J.D. Power and Associates’ recent release of its annual national pharmacy study underscored customers’ sensitivity to cost issues, despite out-of-pocket pharmacy costs virtually remaining unchanged from 2009.

The study, which examined customer satsifaction rates in chain drug stores, mass merchandisers, supermarkets and mail-order pharmacies, found that cost competitiveness accounted for 24% of overall satisfaction among brick-and-mortar customers (versus 10% in 2009) and for 41% among mail-order customers (versus 19% in 2009).

J.D. Power and Associates did point out, however, that customer service did outweigh saving money among respondents.

The study finds that customers with higher satisfaction scores are financially beneficial to their pharmacies through increased rates of loyalty and advocacy and higher revenue per visit. Highly satisfied customers are three times more likely to say they “definitely will” return to their pharmacy and are ten times more likely to say they “definitely will” recommend their pharmacy, compared with customers with low satisfaction.

“Pharmacies have an opportunity to grow their business and better position themselves for the future by improving satisfaction levels among their customers,” said Dougherty.  Based on national average spending by pharmacy customers, a highly satisfied customer may generate $227 in additional prescription revenue each year, J.D. Power and Associates noted.

“Consumers are spending more on healthcare expenses in general due to various employer-implemented changes in insurance coverage. High-performing pharmacies aren’t necessarily those with the lowest prices. Rather, pharmacies that are focused on service garner the highest levels of satisfaction. Customer service still trumps price, even in an environment where cost has become increasingly important,” said Jim Dougherty, director of the healthcare practice at J.D. Power and Associates.

[Source:  “2010 U.S. National Pharmacy Study.”  J.D. Power and Associates.  21 Sept. 2010.  Web.  5 Oct. 2010.]