective driver of overall satisfaction is “non-pharmacist staff greeted you in a friendly manner,” which is associated with a 64-point increase in customer satisfaction. Even in the mail-order segment, a “thank you” from non-pharmacist staff is associated with a 17-point increase in satisfaction, according to J.D. Power.
Among mail-order pharmacies, the key driver of overall customer satisfaction is having a prescription ready/delivered when promised. Delivering prescriptions on time is associated with a 78-point increase in overall customer satisfaction. Customers also evaluate the speed of delivery, adding 42 points to overall satisfaction scores when prescriptions are received within five days of completing an order, says J.D. Power senior director and healthcare practice leader Greg Truex.
The biggest chain drugstores, CVS Health and Walgreen Co., were among the top-ranked bricks-and-mortar chain pharmacies for customer satisfaction but not the top. Good Neighbor Pharmacy, a cooperative network of more than 4,500 independently owned and operated pharmacies, scored 903 points and led the J.D. Power customer satisfaction rankings. Good Neighbor was followed by Health Mart (890), Rite Aid Pharmacy (846), CVS (843) and Walgreen (840).
Among mass-merchandise chains that operate a pharmacy, Sam’s Club topped the rankings with a score of 892. Second was Costco at 860, followed by CVS pharmacy operated inside a Target store at 859 and Walmart at 833. Humana Pharmacy ranks highest overall in mail order with a score of 885. Kaiser Permanente Pharmacy (866) ranks second and Express Scripts (862) ranks third.
Some industry analysts are predicting that digital pharmacies and e-commerce will soon be the preferred channel for how consumers want to order and pay for prescription drugs. For example, Amazon announced on June 28 it was buying PillPack.com in a deal Amazon expects to close later this year. Amazon is buying PillPack for its unique business and e-commerce business model, says Colin Sebastian, a senior research analyst with Robert W. Baird and a seasoned Amazon observer. PillPack claims to make it easier and faster for consumers to get prescriptions filled. PillPack manages multiple prescription medications for customers by pre-sorting, packaging and delivering the drugs—all with a 24/7 pharmacy staff that can be contacted either online or via phone.
But for now many, if not most, consumers prefer giving their business to a more traditional pharmacy and aren’t yet ready to go online. “Amazon, or any other organization looking to disrupt the $100 billion U.S. mail-order pharmacy market, will have their work cut out for them,” Truex says. “Legacy pharmacy players have invested heavily in delivering superior service, while brick-and-mortar pharmacies are starting to reap significant customer satisfaction gains from retail-style clinics offering health and wellness services.”
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