Are We Listening?

Are We Listening b (1)

For the second year, my mother-in-law is living with us for the winter months. Her home is in the village of Bear River, Nova Scotia, and the long, dark days are challenging, so she packs up a few things in December and comes to Halifax.

At 86, she’s incredibly sturdy – still spends time on the treadmill each day – but she does have two prescription medications which we transfer to our neighbourhood Shoppers Drug Mart for the season. This year we encountered a problem with that transfer which, I thought, revealed an important opportunity for the nationwide chain but … no one’s listening.

There’s a lesson here for all of us.

My mother-in-law’s career included work in the public sector, providing her with health insurance coverage for prescriptions. Having picked up her medication at the pharmacy in Bear River from time to time, I knew her cost should be about $11. But my husband picked up the prescription in Halifax and came home with a receipt for almost $60. What happened?

Simple really. When the two pharmacies communicated, neither one took responsibility for sharing for the health insurance information. The Digby pharmacy didn’t provide it to Halifax; Halifax didn’t ask about it.

On discovering the error, I immediately called the Halifax store. Because they filled the prescription a few days before we picked it up, they could no longer submit the insurance claim. I then called the Digby store, got the necessary information, called the Halifax store and left them the information, called the Public Service Alliance which sent me to the insurance company which told me where to go on their website to download a form to fill out and mail in with the receipt indicating we paid too much for the prescriptions. Whew! (And, as life would have it, that form is still sitting here on my desk.)

I decided I would call Shoppers and let them know about this experience.

While I haven’t done any research, I’m very confident we are not the only family who lives with an elderly relative for a period of time and transfers prescriptions. The number of Canadians looking after elderly relatives is on a growth curve, so creating a protocol about how pharmacies share information would be a valuable service for Shoppers to provide – and eliminate calls they likely receive from surprised/upset/angry customers.

As is the trend today, I was not able to find a phone number for a senior executive at Shoppers’ head office. Admittedly, I did my search quickly, but in the back of my mind I was thinking about how other large companies have eliminated landlines and voicemail for executives.

The one number I could easily find was that of the media relations person. Over the years, I’ve often contacted this individual in a company to track down other names and contact information.

It took a bit of time for us to connect but when we did … she wasn’t able to hear me. At first she thought I was complaining. Once she realized that wasn’t the case, she completely shut down. I was inquiring about something that wasn’t part of her job and she couldn’t give my story or my idea her focus.

I got the well-known brush off – she would mention it to someone – she couldn’t give me a name – someone might call me back.

Did this surprise me? No … but it did make me sad. I’ve been making calls like this my entire working life and they used to work. I used to be able to get through to senior executives and share ideas. They recognized that the point of view of someone outside the corporation could be valuable. And I enjoyed offering a helpful perspective and having a good conversation.

After my call that went nowhere, I sat at my desk and wondered, “Am I doing this, too? Am I too busy, too sure of myself, too preoccupied to hear the value in what a client, prospect, colleague or friend is sharing with me?” I probably am – hopefully not too often, but certainly sometimes.

I wonder what opportunities I’ve missed because I haven’t listened.

What about you?


0 thoughts on “Are We Listening?”

  1. Another number I look for is Investor Relations – many times somewhere on the company website they are listed. Taking this one step further, Phone Lady, I “stab in” – which means I dial further beyond the number extensions I find listed – “phone trees” in companies, as you know, I’m sure, are more often than not set up one number after another and asking the (usually) surprised, hapless person who answers the phone for information is a very effective means of procuring it these days, as more and more companies are so wont to not offer any.

    Good luck and I enjoy reading your Sunday articles.

    Maureen Sharib
    Phone Sourcer
    513 646 7306

    • Maureen, thank you for all this great information. I’ve used all of these techniques in the past and they certainly do work. I appreciate that you took the time to share them with everyone. You’ve also made me realize that part of the issue is that I wanted to resolve the situation very quickly. You’ve motivated me to put more time into this and employ some better research skills.

  2. Mary Jane, thanks for another noteworthy post. Every week your insights are full of good, old-fashioned common sense, and they stand out for that reason. Always a pleasure.

    • Thank you so much, Kate. Lovely for you to share this and I appreciate “old-fashioned common sense”. You’ve made my day!

  3. Great observations. Thank you for this, it’s so true! I’m a huge believer in customer service and going the extra mile so when large corporations fall short, it’s a huge frustration trying to get it resolved, and totally unnecessary. I hope you did get your issue with Shoppers resolved.


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