Study: Pharmacy customers expect shorter wait times, more services

WESTLAKE VILLAGE, Calif. — Customers have higher expectations of shorter wait times and expect more from the pharmacist and pharmacy staff, according to a new survey released Tuesday by J.D. Power and Associates.

The market research firm surveyed more than 12,300 consumers who filled a new prescription or refilled a prescription during the three months before the 2011 National Pharmacy Study was fielded, between May and June. The study, now in its fifth year, found that among chain drug store customers who waited an average of less than three minutes to give their prescription information to pharmacy staff, satisfaction averaged 836 on a 1,000-point scale, but declined to 783 among those who have to wait more than three minutes. By contrast, last year, the window was seven minutes.

Meanwhile, supermarket pharmacies ranked higher than chain drug stores, at 826, compared with 808 for the latter. Mass merchandisers ranked the lowest, at 797, but performed well in terms of cost competitiveness.

"Customers are expecting more from their brick-and-mortar pharmacy — not just in terms of wait time, but also in terms of contact with the pharmacist and pharmacy staff," J.D. Power senior director of the healthcare practice Rick Millard said. "In fact, brick-and-mortar pharmacies are able to better differentiate themselves by offering additional services from the pharmacy staff. These personal contacts may help distinguish the store experience as satisfying for pharmacy customers."

Millard said customers at pharmacies could benefit from talking with their pharmacist in a private area, signing up for automatic refills and using pharmacies for things like health testing and wellness services.

While fewer customers using mail-order pharmacies said they would switch to getting their prescriptions through retailers, overall satisfaction with mail-order pharmacies has declined since 2010. Customers required by insurance providers to use mail order for maintenance and repeat prescriptions rated their satisfaction at 771, compared with 836 for those not required to use mail order; but those using mail-order pharmacy show greater satisfaction when they can request free overnight delivery.

"In an era when online retailers like Amazon and Zappos have set new standards for speed and convenience, customers are looking for more efficiency in their pharmacy transactions as well," Millard said. "There's a clear opportunity for mail-order pharmacies to improve on the logistical aspects of the transaction."

The study also ranked the top chains according to segment. Among chain drug stores, Good Neighbor Pharmacy and Health Mart ranked at 851, followed by The Medicine Shoppe at 831. Target led mass merchandisers, with a score of 846, followed by 837 for Sam's Club and 834 for Costco. Among supermarkets, Publix had the highest score, 867, while Wegmans had 848 and Winn-Dixie had 834. Kaiser Permanente had the highest score among mail-order pharmacies, 848, followed by Humana RightSourceRx's 840 and 813 for Express Scripts.