Home' Australian Pharmacist : September 2011 Contents Vol. 30 -- September #09, 2011
Continuing Professional Development
The articles in this series are independently researched and compiled by PSA commissioned authors and peer reviewed.
the attitudes and daily moods of
staff and managers.1 Whilst people
are providing services no experience
will be entirely standardised.1,4 The
success of a pharmacist counselling
a patient depends on the rapport and
relationship established, the timing
and the type and level of counseling
given and/or required. Embarrassing
or culturally sensitive topics, gender
and education differences can all
influence the way in which a service
like counselling is provided.
Technology has reduced service
heterogeneity. The electronic world
has brought about a visible shift in
standardisation of service provision.
People like predictability and
uniformity in services.5 Technology
improves the chances that the service
being provided is the same for
Service standards are useful to
reduce the variance in service quality.1
In pharmacy, the Pharmaceutical
Society of Australia (PSA) Professional
Practice and Competency Standards
provide service standards that help
standardise and maintain the quality
of service given in pharmacies and by
Martin realises his staff can be
inconsistent in their customer service
delivery depending on their mood.
He decides he will revisit the PSA
standards and retrain and monitor
staff performance in this area.
4. Synchronous delivery and
When providing a service the delivery
and consumption are inseparable.
Essentially the patient or customer
participates in the process of service
production, which is consumed while
it is being produced.7--9 The live nature
of inseparability demonstrates the
vulnerable environment in which we
function when delivering services.
Often as pharmacists we only get one
chance to deliver and meet patient
5. Perishability of services
Unlike physical products, the need-
satisfying benefit of a service is
perishable; it cannot be stored.5
No physical inventory is available
to store.1 Once you have engaged
in customer service in supplying
medication you only have a memory
of it. Excess capacity for service
cannot be stored either.1 For example,
if a pharmacy were to organise a
paid education session for diabetes
patients, a 50% attendance means
50% of the opportunity is lost as you
cannot rerun the evening.
Another realisation: Martin is
reminded that he and his staff need to
be consistent at all times in delivering
quality customer service as often they
will only get one chance to win over
their customers and patients.
Martin decides he likes these
concepts and will implement a more
services orientated approach in his
pharmacy. He will look carefully into
specific services he may introduce as
he can see the labour intensity and
the cost involved. He has heard of
the debate over whether pharmacies
should charge for service and, should
he implement a specific service, he
would look into the pros and cons of
this. However, in the short term he
can see simple, inexpensive ways of
improving service delivery within his
pharmacy to maximise business and
develop a reputation of being a caring
and helpful pharmacy. He sees that
this really just relies on delivering
quality customer service. This is
something that, along with creating
a service orientated culture within
the pharmacy, he can train his staff
As a start, Martin can use the
dimensions of quality service as a
training tool for staff (see Figure 1).
Studies show that customers judge
the quality of a service they receive on
the following dimensions: Tangibles,
Reliability, Responsiveness, Assurance
and Empathy. These dimensions of
quality service have evolved from the
characteristics of services discussed.10
Key message -- focus on
Despite providing tangible products
like medicines and other health
goods, pharmacies are all invariably
service organisations to some degree.
Pharmacists, as health providers
and retailers, offer their patients and
customers something intangible every
time they visit the pharmacy.1 There is
an element of the interaction that does
not result in ownership of anything.1
As this intangible element is often the
part of the interaction that the patient
remembers, why not focus on it?1
We have all heard testimonies like
the following: 'He is such a helpful
' 'He wrote down exactly
how to take my warfarin.
' 'He gave me
so much advice about how to treat
my son's chicken pox. While I went to
buy calamine lotion, rather than just
making the sale he suggested that it
wasn't the best product nowadays.
I will definitely go back there!'.
At times it is difficult to draw a
conclusion on goods and services as
many have a shared component of
both tangible and intangible aspects.
However, understanding the tangible
and intangible components is a key
factor in determining the emphasis
one should put on the product or the
service to assist in quality health and
1. Kotler P, Adam S, Brown L, et al. Principles of
Marketing. 2nd edn. Prentice Hall; 2003.
2. McLean F. Services marketing: The case of museums.
Service Industries Journal. 1994; 14(2):190--4.
Figure 1. Dimensions of service quality
Dimensions of service quality
Appearance of tangible facilities, equipment, personnel and
Ability to perform the promised service dependably and
Responsiveness Willingness to help patients/customers and provide prompt
Knowledge and courtesy of staff and their ability to convey trust
Caring, individualised attention the pharmacy provides its
Adapted from Walker OC, Boyd HW, Mullins J, et al. Marketing Strategy: a decision-focused approach. 4th edn.
New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education; 2003.10
supporting pharmacy practice
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