A focus on customer service and technical knowledge give Ben’s Pharmacy the edge it needs to compete against much larger big-box retailers. The pharmacy, founded in 1979 in a medical center in Pefferlaw, Ontario, today has 12 stores including its largest, flagship location in Beaverton, Ontario. That is where founder and President Ben Smith can be found personally helping customers.
“We believe in personal service and being involved in the community,” Smith says, noting the pharmacy regularly sponsors local hockey, baseball and soccer teams and organizes events including an annual golf tournament.
For Smith, personal service means a number of things, including filling prescriptions quickly. “Other stores can take a while to fill new prescriptions, because they want people to hang around in their stores and shop,” he says. “When customers come to our store they know they won’t be kept around for a half-hour. We know people who come in want their prescriptions fast.”
Ben’s Pharmacy offers a number of personalized services including packing medication into blister packs divided by day of the week. This allows customers to take the right dosage of medication on the right days. “Everything someone needs goes into the blister packs, so customers or their family members don’t have to worry about them taking too much or too little,” Smith says.
Other services include free blood pressure checks, old medication disposal and free delivery. Each location is also readily reachable by telephone during working hours. “When our customers call us, they talk to a person, not a recording,” Smith says. “People really appreciate that.”
Smith prides himself on being personally able to meet most customers’ requests. “Our store in Beaverton can supply a service no one else can while I am working – if someone needs something, I can get it,” he says. Smith draws on both suppliers and other store locations to ship requested items within hours, he says.
Each location serves a small community of 15,000 or fewer people. “Our customers appreciate the fact that they don’t have to drive a long distance to pick up prescriptions and essential items,” Smith says.
Ben’s Pharmacy is stepping up its level of service to better face the challenge presented by major chains. Most recently, the pharmacy started to waive deductible charges for medication in response to competitors doing the same, and is working to increase the number of personal care and other front-of-shop items it sells.
The pharmacy is also adapting more technology in its operations, including developing its website to provide more product and drug information to customers. Smith also hopes to soon implement an after-hours phone service customers can use to call in prescriptions and refills.
One advantage Ben’s Pharmacy has over its larger competitors is Smith himself. Smith, a 40-year-plus pharmacy veteran, specializes in naturopathic and homeopathic medications as well as vitamins and supplements.
Smith also brings to his company a great deal of knowledge and resources gained through his involvement in a number of professional organizations. These include the American College of Apothecaries, for which Smith serves as president. He is the first Canadian to serve in the role.
Smith joined the organization in 1990 after a colleague told him about the college’s work regarding compounding prescriptions. Since joining, Smith has also gained knowledge and experience in areas including respiratory disease treatment through a number of college-sponsored courses.
Other organizations Smith is involved with include the National Community Pharmacists Association, and the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists. “Between these three organizations, I have many of the tools my company has needed to be successful across our 12 pharmacies,” Smith adds.
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