That Little Thing Called Communication

So I have asthma. Not really bad asthma, but bad enough. I have a blue inhalor for attacks and red one for preventative use (I know, I know, they’re usually brown, but the brown ones make me worse for some reason?!) I’m not very good at using the red one – I just can’t seem to integrate it into my daily routine – so more often than not I let it get too bad and end up reaching for the blue one.

I’ve had asthma since I was 15 or 16 (half my life, almost!) and I can’t remember a time when my blue inhalor wasn’t a Ventolin. As the asthma sufferers out there will know, Ventolin is the brand of choice when it comes to reactive inhalors. They’re made by GSK and somehow have taken over the market. There are actually different types of Ventolin inhalor, but Salbutamol is the active ingredient in all of them, and it’s actually also available unbranded as a “generic medicine”, not just as Ventolin.

A couple of months ago I did an anonymous survey about my Ventolin inhalor. The idea was to find out how I’d feel about receiving a generic version instead. I hadn’t really thought about it before – as I say, I can’t actually remember a time when I haven’t been given Ventolin. The survey was quite thought provoking and the long and short of it was that I decided I’d be happy with a generic Salbutamol product, so long as it was identified to me by the Pharmacist.

Well guess what turned up in my collection from the Pharmacist the other week? A generic Salbutamol inhalor! And guess how I feel? Pretty naffed off  to be honest! I’ve gotta say, the fact that neither the Pharmacist or one of their assistants saw fit to take two (count ’em!) minutes out of their day to explain to me that, though it wasn’t a Ventolin, it’ll do the same thing, is really rubbish communication IMO! If it weren’t for the fact I’d done a survey on this very topic the other month, I would genuinely have believed that they’d issued me with the wrong prescription. I’d have taken it back down there and told them as much, and then I’d have been really mad that I’d gone all the way down there to change it when I found out it didn’t need changing.

I wonder how many people went back and questioned what they were issued? I wonder how much time they wasted with confused, angry customers when they could have taken just a minute or two to explain the situation?

If you’re a regular sufferer of something (anything) then the chances are you know and understand your medication quite well, so to have it changed on you without explanation is not good customer service. I think this is true of anything – if you have regular customers with expectations then it’s important that you meet them. And if you can’t meet them, or if you have to change a service or product that you offer for whatever reason, then you need to manage your customers’ expectations and communicate the change to them.

I go out of my way to give my custom to an independent Pharmacy because I think it’s important to support independent companies (especially with the likes of Tesco, Sainsbury and other big chains all diversifying and dominating the markets) but I’ve got to say, I’m really unimpressed by the communication in this instance and, if it happens again, I’ll be getting my prescriptions elsewhere…



6 Responses to “That Little Thing Called Communication”

  1. 1 sweetheart March 16, 2010 at 8:48 am

    Marketing sweetheart Innit. Communication is key, it goes a long way to achieving customer satisfaction. Information, people want information, its all about peace of mind and eliminating any uncertainties.

  2. 2 Max March 16, 2010 at 10:01 am

    Agree with all of this and I would feel the same. Our son suffers from Asthma and I would be mighty peeved at it takes a while to get used to the dose, type, and methods, so it would imply that there wasn’t any consideration given to this.

    We also use smaller chemists. As you say, communication is important. It’s difficult for someone to make up from this kind of blip too in my opinion 🙂

  3. 3 Sam March 16, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Just goes to show how important communication is doesn’t it! Had a similar experience where I stood in a shop for 5 minutes being completely ignored, so I left. Reality is, any sign of a bad service and people will go elsewhere. Just talking to someone doesn’t require much effort but it can mean the difference between keeping valuable customers and losing them for good! People just need to realise that…

  4. 4 Sara Headworth March 18, 2010 at 11:18 am

    Hi Wendy,

    Just to let you know for future reference,if you want a Ventolin inhaler (and yes,they are better than the ‘Salbutamol’ one IMHO !!)you have to have that written on your prescription because the chemist has to give you what is named on it,so,if it just says Salbutamol they will always give you the (much) cheaper version.
    To start another debate – Why don’t asthmatics get FREE prescriptions like diabetics ???

    Love Sara (a fellow asthma sufferer)

  5. 5 fran melmed March 18, 2010 at 7:00 pm

    sarah, great points.

    asthmatics are starting to get free presciptions, at least here in the US. i have at least one client doing that, knowing that it’s much cheaper to treat and prevent.


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