Making Sense of Your Waiting Room

Both pets and their owners can experience anxiety during veterinary visits. Set them—and your practice—up for success with these tips for your waiting room.
 
George Bird
Published: December 12, 2018

Let’s face it: Most of your patients are less than thrilled to come see you. It’s nothing against you, of course. Visiting the veterinary hospital can be a nerve-racking experience for any dog or cat.

And pet stress carries over to their owners like a leaf floats on a breeze.

That’s why even though pets are your primary concern, you cannot forget your clients. Drawing from the experience and expertise of skilled retailers can assist veterinary practices in creating a welcoming and pleasant environment for pets and pet parents alike.

Start at the front of the your practice, and pay attention to which of your senses are impacted. A few will come into play quickly.

Smell
The way a veterinary clinic smells is extremely important, yet an unpleasant odor is one of the most frequent complaints of pet owners. It’s crucial that your staff doesn’t become desensitized to pet-related odors. The best way to address this is to minimize any odors before they spread.

Consider adding an odor-elimination product to your cleaning solution along with a natural cleaner specifically designed to remove the scent of urine. It’s also helpful to invest in natural, pet-sensitive air freshening products that make your clinic smell pleasant and welcoming.

Finally, many practices have added pheromone diffusers in exam rooms to ease stress in their feline patients. For best results, use them in the waiting area, too.

Touch
Something as simple as check-in can be improved greatly with a touch of technology. A tablet or kiosk with a self-check-in option can make the process smoother and more efficient for everyone. And while people may not choose your practice based on the waiting area alone, it will impact their memory of the visit. A comfortable waiting area can enhance their experience and help make them loyal customers.

To start, offer a variety of seating options. Rather than lining a large area with chairs, create a more welcoming atmosphere by placing a cluster of chairs around a small table. Chair clusters also create separate seating areas to minimize animal interaction, which can increase stress in some animals. If possible, create a separate seating area for dog owners and cat owners.

It’s also important to make seating easily mobile, so people can move chairs to be more comfortable.

Sight 
Attractive and cheerful waiting rooms reduce anxiety and create a perception of quality care. The same goes for your lobby and front desk, which should be sparkling clean at all times. Many owners worry about exposing their pet to germs during their visit, so be sure to keep entry areas wiped down and clean up all 'accidents' promptly.

When it comes to aesthetics, colors are important. Choose soothing colors such as white, green, or pale blue. Results of a study conducted at Minnesota State University showed that green colors tend to relax the mind while red environments induce stress. Another stress inducer? Abstract art. If you’re looking to decorate with art that soothes, go with landscapes, nature scenes, and photos of adorable puppies and kittens.

In terms of lighting, stay away from fluorescent fixtures, as some studies show they can actually cause headaches, vision issues, and problems with focus. Rather, choose bulbs that offer natural, muted lighting comparable to what you would use in your own home. Allow plenty of natural light into the space, and avoid curtains or window coverings when possible.  

Finally, waiting in itself can be irritating and frustrating, especially when the pet owner doesn’t know when it will be their pet’s turn to be seen. Providing a screen with approximate wait times so pet owners can manage their time can make a real difference. This can be particularly helpful if the animal is anxious and would be more relaxed waiting outside the building or taking a short walk if the wait time is long.
 
George Bird is the director of in-store experience at Sandbox Agency, where he helps clients design retail environments that create notable experiences and get customers charged up and engaged—generating smiles along the way. Readers can email George with specific questions at veterinary@sandboxww.com.
 

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