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Pinballs: Do your decisions as a pharmacy boss invite customer agony?

Decisions are like pinballs. They bring downstream side-effects in both predictable and unpredictable ways. Some pinballs change the internal (staff) environment while others change the external (customer) environment. Great leaders understand the difference and get ahead of them in the right places.
Photo by Heather McKean on Unsplash
Photo by Heather McKean on Unsplash

You insert a coin then pull a lever to make lights flash and music play as a small metal ball launches out of nowhere and begins a series of random bounces resulting in joy or agony. Decisions for a pharmacy boss are much the same. 

Decisions are like pinballs. They bring downstream side-effects in both predictable and unpredictable ways. Some pinballs change the internal (staff) environment while others change the external (customer) environment. Great leaders understand the difference and get ahead of them in the right places. 

ripples
Photo by Linus Nylund on Unsplash

Internal pinballs bring control. They do not directly impact the customer when thoroughly planned out and can be kept in-house through their learning curves. For example, achange of payroll system, a change of drug wholesaler or changing paper vendors. 

It is important to appreciate that internal pinballs become external when left unchecked. If staff don’t get paid, they don’t work. If the drugs don’t come in on time, customers go elsewhere. 

Luckily since the internal pinball affects a smaller group of people that the boss can easily communicate with, they bring less risk. 

But, beware the external pinballs

External pinballs are the more dangerous ones. They are like the narrow-therapeutic window drugs like warfarin, where drug interactions can cause devastating effects. 

These are the customer-facing changes that directly impact how we service patients. A mobile app, a new website, appointment booking software, a renovation, a new immunization or prescribing service, installing plexiglass, changing debit machine providers, the list is limitless. 

customer service
Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Since the pool of customers is wider and more difficult to communicate with, external pinballs need to be played carefully and planned slowly.

5 steps to executing change well

  1. Ensure the purpose is strong and clear for making a change
  2. Draft up a map of all steps and stakeholders required for the change to occur, including timelines and the owners of each step
  3. List any anticipated side-effects
  4. Allow staff to comment on the draft plan
  5. Pilot with a small group of customers if possible

Follow these 5 steps to ensure you keep that pinball in play and not disappear like your customers after a badly managed change. 

old bank
Photo by Alex Motoc on Unsplash

A phone call with bad news came in a few days before Christmas. My bank told me our transit number was changing and we had to inform anyone who interacts with our pharmacy account of the new number. Insert moment of panic here. 

Hello external pinball, nice to meet you. 

This is a decision they made that directly impacts the customer (me). It forces me to spend hours of time compiling pre-authorized debit/credit forms for every drug plan provider, our drug wholesaler and our pharmacy banner. 

It needs to be changed with our debit/credit machine provider, we need to adjust all the regular bills we pay, the independent vendors we trade with, swap out any paper cheques we use and adjust employee payroll. I will also need to build a reconciliation process to ensure the changeover happens without missing any drug plan deposits as one missed prescription payment could be worth thousands of dollars. 

This is a high-risk, extremely labour-intense move triggered by my bank that the customer is forced to simply deal with. It forced me to reassess who we bank with since this is the second time a transit number changes. The first time however, the conversion was done in their backend. It was simply an internal decision on their part (essentially invisible to the customer). 

In discussions with the bank, they were unable to keep their change internal and it brought a significant enough external pinball to lose my business. 

What decisions do you need to make this year?

Are they internal or external pinballs?

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