Magazine article Drug Topics

It's the Service, Stupid

Magazine article Drug Topics

It's the Service, Stupid

Article excerpt

Chain drugstores and discounters can slash prices, but most still can't match the personal touch that savvy independent pharmacies use to court and keep patrons.

Doreen Beiswanger knows all about delivering outstanding service and making it pay. She's owned the Central Avenue Pharmacy for only four years, but she's already tripled her space in the face of competition from three other independent drugstores in Valley City, N.D. The new store is doing so well, she doubled her projections in just a few months.

Beiswanger has polished her reputation as an R.Ph. and a businesswoman, in part, by providing good service, offering a variety of merchandise, and being aggressive on pricing. She's also become a local celebrity by stepping out of the pharmacy and into the studio of the local radio station.

In addition to sponsoring a radio show called "Senior Report," Beiswanger also appears on the program for mature listeners. She talks about health issues important to the senior set. She also sponsors another program of tips on health care, auto repair, credit, and other useful tidbits.

Radio is not the only medium Beiswanger uses to broadcast her messages. She also runs a diabetes support group at the local hospital and features an information center in the store. A touch-screen computer serves up databases on a wide range of health topics, and a separate room affords privacy for patient-counseling sessions.

The new store even has a video room for patients. "Especially older people may not have VCRs at home," Beiswanger said. "And here they can watch and then ask questions."

After 37 years in Aberdeen, S.D., Jones Drug is still building on a trusted name and thriving, despite competition from Kmart, Shopco, Target, and Wal-Mart as well as two other independent pharmacies in the town of 30,000. Duncan Murdy, a hometown boy, has been the owner for only three years, but he's confident enough about keeping his clientele that he refuses to lower his prices. "I do whatever it takes to make them happy," he said, "but not lower prices, that's not our game."

Before "taking the plunge" to buy Jones Drug, Murdy worked for one of the chains and for another independent in town. "They knew who I was and what I do."

What Murdy does is deliver in the middle of the night, offer charge accounts and 24-hour service every day, and advertise regularly in local newspapers inviting people to "come in and talk." And he will order items he doesn't regularly carry. There is also a big sign on the door with his home phone number. …

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