• September 25, 2012
  • By Leonard Klie, Editor, CRM magazine and SmartCustomerService.com

IVR Gives This Pharmacy a Healthy Boost

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Like most small, independent retailers, family-owned Delta Pharmacy constantly needs to find cost-effective ways to maintain a competitive footing against big national chain-store rivals like CVS, Rite-Aid, and Walgreens. And, as with any retail business, responsiveness to customer needs and expectations spells the difference between success and failure.

Delta Pharmacy, which operates five stores in South Carolina, has had some success in the 77 years since its founding. The company last year rang up $18 million in sales. It is looking to add a sixth store in the coming months.

"We want to do the same thing as the big chains, but we can't afford to lose the personal feel," says Willis High, the third-generation owner of Delta Pharmacy. His grandfather founded the company in 1935.

"Over the years, we've tried to use as much technology as possible but still keep that hometown service," he says.

The biggest technology implementation so far has been the TalkRx integrated telephony and pharmacy management platform from Vow, which is based in Boiling Springs, S.C. TalkRx is a server-based Voice over IP phone system that also provides an interactive voice response (IVR) portal and many other call center capabilities.

System capabilities include:

  • a prescription refill IVR;
  • call routing based on caller ID information that enables premium customers, doctors' offices, and others needing special attention to bypass the IVR and connect directly to the appropriate store and pharmacy staffer;
  • integrated call and voicemail recording and archiving;
  • customized greetings and IVR prompts;
  • detailed call reporting on call volume, calls on hold, and other metrics that can be used to determine store staffing levels;
  • flexible outbound dialing features to alert customers that prescriptions are ready for pickup or provide other messages; and
  • multilocation connections that allow stores to transfer callers between locations just by dialing an extension.

Customers can go through the IVR to access important personal information and details related to their medications, all without waiting on hold for a pharmacy employee.

"We can get to the important calls more quickly because we're not taking unnecessary calls," High explains, noting that the IVR handles 40 percent of all incoming calls. Routinely, the busiest store handles about 300 calls per day. Most of the others average 150 to 200 calls per day.

Stores are closed on Sundays, but that doesn't mean customers can't get through. "When we come in on a Monday morning, there could be 150 to 200 prescriptions phoned in [over the weekend] that have already been logged into the system and are ready for processing," High says. "That has streamlined everything. It lets us spend more time with customers who need to talk to a pharmacist for the really important things."

And, accordingly, pharmacy personnel can answer calls more quickly. While many calls were waiting in queue prior to the TalkRx implementation, all are now answered within two or three rings, High says.

The system also incorporates unified messaging so prescription requests coming into Delta via fax, the Web, email, or mobile application automatically get logged into the archival system.

Vow also provides managed antivirus, network support, offsite data backups, and smartphone and Web application development. It worked with Delta Pharmacy to create the company Web site and mobile phone application. The free mobile app has been downloaded by more than 700 customers in just a few weeks.

And while the business runs smoothly now, that wasn't always the case. "Before TalkRx, it was chaotic. The phones were always ringing off the hook, and we had to do a lot of manual work with our old phone system," High recalls.

Now that much of that work has been automated, "the phones don't ring the way they used to, but we're still as busy as ever," he states.

The Payoff

Since implementing the TalkRx IVR and VoIP phone system at its five locations, Delta Pharmacy has seen:

  • a 40 percent reduction in the number of calls that are answered by in-store personnel;
  • all calls answered within two or three rings; and
  • 150 to 200 prescription requests logged in on the weekend when stores are typically closed.

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