A 65-store communications transformation for National Pharmacies

A 65-store communications transformation for National Pharmacies


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National Pharmacies, a retail pharmacy business with 45 community pharmacies and 20 optical outlets in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales has a unique heritage and operating model. The business was founded as a mutual organisation in Adelaide in 1911, owns all of its own stores and continues to operate on behalf of its 260,000 members with profits returned in the form of benefits and discounts.

With the impending shutdown of PSTN services, National Pharmacies undertook a review of its telephony systems with the assistance of independent consultancy TelcoDataCloud and shortlisted three new solutions for further consideration.

“We had to be able to deploy it quickly, and it had to be a rock-solid service,” said National Pharmacies’ Chief Technology Officer Joe Polisena.

“After our assessment and a number of presentations, RingCentral was our preferred option.”

The phased rollout of a store-wide RingCentral Office solution over the last 18 months has completely transformed communications, facilitating National Pharmacies’ core mission of caring for the community and providing access and value for its members. RingCentral has replaced a mix of traditional on-premise telephony solutions, with a quarter of stores using a VoIP solution and the other three quarters on a traditional PABX and PSTN service supplied and maintained by a major telecommunications provider.

The impact of the transformation was evidenced in the enthusiastic demand from the stores.

“In the IT world, it is natural that people don’t like change – but this is probably the first time deploying a new IT product that we have had stores hearing about the implementation and contacting us to ask if they can be put up the priority list to be changed over to RingCentral,” said Polisena.

One of the early signs of success was in the reduction of calls to the helpdesk from stores with telephone issues, which dropped by 25% in the first few months of operation compared to the same period the previous year. The additional benefit is that National Pharmacies can make any changes needed in-house, rather than relying on and waiting for a third-party service provider.

However, the time savings are potentially an even bigger benefit. “While we haven’t had a chance to set up a new store yet since the RingCentral deployment, we have three or four refurbishments going on at the moment. This will make the shop fit out a lot bigger, so we will need to add in more services. With RingCentral, we can do this in half an hour,” said Polisena.

With the visibility National Pharmacies now has on the calls received in-store, there has been a significant two-fold benefit for the organisation.

First, it helped to ensure that there was sufficient resourcing in certain areas at each store to answer the calls.

“We have pharmacy, optical and prestige beauty enquiries all coming in on the one line – which are all completely different areas and staff. With RingCentral, we can deploy a lot more handsets in store and, with IVR upfront, which we can reconfigure ourselves, when we answer calls, we already know what the enquiry is about and can direct it to the right person,” said Bill Lelas, Business Operations Manager, National Pharmacies.

Second, for head office to analyse the calls received across all stores to look for opportunities to handle some of these calls centrally. This will happen once head office upgrades to RingCentral, which is currently in planning.

“As RingCentral comes with reporting straight out of the box, it provided National Pharmacies with good insight into the volume of calls and what services were being requested. As we further deploy this environment into head office it will give us the ability to further analyse our services to best accommodate our members’ requirements. This may include things like quick access to expertise that can be shared across the fleet of stores,” said Polisena.

Once the head office rollout is complete, National Pharmacies will be looking to improve its collaborative capabilities by integrating RingCentral with Microsoft Teams, which was deployed just before the COVID-19 lockdown in 2020. “By using the RingCentral app at the desktop, we will be able to utilise additional functionality in the RingCentral environment for more focused services for our members and to provide training for our staff and frontline teams,” he continued.

“We’re also planning to use the integrated video capabilities within RingCentral to extend and improve our delivery of eHealth services.”

Originally published 29 Sep, 2021, updated 30 Sep, 2021

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