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Online Customer Experiences – What We Can Learn

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By Tommy Cheung B.Sc(Pharm), R.Ph, MBA – President; Kironmoy Datta B.Sc(Hons), MBA, CM - Marketing Consultant


Exploring ways to improve health-care service delivery – The second in a three-part series.

Read Part 1 - What Customers Really Want 

As health-care professionals, pharmacists have a unique and important role that is multifaceted and ever changing. Every year our scope of practice grows, therapeutic approaches in clinical care evolve, and we face new business pressures – like the impact COVID has had. Online and virtual care services are now a norm, and we want to provide the best possible customer service and patient care across all touchpoints.

With that in mind, recently conducted both qualitative and quantitative research in Ontario and Manitoba. The research was specifically designed to explore online, traditional, retail, and health-care experiences to better understand perceptions of great customer experiences. Our goal was to get insights into what customers and patients really appreciate and then incorporate those findings to continue to improve our service.

Research Methodology

The research was conducted in two parts with questions covering a broad range of online and traditional services. The questions explored various habits, practices, usage frequency, and perceptions.

First, the quantitative survey component was completed online by a representative sample of 187 people across Ontario and Manitoba. Second, 10 respondents in Ontario participated in an hour-long individual interview. A small honorarium was provided to participants in the qualitative research because of their time investment.

What respondents shared with us about their views about various experiences, both online and in-person, was interesting and valuable.

Types of Services We Asked About

People have been expanding their use of online and digital services for many years and during COVID, that usage has jumped enormously. To get a broad understanding of customer perceptions, we investigated a variety of different services and experiences. The satisfaction drivers varied significantly depending on the nature of the service and the need it addressed.




Streaming Video

When looking at streaming video, as one would expect, the selection was the top satisfaction driver. People are interested in having a broad set of options to choose from. Following this, it was ease of use, and finally the fact that it was entertaining. On the other hand, the customer service factors that are important in other industries, like efficiency, reliability, and customization all ranked much lower.

Social Media

With social media, the top driver was connectivity, which enabled users to stay in touch, or be up to date with the people they want to. After this, the satisfaction drivers were entertaining and ease of use. Again, other factors like service, customization, and reliability ranked lower.

Online Banking

For online banking, the top driver was ease of use, followed by efficiency and convenience. They outranked factors that one would expect for banking, like reliability, security, friendliness, customer needs and experience. Banking can be complicated, making the process easy to use was what customers valued the most in fulfilling their needs. Also, since there is a high level of trust already established, the consumer needs shifted to the non-traditional factors again.

Online Ride Sharing

When discussing online ride sharing, the service quality was one of the most important factors, followed by value and convenience. Priorities for consumers changed dramatically when they come to ride sharing compared to other online services. Exploring service quality highlighted the importance of getting to the destination, as one would expect. Additionally, the driver’s conduct was also part of what helped service quality rise to the top, and things like having a bottle of water or other personal touches made the experience stand out. Since online ride sharing services are in constant competition with traditional taxi services, value and convenience contributed to the success of a ride sharing service.

Online Food Delivery

When it came to online food delivery, the top drivers were different again. Convenience, efficiency, and service quality were ranked the most important. When there is urgency, in this case hunger, value became less important and service quality including fast delivery was valued. Also, since most consumers already know what they would like to order and selecting food from a menu is usually quite straightforward, the importance of selection and ease of use also decreased.

Insights for Online and Virtual Care Services

Online and virtual care services in health care are relatively new, and the use and functionalities are still being developed and expanding quickly. Consumer needs and preferences continue to evolve with them, making them hard to pinpoint. These other online services that we asked consumers about are more established, have been used for longer, and are more familiar. The unique characteristic differences and similarities between those services provided valuable insights into what consumers expect from virtual care services currently and in the future:

  • Frequency of use

Unlike social media and streaming services, consumers do not need to access virtual care continuously or on a daily basis. The priorities on selection, connectivity and entertaining will not necessarily play a role in virtual care services. Based on the frequency of use, banking, ride sharing and food delivery are more similar to virtual care services. One can expect the top common priorities, convenience and efficiency, would apply and need to be included when delivering virtual care services.

  • Business process

Banking is a complex process and so is accessing healthcare services in general. Similarly, most consumers already recognize and trust the providers whether in banking or healthcare services. Making the process easy – ease of use – for consumers should be a high priority when providing virtual care services.

  • Consumer needs

When consumers need to access healthcare services, virtual or traditional, they have specific needs (health/well-being) as in ride sharing (travel) and food delivery (hunger). Service quality is critical to satisfying the consumer needs. It is not the fancy new technology or connectivity that matters as much as providing good care to consumers and patients and looking after their health needs.

The insights we’ve gained through this research are helping to guide how we grow and deliver our virtual care services. With the ongoing trends in customer expectations from online services in general and pharmacy practice integrating more virtual or online tools, applying these findings will help deliver great patient care and customer experiences.

Knowing that we can take steps to improve the patient and customer experience by keeping these characteristics top of mind is empowering. Listening to patient and customer needs and finding ways to adjust our practices, helps ensure customer satisfaction. It will also help us continue to improve how we provide care and will help us provide our patients with the best possible customer experience.

In the next article in this series, we will share what we learned about the similarities and differences in patient expectations between family physicians and specialists and the insights we gained that can help us continue to deliver and improve the patient experience. Stay tuned!

For more info on our research and in-pharmacy virtual clinic services, visit


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