Quantity Kills Quality

Quantity kills quality - a very famous saying and repeatedly reinforced by my brother. I saw a practical example of it recently.

I would like to talk about Apollo Pharmacy chains in India. Apollo pharmacy boasts of opening around 250 stores annually and is supposedly the number one pharmacy in India with annual turnover of around Rs. 1150 crores.

For me, Apollo is a brand that represents quality and safety. I expect a similar service delivery from their chain of pharmacies also. And I am sure, there are many with similar expectations.

But I have been always let down by the pharmacy. My experiences with the pharmacy do not support their claims of quality. I have visited around 10 of these pharmacies in different parts of Hyderabad and none were different.

To begin with, I have always found the staff at Apollo Pharmacies in dire need of proper training. They show extreme unprofessionalism in the way they communicate with a customer. There is generally one person who will know all about the products in the shop – rest simple look at you cluelessly as if you are talking in some alien language.

Once the customer requirements are understood, they take ages to pack the stuff for you. Trust me they are so slow. You go there at any time of the day, the staff at Apollo Pharmacy give an impression that they just got up from sleep.

Now coming to their stock of products. I guess 40% of the times I have been let down by the pharmacy on that too. Medicines are out of stock is what I have heard. And when it comes to things like sanitizer, wipes, nebulizer, etc. then mostly products branded as Apollo are available. Brands other than these are rarely available.

After experiencing such a let down by the pharmacy when I read their claims of opening 250 stores annually, it sounds bizzare. In my locality, there is a big stylish Apollo pharmacy next to a small non branded medical shop. And crowd is generally in the small medical shop. I too prefer that shop because of the simplicity and ease of buying medicines, and also because I get all medicines in one place. I did try the adjacent Apollo Pharmacy, but the experience was too dull to pay them a visit again.

A loss of customer is not just a loss in terms of sales but also loss of goodwill and loyalty from the customer end. To remain competitive, pharmacies need to have customer loyalty in their favor. In present times, just filling the shelves with product is not enough. For increasing the number of customers it is necessary to provide quality service also.

The present scenario is that customers have increased their spending at pharmacies and there are also increased instances of repeated monthly buying just like they would buy at any grocery store. In such a situation, pharmacies should understand that their sales are very much driven by customer loyalty.

A visit to the pharmacy gives a feel that they are so involved in expanding their stores across the country, they forgot that quality is equally important for a long term success.

It would sound more convincing if their claims to success boast of the best service delivery quality rather than the number of stores they are opening. It wont harm them much if they open just 150 stores a year but instead spend a little more on training of their employees as well as improving the product inventory of pharmacies. They can still be number one in terms of turnover, as their ‘lost customer’ count will definitely reduce.

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