Pharmacy U

Al Chilton’s Rubicon builds innovative relationships with customers and communities


Al Chilton, president and CEO of Rubicon Pharmacies Canada Inc., in Regina understands the importance of building customer relationships – and a thriving business – founded on trust. He shared his insights with us.


By donalee Moulton


We understand Rubicon likes to keep it “Simpl”. How does this program work? How does it help customers receive the very best healthcare possible?


The seeds of Simpl were shown when we looked closely at compliance packaging and saw that it wasn’t very attractive. In fact, it looked institutional. We wanted to make packaging aspirational, so we hired a designer and a consultant. The result is high-end packaging that looks more like a nice cosmetic container than a prescription package. It is convenient, improves adherence and it protects the medication.


As we were developing this, we realized the issue was much broader than packaging. It was about building a relationship. If we practise good pharmacy and focus on our customers, we will become the pharmacy of choice. Patients have to decide what’s best for them. You can’t layer it on. You can’t say, “I’m a pharmacist and I know best.”


Rubicon has established health living rooms. What are these and why are they important in building greater customer loyalty?


We were inspired by the Starbucks model of making people feel welcome and comfortable. So we are creating separate rooms within our pharmacies that can hold anywhere from 10 to 40 people. The rooms can be used by recreational, health and other groups in the communities where we do business. A music festival association, for example, used our health living room in Swift Current, Sask. Then all of a sudden the local health region wanted to use the room for healthcare for seniors. We’re now partnered with that health region in southwest Saskatchewan. The rooms help us build relationships. People in the pharmacy industry thought we were crazy. They said it wouldn’t work. We proved it would.


Rubicon is actively implementing the Appointment-Based Model (ABM) in its pharmacies. Can you tell us why you are adopting this approach?


We explored the appointment-based model as a means of enhancing customer service. ABM certainly improves workflow and adherence. Most important, you get an improvement in outcomes. That is ultimately our goal, and ABM is the link to establishing the relationship that enables that to happen.



How does the team at Rubicon build and sustain a customer-service culture?


Most pharmacists are kind, caring and compassionate, but it’s hard work keeping up relationships. We have created a customer-service culture. Our motto is care before commerce. We have to show we care and commerce will follow.


How do you discover what customers need?


We conduct customer surveys and hold focus groups. We also listen to our customers – they will tell you what they want. In most locations, a partner is working, and their role is to listen. It is often small things that make a tremendous difference.


How do you strive to enhance adherence among patients?


People you’ve built a relationship with and who trust you are more likely to take their medications. But you have to be willing to listen to people’s concerns and give them a real answer, not a standard response. We need to acknowledge that in the back of many people’s minds is the question, “Do I really have to take this, is it safe?” Keeping in contact and having follow-up also leads to greater adherence, as patients feel they are valued and respected, that you care.


Leaders in Pharmacy, including this independently written article, is supported by Pfizer Canada.