BENU is part of German company Phoenix, which has in its composition more than 2,400 pharmacies in 14 European countries. BENU has managed to establish itself as a market leader in Serbia in just five years and, despite the extraordinary circumstances, will welcome the end of the year with 400 outlets in the country
We succeeded in achieving a lot thanks to our people, dedication, and the support of the parent company from Germany. The fact that our customers have accepted us proves that we are working in the right way, but that’s not a reason to relax now. On the contrary, says Mr Aleksov, before revealing numerous innovations to BENU’s operations.
Mr Aleksov, the BENU pharmacies concept is recognisable throughout Serbia. Could you tell us a little more about it?
The BENU pharmacy concept is led by a unique strategy that’s orientated towards the customer. You are awaited at each of our locations by friendly staff who are ready to help, listen, offer adequate advice and fulfil your expectations. Professional and trained pharmacists are aware that the customer is of the greatest importance to them and that they should pay full attention to them, regardless of the time or decision. We believe firmly that we can only be satisfied if we provide customers, i.e. patients, with a high-quality service and excellent advice. That’s the only way we can have satisfied customers.
In addition to friendly, trained staff, all our pharmacies throughout Serbia have the same ambience and unified visual identity. BENU pharmacies’ range of products is carefully selected, classified and segmented exclusively, in accordance with customer needs. It isn’t easy to maintain the same level of service, because we currently operate at more than 380 locations in Serbia, with a plan to reach 400 BENU pharmacies by the end of this year, despite the difficult circumstances.
Interestingly, we are also present on the territory of Montenegro and Bosnia-Herzegovina, with the same strategic approach and in accordance with market circumstances.
With the appearance of COVID-19, and considering that we find ourselves in very uncertain times when it comes to the future, were you able to learn from this and, if so, what could you learn?
It is true that COVID-19 brought with it a certain dose of uncertainty, particularly in the period when we had to constantly adapt our business measures and the needs of our customers. And despite the difficult circumstances related to working from home, I can really highlight that we, as a company, very quickly managed to find alternative directions, to develop new business channels, such as home delivery, reserving products and collections from pharmacies, cooperation with volunteers who had a priority with us etc.
We have great and dedicated people who maintain our system and services at the highest possible level… customers recognise and appreciate that greatly
We adjusted the working hours of more than half of BENU’s locations to suit the oldest citizens and organised the fast procuring of all hygiene products. All this ensured we are more agile, provided us with a sign to once again think well, reconsider and draw new conclusions about our business decisions, giving authenticity to our company.
We see that you focus on the constant educating of employees and the constant improving of your quality of service. Do patients and customers recognise that? Can they appreciate it?
I’m proud of the fact that all our employees are extremely professional, very dedicated and always keen on innovations and acquiring new knowledge. Education is part of the company’s daily internal programme, and quality of service is our focus and strategic direction that we will never abandon. It may sound unusual, but at frequent gatherings that management has with employees we hold open discussions and address every topic. It’s endearing to me how much my colleagues care about keeping pace with innovations and how broadly they view things. We really have great and dedicated people who maintain our system and services at the highest possible level. I’m sure that gives us an advantage; that customers recognise and appreciate that greatly.
Indicators of this are that they often share positive comments with us, but also that they leave the pharmacy with a smile on their face. In a pharmacy expertise, precision and accuracy are very important – there is no room for mistakes or deviations. Our colleagues are aware of that and that is where we differ in relation to other branches.
We often conduct various research activities through which we monitor work and relations with customers, listening to their needs, and we are capable of being very self-critical, because our goal is to remain a market leader.
Although you’ve been present in Serbia for a relatively short period, you’ve succeeded in establishing yourself as a market leader. What do you have to thank for the recognition of your brand?
BENU has been present on the Serbian market for five years. Viewed from this perspective, I’m also positively surprised. If we look through the life cycle of a brand, we are still in the first phase, known as the launch. In this relatively short period, we managed to achieve a lot thanks to our people, dedication and, of course, the support of the parent company from Germany, which recognised the potential of Serbia. The fact that our customers have accepted us proves that we are working in the right way, but that is no reason to now relax. We should always be different, persevere with our strategic direction and continue the practise of teamwork, because only that leads to results.
We are, and will remain, a reliable partner in protecting the health of our customers, as our slogan also confirms
It was around this time last year that we took over state-owned pharmacies in Novi Sad. In the space of just one month, we renovated, rebranded and equipped them, and educated the personnel. It was difficult, but we succeeded. We are currently in the process of resolving pharmaceutical waste in Novi Sad, while we’ve been cooperating for years with Belgrade’s Centre for the Care of Oncology Patients. This is our obligation, because we are socially responsible both towards citizens and towards Serbia.
We set the standards, and my personal goal is to always have people alongside me who know how to appreciate this and who can follow and apply it. Our environment is dynamic, but we are all satisfied, positive and get along wonderfully. Therein lies the key.
Can you predict what tomorrow will bring?
Nothing can surprise us anymore. We have learned a lesson and are now thinking three steps ahead. We’ve certainly ensured that people can work from home and we will continue with that practise. We have confidence and have proven that the level of responsibility is the same as when one is sitting in an office. We will move towards further developing the online shop, which is the future. We will strive to provide our customers with even greater availability and for our employees to continue to be their ambassadors of trust. We will further develop loyalty through the development of loyalty programmes and, most importantly, we will continue to listen to the needs of customers and create a business strategy in accordance with those needs.
BENU is a large, organised chain, representing the most widespread health institution in Serbia, and that’s why we must continue developing the trust of people. We want them to know that they can come to us even if they just want a consultation or advice. We will definitely work on that in the future – on the development of BENU advisory services in all major cities in Serbia, with the aim of contributing to raising community awareness about the importance of prevention, but also treatment when required. We are, and will remain, a reliable partner in protecting the health of our customers, as our slogan also confirms.