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04/04/2023

The important difference between two types of feedback in pharmacy and what to do with them

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confrontation
Photo by Dan Burton on Unsplash

Fingers are pointed to spokespeople.

We get a call in the pharmacy asking if we have a drug. The busy pharmacy assistant checks our software that tells them we have what they are looking for. Two hours later, a patient enters with a prescription and we realize the software inventory is off and we don’t have any physical drug. Not understanding the complex inner workings of a pharmacy and that this can happen to anyone, she blows up.

You promised me the drug and I drove an hour to get here. I just waited an hour in the doctor’s office and passed three other pharmacies on my way here. You guys have no idea what you are doing and you lie to your customers. Where’s the manager? False advertising can cost people their lives; you shouldn’t have a licence. 

Whether we like it or not, when we are in charge of something, we are targets. When something goes wrong, others blame the leader. Some of your audience will be appropriate in giving feedback (i.e., they will give gifts) while others will only be looking for blood (i.e., they will waste time). Recognizing the difference and knowing how to deal with each can save your mental strain, emotional energy and reputation. 

First, the easy one

Those capable of giving gifts will acknowledge that they could never have all the correct information without being on the inside and will rationally ask for clarification before publishing their observations. They will keep them as observations instead of drawing blanket conclusions and potentially even offer a logical solution from their perspective. Their feedback will be a gift since some of their observations can be used to make us better and prevent imperfections in the future. 

“If I’m at the right pharmacy, the staff told me the drug was in stock. How can we work it out?”

We can probe for as many details as possible, consider their input valuable and give it attention by sharing with the staff.  

However, things often do not flow so rationally.…

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anger
Photo by Dmitry Vechorko on Unsplash

Next is the one we boldly hear about

Time-wasting feedback is the type given by the people we complain to others about. It is the kind that gives us stories to tell. Time-wasters will resort to slander, exaggeration, rumour and attack on your character. They bring their own baggage into your world and blame you for their troubles. They lash out without humbly and rationally collecting full information. They fill in gaps in their knowledge with their assumptions and hold grudges. They often seek what they believe could be revenge for not winning in a previous confrontation. Coincidently, they are often braver virtually than in-person. 

So, how do we deal with it?

Often there is actual value somewhere buried in their rants. In the case above, we should review the virtual inventory of drugs and ensure our staff are aware of the potential need to verify with the physical products on hand. The trouble is the irrational emotion diluting the valuable feedback.

Here are a few guidelines that I have learned over decades of dealing with time-wasting feedback:

  1. Don’t feel the need to answer each of their points. Stay focused on the problem at hand and ignore the outliers. This means resisting the urge to prove them wrong as it will lead you down a rabbit hole you cannot get out of. 
  2. Be okay walking away having them think they won. Without the need to prove them wrong, you have no skin in the game. Besides, even if you do correct the comments in their rant, they will have another rant behind it pulling the conversation to another tangent where they need to feel they are winning. For some reason, they have a goal of proving you wrong as it will somehow sink you to their level. 
  3. Hand it off to a neutral third party to reset the discussion. Since they have taken their version of the situation personally, stepping away removes their ammunition. It also forces them to explain it to a new person, where hopefully they will realize their troubles have been exaggerated. Here the pharmacist is better to step in as oppose to the pharmacy assistant that took the initial call. 

“We must have got our wires crossed back here and don’t have it in stock but can bring it in. When do you need it by? Can I do some research and get back to you?”

Note that we acknowledged the main challenge without countering the other false testimonies, like not knowing what we are doing, having a habit of lying to customers or not deserving a licence. Fewer words are better to avoid any rabbit holes. A direct focus on next steps allows us to lead the conversation instead of chase it. 

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vacuum up the pieces
Photo by No Revisions on Unsplash

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