Upgrade and consolidation of National Pharmacies store telephony network to RingCentral has improved customer experience and the delivery of services to its 260,000 members. National Pharmacies has achieved significant efficiency gains and greater flexibility and responsiveness to rapidly changing market conditions and community needs, paving the way to future innovations and enhanced communications capabilities.
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.
Chief Technology Officer at National Pharmacies
Deployment to 65 stores in SA, VIC and NSW
25% reduction in helpdesk calls from stores
$200,000 cost avoidance from hardware upgrades/replacement
Up to $60,000 annual telecommunications cost savings
New store provisioning reduced from three months to one day
National Pharmacies was established in South Australia in 1911 and is the trading name of the Friendly Society Medical Association Limited, a mutual organisation where profits made through our operations are returned to our members in the form of benefits and discounts. Now with over 260,000 members across 45 community pharmacies and 20 optical outlets in South Australia, Victoria and New South Wales, National Pharmacies continues to provide extra value to its members with more locations, extended trading hours, larger product ranges, added services, and superior customer service.
The business was operating with a mix of traditional on-premise telephony solutions. Head office and a quarter of National Pharmacies stores used a voice over IP (VoIP) solution, with the remaining three quarters of the stores on a traditional PABX and PSTN service supplied and maintained by a major telecommunications provider. The old PABX infrastructure in place was not standardised and had become increasingly difficult and costly to manage, changes took a long time to action and it would typically take two to three months to bring a new site online.
Primarily, the decommissioning of PSTN services became the catalyst for change. While National Pharmacies in-store PSTN-based systems could have been updated to the VoIP solution already in place in some stores, the cost to configure and instal new VoIP hardware at these sites or in new stores was ever-increasing. Also, that system did not give the organisation any control or visibility into the calls going into the stores, and there was no IVR capability for each store, no communications functionality beyond voice, and no integration with any other applications or systems in use within National Pharmacies. “A good example of the limitations we had with our telephone system was that when the COVID lockdowns happened, we didn’t have the ability to provide a service that advised our customers our new operating hours or if any of our optical outlets were closed,” said Joe Polisena, Chief Technology Officer at National Pharmacies.
Ultimately, National Pharmacies needed a communications solution that would facilitate its core mission of caring for the community and providing access and value for its members, explained Polisena. “We have 260,000 members, so it’s really important for us to be able to bring these calls into a group, record and identify them so that we can best facilitate different types of calls.”
National Pharmacies shortlisted three solutions based on analyst research including Gartner’s Magic Quadrant, technical advice and feedback, and Polisena’s own industry knowledge. “We had to be able to deploy the solution quickly, and it had to be a rock-solid service,” said Polisena.
“After our assessment and a number of presentations, RingCentral was our preferred option.”
National Pharmacies first ran a proof of concept at one of its stores, which revealed for the first time the types of calls the store was receiving and where they were going.
Once the complete solution was rolled out to the stores (in two phases – initially to replace the stores with legacy PABXs, then to the stores operating on VoIP), this had a two-fold benefit for the organisation.
“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.
Cost and time savings
The initial financial benefit for National Pharmacies by rolling out RingCentral Office was in avoiding the replacement or upgrade cost of its ageing legacy PABXs, which Polisena calculated was a saving of approximately $200,000. It also meant that National Pharmacies could optimise its telco spend, giving the organisation time to properly assess which services it needed to maintain and which ones to decommission. Overall, that’s resulted in up to $60,000 in annual telecommunications cost savings.
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 refurbishments going on at the moment. This will make the shop footprint larger with the delivery of more services. With RingCentral our deployment of services is made so much easier with deployments taking up to half an hour,” said Polisena.
“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.
“Our stores have a lot of moving parts, so it’s important that we have a triage system to provide a more organised and responsive service for customers who call us. 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.
With the onset of the pandemic and subsequent lockdowns, National Pharmacies has experienced higher call volumes and far greater demand for pharmaceutical advice and clarity on restrictions and store opening hours. Those stores that had already transitioned to RingCentral were able to handle the increased demand more effectively, ensuring a very positive customer experience both via the phone and in-store.
“The initial planning support we received from RingCentral was very good and they were really accommodating in revising the initial IVR designs after feedback from our pilot stores. The hardware deployment and training in the use of the system for our staff and other users in stores ensured the transition was almost seamless,” said Lelas.
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.
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,” said Polisena.
“We’re also planning to use the integrated video capabilities within RingCentral to extend and improve our delivery of eHealth services.”