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Personalized service key at Humiston-Keeling.

CHICAGO--Humiston-Keeling Inc., which has served the pharmaceutical community since 1884, bills itself as the company that does more than just take, fill and bill orders.

The firm, which works with hundreds of drug stores in Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin, traces its roots to Louis Olin's business of selling ice cream to the soda fountains that used to be commonplace in many of the nation's drug stores.

Today, as one of the nation's largest drug wholesalers, Humiston-Keeling offers thousands of products ranging from pharmaceuticals (the bulk of its sales) to health and beauty aids. "Yet, as a family-owned business, we can offer personalized service," says Linda Olin Milberg, a descendant of Louis Olin.

That commitment is evident in several areas: sales personnel who work with customers to coordinate a variety of services, operations supervisors who direct a staff that has an order-filling accuracy rate of 98%, and customer service representatives who handle duties ranging from ensuring product availability to making emergency pharmaceutical deliveries.

"Each member of our team, from the corporate officers to the delivery drivers, is dedicated to ensuring that customers get the right products at the right time," says Milberg.

Because the company maintains its own fleet and drivers, it can provide overnight delivery, and orders placed by 10 p.m. are guaranteed for next-day delivery.

"The vast majority of our customers place orders on a regular schedule," explains Milberg. "If we do not receive expected orders our representatives notify the customers immediately to determine what happened and to resolve any problems. In addition, customers are notified when substitutes are available and are notified of any products that will not be included in their orders."

Customers also benefit from the company's store design and remodeling service. Using the latest in computer-aided technology, experienced store design specialists can develop layouts that use retail space to its best advantage for presenting a strong visual image.

The process usually begins with a store visit by a Humiston-Keeling specialist, who conducts an on-site evaluation of the outlet in question. However, clients have the option of completing and returning store analysis questionnaires to the wholesaler--along with photographs of their stores.

"Whichever option our customers choose, we will analyze the data and provide a new layout for the entire store," Milberg explains.

The design service program can identify the productive departments of stores, placing each department where it has the potential to generate the greatest volume. Humiston-Keeling might also recommend departments to be added or deleted, and suggest ways to improve the stores' general operations.

With help from Humiston-Keeling's affiliation with D.P. Hamacher & Associates, customers can receive strategies for store planning, layout, merchandising, market analysis and zone pricing. Among the special features of the program are planograms, point-of-purchase signing, pricing manuals and inventory control guidelines.

"Our ultimate goal is to help our customers increase their business, because if their business gets better then so does ours," says Milberg.

One way Humiston-Keeling generates that increased business is through a department in which employees devote all of their time to phoning customers and apprising them of new items, product recalls and promotions.

Likewise, the company informs its customers through a quarterly newsletter, NewsCaps. The newsletter includes information about Humiston-Keeling and condensed versions of articles that have appeared in other publications.

Humiston-Keeling also buys fast-moving brand name pharmaceuticals in bulk, repackages them in bottles of 100, and then offers them to customers at significant price reductions. And the wholesaler's Gold Banner line of O-T-Cs provides high quality at good margins.
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Publication:Chain Drug Review
Date:Nov 16, 1992
Words:585
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