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What Pharmacy Can Learn From Borders & Best Buy

So, as you know, I don’t really talk about my first profession of pharmacy here much at this blog.  However, I just read an article in Forbes about how Best Buy is “Grasping at Straws,” which made me think about the Borders crash and burn and then back to the transformation that is going on in pharmacy too.  Honestly? This post is more about entrepreneurial thinking than anything, so I’m going to let it rip.

A LOT of big box retail is kind of struggling right now.  Retail pharmacy is included in that as well.  Back to Best Buy – they’re losing sales, and the article I cite above goes into a lot of reasons why.  But I think it all comes right down to one thing: service.

For example, if you walk into an Apple store, they’re jam packed.  Why? Certainly, you can buy an iPad or MacBook off the internet (in fact, I did with my own last mac purchase…it came right to my house.)  So then, why is the store jammed?  Well, SERVICE for one!  Service is the BIGGEST reason why I’m a mac fan now – because I can roll into a store, hand them my computer if something is wonky and they FIX IT.  Apple focuses on great products, yes, but also?  They focus on service.

Now, over to Borders.  They crashed and burned for several reasons.  The publishing industry is changing overnight.  I can’t have a conversation with a fellow writer without lamenting the rapid changes in publishing.  However, why did Borders fail?  Well, once again, it really wasn’t on product.  They had as many book-books as everyone else and even an eReader (the Kobo).  But again–it wasn’t the product they failed at.  I argue it was the service!

Amazon’s profits aren’t through the roof either, and honestly?  I think they could rock better service too.  I’ve got some ideas for Jeff that I’ll be sharing with him shortly.  BUT–they’ve got a kindle that brings a LOT of book titles right to the iPad kindle app and/or your Fire in 60 seconds or less.  They’ve got fast service.

And although I’m not a huge fan of the e-readers yet myself, I can tell you that waiting 60 second for a download of the second Hunger Games book was a heck of a lot faster and easier than trying to hunt down a paper copy at the airport bookstore (they were out), and/or waiting for the book to show up at my house later on in the week.  When I want something, I kind of want it NOW.

Last, but certainly not least, I posed the question to my own students in pharmacy law class on Monday when I lectured–is pharmacy a product, or a service-based industry?  There was a spectrum of answers.  I argue that the traditional pharmacies that focus on product (a la $4 prescriptions, namely) and fight about price are going to lose in the end.  In order for the best pharmacies to survive, it HAS to be about SERVICE moving forward, NOT PRICE.

This isn’t going to be a super popular post.  However, drugs are getting more expensive and more complicated.  Thus, there is going to be a huge demand for educators to go with these expensive drugs, and if the pharmacist is too busy counting by 5′s to get the service piece under control with patients, they’re going to lose.

Classes.  Education.  Wellness.  Service. <—that’s what my first profession is going to win on, and maybe, even your own profession too.  Think about it.  Next time you see a big industry org sinking–ask yourself, do they focus on product, or service?  Better be not just the former, or they’re headed the way of the dodo.

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