Consumer Survey Ranks U.S. Pharmacies in Customer Service; Choice, Service and Trust Top Issues for Customers

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Empathica Consumer Insights Panel finds customer service is the key driver of brand advocacy in retail pharmacy, while price and product selection rule big box

Toronto, Ontario, Canada – December 13, 2012 – Empathica Inc., a leading global provider of Customer Experience Management (CEM) solutions to the world’s most respected multi-unit enterprises in retail, food services, banking, petro and hospitality sectors, announced today that its Consumer Insights Panel survey of more than 1,500 U.S.consumers found that customer service is the key driver of brand advocacy in retail pharmacy, with Kroger ranking highest in customer service among both mass and small chain pharmacies.

The Empathica Consumer Insights Panel surveyed consumers on their perception, attitude and opinion towards the retail pharmacy experience. The top six pharmacies in terms of market share are Costco, CVS, Kroger, Rite Aid, Walgreens, and Walmart. Of these pharmacies, Kroger received top marks in nearly all customer service categories.

Across brands, three main factors drive brand advocacy for pharmacy customers:

  1. Choice – “The pharmacist provides me with options.”
  2. Service – “The store associate provided great customer service.”
  3. Trust – “I trust my pharmacist.”

Seen as superior in customer service, four out of five Kroger customers agree or strongly agree that they would recommend their pharmacy to friends and family. For other brands, only about 40 percent surveyed would advocate for their primary pharmacy.

Kroger’s ranking serves as validation of a strong correlation between customer service and customer advocacy, which was evident throughout the survey results. In fact, more than half of respondents expect their pharmacy to be more than simply a prescription-filling center. Consumers who rank pharmacies high on promotion, customer focus and staff are significantly more likely to make a recommendation to family and friends.

“Retail pharmacies can create a ‘win-win’ relationship with consumers by providing exemplary customer service; in turn, there is an opportunity for customers to ‘work’ for their primary pharmacy as brand advocates,” said Dr. Gary Edwards, chief customer officer, Empathica. “There is little room for winning a price war in pharmacy retail. The real battlefront for pharmacies is in customer service and convenience.”

Small Chain Pharmacies Emphasize Customer Service; Big Box Retailers Prioritize Promotions and Product Selection

While the survey results show a strong link between customer service and customer advocacy, there are several areas where pharmacies can make adjustments to enhance the customer experience. Of the three mass retailers (Walmart, Kroger, Costco) and three specialty drug chain retailers (Walgreens, CVS, Rite Aid), results show that both types of pharmacies can improve by learning from the other’s best practices.

Empathica found that mass retailers are lacking in terms of providing loyalty programs. Only one-third of mass retail pharmacy customers indicated that they are aware of loyalty programs, compared to 43 percent of specialty drug chain retail customers. If customers are unaware of loyalty programs, it is unlikely they are aware of various other perks and promotions.

Specialty drug chain retailers can look to mass retailers as exemplars in providing in-store promotions. While only 32 percent of specialty drug chain retail customers answered that they “always” find attractively-priced promotions, 44 percent of mass retail customers had the same response to this question. It appears that while mass retailers capitalize on buyer power to offer the best deal, specialty drug chain retailers are better suited to relying on loyalty programs.

“To build a stronger, more loyal customer base, mass retailers and specialty drug chain retailers can look to what the other has to offer,” added Edwards. “Rather than focusing exclusively on general customer service or in-store promotions, all pharmacy retailers have an opportunity to better manage the key moments of truth on the customer journey. This includes providing more choices, offering superior service throughout the experience and promoting loyalty programs to create deeper relationships with customers. When customers experience exceptionality in these areas, regardless of price, it definitely builds brand advocacy.”

For more information on the results of this study, visit

About the Empathica Consumer Insights Panel:

The Empathica Consumer Insights serves as an authoritative voice on consumer based economic indicators; the retail, financial services and restaurant industries; consumer shopping intentions and customer satisfaction as reported by thousands of consumers in the U.S. and Canada. Results from Empathica’s Consumer Insights, led by Dr. Gary Edwards and Empathica’s Consumer Insights team, are published several times a year. The results are based on outbound Internet surveys with Empathica’s growing Insights Panel, derived from more than 30 million consumer surveys per year. Results have been weighted to reflect latest Census distributions in the U.S. and in Canada, including Region, Gender, Age and Income.

Aforementioned data is reported by the Empathica Consumer Insights Panel – Wave 2 2012.

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