The prospective-employee lie
A pharmacy conglomerate had plans to expand. They specialized in compounding, the age-old process of assembling different active ingredients with flavorants and a delivery vehicle, such as salve, capsules, or liquid medicine (for chemotherapy, hormone replacement therapy, nutritional supplements, and veterinary prescription). Most pharmacies now do little or no compounding, instead dispensing already-formulated medicines into little jars with labels.
The acquiring pharmacy hired a CI specialist to find some basic information about each of the pharmacies they were considering acquiring, seeking to learn their gross sales, number of pharmacists, number of pharmacist assistants, specialty in compounding, ownership of the business, and if they owned the buildings they occupied. The CI specialist studies this problem and came upon an idea.
The CI specialists decided to lie to the people from whom they wanted the information, and gathered the names addresses and phone numbers from an association directory. He then called each of the people on the list. Using the pretext that his new wife had been offered a job in the area and that he was a former EMT, had just obtained a Pharmacy Assistant degree, and was wondering if he could fax his resume for possible consideration.
As he and the person at the pharmacy spoke, he then began to mine the person on the phone for information, asking questions that should not have been answered. “How big is the pharmacy?” (Answer) “Wow, I will bet you have 5 pharmacists and 10 pharmacy assistants” (answer with a correction of the number of pharmacists and assistants). “That is just the size of place I was looking to get some work. I guess with that size the owner owns the building too – huh?” (Answer on who owns the building). “What is the specialty of the pharmacists?” (Answer). “That good: That’s a good field to be in these days. Listen – I hope I am not too nosy but is the owner going to stay in business for a while. It sounds like with the business being around so long they may retire soon.” (Answer). “Gee you’ve been a great help now what’s the fax number to respond to?”
Not all of the questions were answered and not all of the information was garnered in this simple way, but it was over 85% successful. Most of the rest of the information was obtained through professional licensing information, public records, and assumptions that could be made with some certainty from industry norms.
What was the cost? It came to under $141.00 per pharmacy. Imagine the value of the information for decision making on what areas you will expand into. You will know who will be more sensitive to competition and who might be a good target for a buyout.
Note that the information came flooding out of the targets. The people answering the phones were not trained on what they should and should not say. There was no protocol on how to treat different types of calls or how to route calls. Those who answered the phones did what came naturally to them: They were helpful.
Preventing this kind of information loss is done with a simple protocol sheet that you can discuss with employees, and keep on a sheet near the phone. The sheet should cover how they should answer the phone, route calls, and deal with people who ask lots of questions. One of the best answers for a caller with a lot of questions I have heard is “Sir, I wish I could answer your questions, but this is a dynamic organization and I want to route you to the person who will have the most up to date information.” It not offensive, it is helpful, and gets the person answering the phone off the line and out of the position of answering a stream of questions or sounding rude.
A phone answering protocol might take as little as 20 minutes to write and type in a small business. It is a worthwhile 20 minutes.