I have been following quite a few major US pharmacy retailers on Twitter. You may wonder, why not Facebook? Facebook, somehow, doesn't work for me. Unlike Twitter, Facebook keeps reminding me of who I am and who my friends are and stops me from exploring new things. I find twitter exciting, because it gives me a sense of anonymity and, you know, a new avatar! It lets me explore so many different things without revealing who I really am. It's classy!
So, where was I?
Yeah. I have been following CVS Pharmacy and Walgreens on twitter for quite some time now and slowly it dawned upon me the huge benefits a simple pharmacy twitter handle can make to the society and the businesses. Unlike other retailing segments, pharmacy retailing is not just about delivering the best value for the money spent by the customer. It's wellness! By being loyal to a particular retail brand, a customer is entrusting his health to that pharmacy. His health! There is ultimate trust involved here. The pharmacies have started realizing this (at least the major ones) and have started positioning themselves as health and wellness destinations. Their loyalty card programs are designed in a way that as a customer keeps filling his Rx at the store, he gets benefits that are not limited to redeemable points that provide discounts. Rite Aid offers services such as free immunization shots, free health magazines as benefits to their customers. Isn't that amazing? I mean, how many retailing segments can claim this sort of connect with their customers.
And most importantly, this is not seasonal. You need to keep the customer engaged throughout the year. It'd be amazing if I tell CVS (through their twitter handle) that I am travelling to Thailand for a two week trip and CVS asks me to get a flu shots at their local store before I board the flight. I can think of many other scenarios where pharmacies can prove invaluable service to their customers. And let me remind you, it's not just money. It's about staying healthy. But the effectiveness of all of it boils down to the pharmacies' social media plan. I think here is where Information Technology can prove immensely helpful. With a growing customer base, pharmacies' social media managers would find it difficult to respond 'in time', to individual queries of their customers. A huge database that has solutions to all the possible medical conditions would be handy. Here is an interaction which I recently happened to witness and this is possibly what got me to write this blog.
In this situation, CVS obviously had a profile of the particular customer in their database. And it triggered a refill call based on the last time he had his medication. CVS just serviced a proactive call. But is this enough? Can't it offer more? Can a pharmacy offer live solutions (respond within 15 minutes to a query) to a question posed to their twitter handle? May be, with a limited number of followers, it's easy. But is this scalable to a large follower base? Here is where IT can help in managing databases and BPO services so that the social media channel is akin to their in-store channel.
The pharmacy retailers and generally the healthcare entities would always find this a challenge. Providing a unified brand experience across call centers, twitter, in-store and Facebook is quite difficult in the health care sector because of the 'human' element involved. With the advent of Google Glass and other technological marvels that will completely change the way we shop, it's time Pharmacies look at the future and plan for a scenario when I ask the Walgreens twitter handle "Hey, I seem to be having skin allergy ever since I came back from a swim today morning". Walgreens – you better be prepared to answer that!