Poplar’s Drug Store Chain

Kim could not believe how Joe had just talked at an elderly customer. Joe had been rude and abrupt with someone who was clearly confused about his medications. As an employee of Poplar’s Drug Store chain, Joe, a pharmacy technician, had been trained in how to approach and interact with customers, but he was not exhibiting the behavior taught in those classes. In her first shift since she had rejoined the pharmacy team at Poplar’s Chelsea location, Kim noted other problems among team members: poor communication, high stress levels, inability to balance operational tasks with taking care of customers, a lack of teamwork, and so on. The pharmacist who was on duty, clearly flustered by the backlog of work, was so busy filling prescriptions that he was unaware of Joe’s interaction with the customer. After turning to walk away from the counter, another technician bumped directly into Joe, dropping her basket of prescription labels and bottles of medication all over the floor. Obviously upset by what had just transpired, Joe announced to no one in particular that he was taking a bathroom break and stormed out of the pharmacy. No one beside Kim even seemed to notice.

Kim had worked on the Chelsea pharmacy team, the group responsible for prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, for four of the last five years: in fact, she had worked there since her sophomore year in high school. During that time, she knew that the pharmacy team had consistently received low marks in customer service. This dismayed her greatly, because she felt like everyone on the team shared the same goal: helping customers be healthy.

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The team members assisting the pharmacist(s) were called “pharmacy technicians.” The normal size of the team at the Chelsea store was four plus the lead pharmacy technician. The senior pharmacist on duty was ultimately responsible for the performance of the team, but day-to-day leadership was delegated to the senior technician. Since her return from the nearby Elmwood store, Kim had ideas about how to make things better at Chelsea. A little over a year ago, Kim had transferred to Poplar’s nearby Elmwood location where she was promoted, trained, and learned how to become an effective senior technician. Now Kim was back at Chelsea as the senior technician and she was hoping to make changes in how team members approached their work.

Kim envisioned a pharmacy where customers left feeling happy and employees loved coming to work, where a cohesive team delivered a great experience that was reflected in their monthly scorecards. Within hours of her return, however, she observed that nothing had changed in Chelsea since her departure. In fact, if Joe’s recent encounter with the elderly customer was any indication, things had gotten worse.

Kim asked herself, how and where should I begin to make changes? What structural changes do I need to make? Or, should I begin with the team’s culture, and if so, how? How do I work with the senior pharmacist and staff pharmacists to inspire a shared vision? What about the managers and staff that serviced the other parts of the Chelsea Poplar Drug Store who were responsible for all the other types of products and services the store offered its clients (e.g., over-the-counter drugs, perfume, skin and hair care products, greeting cards, food products, electronic products, etc.)? Did they need to become involved in her change initiative or should she just focus on her team? What changes do we need to make with how we service and treat our customers, Kim asked herself. How will I be received by my team, given that I’ve just returned? As the second in command after the pharmacist on duty, she knew she needed to talk to Joe and address the situation. A pang of anxiety came over her. For the first time since she embarked on her mission over a year ago, Kim felt nervous. It was at that moment she thought to herself, “What have I gotten myself into?”

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