Coastal Commerce Rx Success
Treating customers well for more than 10 years at Island Pharmacy
Island Pharmacy on Sanibel celebrated 10 years in business in 2017, serving island residents for their pharmaceutical needs. For owner Reggie Mathai, it’s all about caring for people. “We don’t treat our customers as objects or just another number,” he says. “That’s the biggest thing. Myself, personally, it’s all about applying the Golden Rule. How do you want to be treated? Well, you treat them the best way you possibly can.”
If or when people are going through rough times, Reggie and his dedicated staff of seven understand that principle. He owns the business with his wife, but he originally worked at another local pharmacy, which was purchased by a competing franchise. After that, he decided to go out on his own.
When he started his own business in 2007, he says, he tweaked the whole concept, focusing on client and patient service, pairing up with the company’s current franchise, which matched his ideologies.
The overall focus is to go beyond prescrip- tion fulfillment. Island Pharmacy also emphasizes follow-ups, seeing how customers are doing and answering questions at any time. This philosophy has led to the pharmacy’s staff staying longer than the industry’s average turnover on technicians, which is typically one to two years, according to Reggie. The staff at Island Pharmacy tends to stay from five to six years.
Reggie’s compassion for his customers comes from the length of time he has known them and the personal bonds they share. “It breaks my heart to see people very ill,” he says. “It’s one thing if it’s a cold, but when you see them in adverse conditions and going through a lot of hurt and pain, it’s hard to see them going through that. People are going to get sick and not do well, like it or not. I tend to bond with them or care about them more than the chains, because they don’t necessarily want people dropping in on customers like that. It’s an individual choice at that point.”
His dedication to the community shows.
The business earns five stars on both Yelp and Facebook.
“The pharmacist was so kind and considerate,” a customer wrote. “I forgot my insurance card, so he called the last pharmacy at home where I had a prescription filled and got all the information from them. After that, it took just a few minutes to get my prescriptions filled. It was the best I’ve been treated here on this island.”
Another patient referenced excellent service and an attentive staff, despite how busy the store was. The user also said the variety of items in the store was vast. “Much better than going to a big-box store. Don’t feel like a number. Glad I came here,” he concluded.
The access to the store’s pharmacists, who are “more than happy” to take time to explain things to customers “even several times,” Reggie says, is a big advantage. This is especially true for customers and patients not feeling 100 percent. Some information Reggie and his staff can provide include dietary changes, non-pharmacological approaches and vitamins.
“If they have different questions about what they have going on, like what to ask their doctors, we can help,” he says. “Some doctors are pressed for time and rush through the patient’s visit, so we tell them to ask how to deal with these specific things and what they’re going through.”
After 10 years, Reggie is pleased with the community he serves. “In the beginning, you never know how long you’re going to be around,” he says. “The support from the community locally has made a big difference. We see people come and go, but overall the support has been pretty strong.”
As for the future, Reggie is looking to increase automation and expedite the process to serve customers more quickly and efficiently, such as following up to let them know when medications are due for renewal.
“We’re always upping the game in improving on customer service,” he says. “No matter where you go or where you choose to go, when you come in here once, or a few times, we’ll get to know you quickly. We’ll recognize you when you come in. We’ll talk to you and get to know you.
“I don’t like that sterile environment that, unfortunately, a lot of times in the medical business you see—a wall that keeps people from opening up and telling you what’s going on or even opening up enough to be comfortable to ask questions. We’re trying to break those barriers and improve.”
The overall focus is to go beyond prescription fulfillment. Island Pharmacy also emphasizes follow-ups, seeing how customers are doing and answering questions at any time.
From left: Island Pharmacy owner Reggie Mathai with staff members Mark, Kenneth and Nicholas