Rx Suc­cess

Treat­ing cus­tomers well for more than 10 years at Is­land Phar­macy

Times of the Islands - - Contents - BY KEVIN HASLAM

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

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