Step-by-step instructions for working with dissatisfied pharmacy customers

A long queue, a high price of medicines, the lack of the right drug in the pharmacy, a technical error, or just a bad day – any of these can be the spark that ignites a customer’s dissatisfaction. It’s impossible to avoid this, but you can learn how to dampen customer irritation and turn their negative experience into a positive one in just five steps.

The way you respond to a dissatisfied customer can either make or break your pharmacy’s success. If a visitor leaves angry, he or she is unlikely to return to your pharmacy and may potentially scare away their relatives, friends, and acquaintances. The number of potentially lost customers will increase significantly if such a customer decides to share their impressions online and is not too lazy to write a negative review. This can already be a sensitive blow to your reputation.

However, if you manage to change their mood, calm them down, and channel their emotions into a constructive direction, you will have a loyal customer. Even without assistance, he or she will justify the disappointment he or she experienced in the pharmacy by objective circumstances or temporary difficulties.

Of course, when you look into the eyes of an angry customer, it’s hard to imagine how to change their mindset to a positive one. But it is still possible. The main thing here is not to panic, not to get confused, and to remember the instructions for dealing with difficult customers in time.

Step 1. Let’s stay calm

Negative emotions such as anger, rage, and irritation are like fire. You shouldn’t throw wood on it, fueling your own emotional fire. Instead, your coolness and calmness will act on an angry customer like a bucket of cold water. Even if you are boiling inside, try to hide it. It’s not enough to bite your tongue, remember that your body language and facial expressions can communicate as much as words. Do not cross your arms, as this is a defense signal. Beware of facial expressions of disgust or distrust. Smile, but without being condescending.

To master the art of staying calm in a conflict situation, use some tricks:

  • Breathe deeply;
  • refrain from making any judgments;
  • justify and assume the best;
  • Try to empathize.

Remember that you don’t know anything about the person standing across from you. Of course, this person could be a scandalous person who just decided to take it out on you. But it could also be just an unhappy, confused person. They may be feeling very bad, nervous about their child’s illness, tired of taking care of their grandmother with Alzheimer’s disease, who just tried to burn down the house again this morning. Imagine the exact scenario that you feel the most sympathy for. This trick will help calm your anger.

Step 2. Listen actively

Listening, and most importantly, hearing a person who is wrong, swearing and talking nonsense, is also quite a challenge. However, this is the basis for overcoming any conflict. You can neither stop nor interrupt the flow of their complaints, even if it’s not the first time you’ve heard them say it. An experienced pharmacist who regularly communicates with “difficult” customers may be tempted to switch off the broken record and quickly offer a standard solution to the problem. But it’s usually better to let the customer talk.

Listening, or rather active listening, demonstrates that you care. And since a conversation with an angry customer remains a monologue for a long time, your participation in it should be emphasized by body language. Nodding your head, making eye contact, and lowering your hands will tell the customer that you have their full and undivided attention.

When he finally finishes speaking or pauses, briefly repeat what you heard, using roughly the same words. This is important because if you paraphrase the client, they may feel like you are trying to change their point of view or reinterpret their experience in your own way. Repeating exactly what you heard will serve a dual purpose: it will confirm that you understand the problem and make the person feel heard, which will reduce their hostility.

Step 3. Identify the problem, apologize, thank you

After collecting all the information, you need to determine exactly what made the customer angry and admit your mistakes. Sometimes a simple admission of guilt can help to fully restore relations with a client, because when people hear words of remorse, they often change their mood to the opposite, admit that they were wrong, apologize, and even take your side (“I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have yelled, it’s probably not your fault”). Faced with such a metamorphosis, make it easy for the customer, smile at them, and assure them that everything is fine. This will help the customer who has “snapped” to regain self-respect and demonstrate your professional maturity.

If a dissatisfied customer points out a mistake that you or your pharmacy really made, apologize and thank them for their consideration, promising to do everything possible to prevent the situation from happening again in the future.

If his anger is due to external circumstances or even his own fault, don’t rush to make excuses, shift responsibility to others, or blame the buyer. Use general phrases and passive expressions that do not make it clear who is responsible for the problem. For example: “Indeed, this drug, like some others, has risen in price. I think it’s very unfortunate, because sometimes I have to buy medicine, just like you. But, unfortunately, I can’t influence prices in any way.”

Step 4. Offer a way out

No conflict situation should be left unresolved. The best option is to find a solution that both fixes the problem and satisfies the customer. When you run out of certain medications, you can offer to replace them with an analog, order them, or go to another pharmacy that has them for sure. Always give an angry person several options. This helps them make a decision and usually calms them down.

However, even if it is impossible to get rid of the problem, your attempts to find at least some solution will demonstrate that you care, help overcome resentment and restore trust. For example, there is no way you can refund money for a mistakenly purchased drug because the law prohibits it. Explain this to the person, sympathize with the fact that they have lost money, and offer an additional discount or coupon for the next purchase. Sociological studies show that companies that try to solve their customers’ problems and correct mistakes are trusted even more than those that do not. This allows them to feel their own value and expect that their needs will be met in any situation.

Step 5. Drawing conclusions for the future

Solving a problem, especially one that occurs quite frequently, is not the end of the journey, but only the beginning. Take the time to analyze customer complaints and implement permanent changes that will prevent similar situations from happening again. This may require updating your pharmacy’s operating procedures, reviewing staffing levels and responsibilities, investing in new equipment and technology, etc. For example, if customers often complain about waiting too long, consider hiring another employee to collect orders or installing another cash register.

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