Optimize Customer Flow in Your Animal Clinic Waiting Room
Wait times and patient volume at veterinary clinics and hospitals have skyrocketed since the onset of COVID-19. This widespread influx has put extra strain on staff and created busy, potentially hazardous waiting areas.
With the initiation of isolation procedures and orders to stay home, more people were noticing the absence of a pet. Spending all that time at home gave these individuals more time to care for an animal companion or two, leading to a spike in adoptions around the country.
Of course, eventually these pets need medical care in the form of prevention, treatment, or otherwise. As a result, the number of pet care appointments increased 6.5 percent in 2021 from the previous year. So how do hospital and clinic waiting rooms account for this increase in patient numbers and still provide a positive experience?
Improve Customer Satisfaction with a Queue Management System
Waiting for an appointment doesn’t have to be boring, and it certainly shouldn’t be disorganized. The resulting delays and errors lead to frustration among owners and anxiety for the animals.
A recent article in the Annals of Family Medicine offers this perspective:
The waiting room is often cited as a major cause of anxiety, and lack of communication and personal attention degrades the patient’s experience. Additionally, patients dislike having to wait for extended periods of time, especially when they are sick
The same sentiment applies to non-human patients in an animal clinic waiting room.
Case Study: Ann Arbor Animal Hospital
As with many other businesses, the pandemic caused Michigan’s Ann Arbor Animal Hospital (AAAH) to adjust certain protocols. The hospital was forced to find new ways for managing appointments, queuing patients, and supporting meaningful (but safe) interactions. Social distancing requirements and other preventative measures seemed to shrink the waiting room and lengthen wait times.
As a solution, AAAH implemented a digital customer flow management system using Qtrac to queue patients virtually. The technology allowed customers to schedule or wait for appointments from any location. Anywhere could be the waiting room, including the comfort and safety of their home.
The all-in-one software provided everything AAAH needed to remedy its problem—and then some. It also offered owners relevant educational materials, a dashboard for important info, and customization potential. As a result, Qtrac’s integration was a rousing success.
AAAH achieved all of this without requiring the implementation of complex new technology or an inconvenient shift in operations.
5 Tips for Creating a Better Clinic Waiting Room Experience
Looking to improve your animal hospital or vet clinic waiting room experience? Refer to the following advice to optimize the experience for everyone:
1. Consider adding a waiting room concierge.
The concierge’s dedicated purpose is organizing and maintaining common areas, including waiting rooms. They must also greet each guest and help them navigate the hospital when needed. These qualities make this team member similar to a receptionist, but the role presents more opportunities for direct, personal interactions with clients.
Other responsibilities may include mobility assistance, patient sign-ups, and form completions. The greeter is vital to managing wait times using advanced virtual queue management software, such as the digital lines used at AAAH.
The concierge manages the animal clinic’s walk-ins, appointments, and other customer needs. This way, the receptionist can focus on getting what the veterinarian needs for a seamless appointment.
2. Prioritize your patients.
Create a comfortable, spacious, welcoming waiting area for every guest. If possible, separate clients by establishing multiple waiting areas throughout the facility. Many animal hospitals choose to utilize outdoor spaces and make them welcoming with landscaping, benches, or even water fountains.
Don’t forget the needs and wants of your patients’ human owners—they’re your clients too! Try providing a coffee machine or stocking a mini fridge with refreshments to keep them satisfied while they wait.
3. Inspire learning.
How can you leverage the waiting experience to educate your patients? Use this opportunity to inform and enlighten your clients about important issues and relevant health topics.
Print or design some helpful educational resources, and make them easy for guests to access. This type of initiative has two main benefits: It makes internal operations smoother in the long run (because pet owners are more aware of common conditions and preventatives) and it improves animals’ care at home.
Use clear signage to explain the reason for certain protocols (e.g., “Please keep dogs on a leash and cats in a carrier to keep everyone safe and comfortable!”). Include disclaimers, such as the possibility of reactive, aggressive, or contagious animals in the queue.
4. Make it interactive and entertaining.
Give people something to do in the clinic waiting room to keep them occupied while they wait. Many vet offices offer one or more of the following entertainment elements:
- A television or radio
- A touchscreen check-in kiosk and supplemental information
- Wi-Fi connectability
- Additional reading materials
- Puzzles or board games
- Stimulation or sensory toys for children and animals
Please note that employees should regularly tidy up and sanitize these features, particularly touchscreens or anything tactile. Such hygiene is crucial to avoid the spread of germs and accumulation of clutter.
One creative way to keep guests and their pets entertained is to implement a station where they can compose their own user-generated content (UGC). For example, try setting up a backdrop where owners can have a photoshoot with their pets. Hospitals and clinics can then use this unique UGC for social media posts or other marketing materials. Don’t forget a fun hashtag to inspire brand awareness!
5. Foster community.
Give back to your community by including a bulletin board that promotes relevant local businesses. Consider organic food stores, pet boutiques, groomers, or boarding facilities.
Many animal clinics partner with local animal shelters, or you can create a display of submitted patient photos. (Another way to leverage your new UGC campaign!)
Looking for more ways to give back? Start a donation bin or collection for a local charity or rescue. These donations can include pet food, toys, beds, litter, and more. Here are a few unconventional items that can greatly benefit shelters in particular:
- Toilet paper tubes
- Old socks or washcloths
- Large T-shirts, towels, or blankets
- Plastic snack bags
- Detergent, bleach, or cleaning solutions
- Newspapers or cardboard
- Used cages, crates, or carriers
- Lint rollers
Proper Queue Management Reduces Wait Times and Patient Anxiety
All healthcare organizations should prioritize waiting room optimization and improving the customer experience, human or otherwise. Depending on resources, clinics and animal hospitals have various options for bettering the waiting room experience.
Optimizing your customer flow management with a virtual queue system is a great place to start. Make sure you find the right one for your clinic with our guide, How to Avoid the Hidden Costs of Queue Management Systems.
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