By John Nash, chief marketing and strategy officer, Redpoint Global.
The Federal Retail Pharmacy Partnership underscores the status of retail pharmacies as frontline caregiving organizations, often the first point of contact for many healthcare consumers. The federal program, announced in November and activated on Feb. 2, is a partnership between the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and 21 participating retail and independent pharmacies for the distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. The partnership covers roughly 60% of pharmacies in the United States, including CVS Health, Walgreens, Costco, Walmart, Rite Aid, Kroger, Publix and Albertsons.
It is not surprising that the government would turn to pharmacies as primary points of care for vaccine distribution. In addition to offering ubiquitous access, retail pharmacies were built to serve micro-market, and ideally individualized consumer needs. With online and mobile app prescription orders, refills, reminders and overall management; drive-through pick-up and on-site urgent care facilities, retail pharmacies are already a first option for many consumers to access and manage healthcare across digital and physical channels.
With vaccine distribution ramping up, pharmacies have a vested interest in creating a compelling vaccination customer experience (CX) to attract new customers, increase customer loyalty or even entice customers to switch preferred pharmacies. This opportunity helps explain the widespread participation, despite pharmacies having to bear administrative and operational costs – such as training costs, a 15-minute required post-vaccine monitoring period for signs of an allergic reaction, or setting pop-up vaccination sites in partnerships with schools, churches or community centers.
Many pharmacies, Walmart included, are launching vaccine drives and community vaccine events specifically chosen to serve at-risk or underserved populations. Others offer drive-through vaccination sites as contact-free options.
Meet Customer Expectations with a Personalized CX
The return for going above and beyond the federal program measures for vaccine distribution – beyond contributing to a healthier population – is a satisfied customer who, the pharmacy hopes, will become a repeat customer, either in-store or through various digital channels.
Vaccinating an at-large population helps advance the cause not only by providing vaccine-eligible customers with a convenient, safe and pleasant experience, but also by receiving a wealth of first-party customer data. In addition to personally identifiable information (PII), vaccinated patients provide pharmacies with a host of behavioral preferences – how they scheduled, notification and channel preferences, and risk tolerance among them.
By using customer data to deliver a hyper-personalized CX, pharmacies will meet or exceed rising consumer expectations for brands to engage customers with a deep, personal understanding across channels. In a 2019 Harris Poll commissioned by Redpoint, 63% of consumers surveyed said that personalization is now a standard service they expect. In addition, 37% of consumers said that they will stop doing business with any company that fails to offer a personalized experience.
A Personalized Approach Starts with Data
Using vaccination as a starting point, personalized touches could include letting a customer know the closest locations and wait times when scheduling an appointment. Prior to the appointment, the pharmacy could send information about what to expect (on the customer’s preferred channel), it could send an appointment reminder, offer to inform the customer’s PCP or send updates on eligibility requirements.
Afterward – in addition to a standard “thank you” – the pharmacy could send CDC contact guidelines for a vaccinated population. Or, if the pharmacy identifies the customer as new to the system, it could send personalized offers to join the online prescription program – a free consultation, a free prescription transfer from an existing supplier, a discounted family rate – depending on an individual consumer’s needs.
Regardless of how a pharmacy chooses to engage with a customer, every decision should be driven by data. A personalized experience that treats each customer as a segment of one, and one that delivers the level of omnichannel personalization that customers expect, requires a single customer view.
A customer-centric, data-driven approach that uses a single customer view eliminates the data, process and channel siloes that are largely responsible for introducing friction into a customer’s healthcare journey. By combining customer data from every source and of every type into a single view, with real-time updates, pharmacies will know everything there is to know about an individual customer.
Insights come to life on behalf of the customer through the use of a real-time decisioning engine that, combined with automated machine learning, is optimized to always present the most relevant or next-best action for a consumer that is in the context of an individual customer journey.
A New Opportunity to Engage with Relevance
With customers on record that a personalized CX is expected as a routine service, in healthcare and other industries, pharmacies have a tremendous opportunity to use the vaccine rollout as a vehicle to launch a customer-centric, data-driven personalized approach to customer engagement.
Already at the forefront of the healthcare industry, pharmacies that invest in personalization initiatives will be a step ahead of the competition as go-to destinations for convenience and consistent, relevant experiences that reflect a deep, personal understanding of an individual customer.