Sit! Stay! Does Your Waiting Room Make Pets and Their Owners Feel Welcome?

0 Comments Posted by Vet Network in Blogs on Thursday, August 1st, 2013.

A visit to the veterinarian’s office is rarely fun for pet owners or their pets. My dog becomes so anxious she shakes and sheds uncontrollably; amazingly, she seems to “just know” when she’s headed to the vet’s office instead of, say, the park to play with her Frisbee. When I finally arrive at the veterinarian’s office, her anxiety has put me on edge too. We walk into the waiting room and we are almost immediately approached by two other dogs, one with an obvious skin problem. My dog huddles against me with her tail between her legs. As I sit down on one of the frayed naugahyde chairs that sticks to the back of my legs, I can’t help but grimace at the less-than-fresh room odor and the lone, well-worn issue of Cat Fancy that sits limply in the wall magazine rack. I wish I was almost anywhere but in that room.

You can bet that I, and others like me, will think about how unpleasant that experience was, for both me and my pet, the next time I think about making an appointment for her preventive care exam. Perhaps I will decide, “Miko seems healthy. Maybe it can wait…”

Add “Hospitality” to Your Hospital

Don’t let an unwelcoming waiting room keep pet owners from walking through your door. Here are a few simple tips for improving your waiting room and making clients happy:

  • Aim to Please. Aim for comfort and a more polished, high-end feel. At Melrose Animal Clinic in Melrose, Mass., the winner of Veterinary Economic 2013 Hospital Design People’s Choice Award, the staff used warm, neutral colors, comfortable client seating, such as cushion-top wood benches, and top-shelf finishes, such as solid wood furniture and granite counters to create a welcoming atmosphere.
  • Go Techno. Go beyond magazines and install, with a flat panel TV and free WiFi, a single-cup coffee maker with a selection of premium coffees and teas. According to Wayne Usiak, AIA, the CEO of BDA Architecture in Albuquerque, N.M, a leader in animal care facility design, “Televisions with educational veterinary DVDs playing and a refreshment area help pass the time so owners don’t mind as much if you are running behind schedule.”
  • Freshen Up the Air. Nothing is worse or more noticeable that a foul-smelling waiting room. “Make sure those designing your HVAC systems understand the nuances of veterinary design and provide isolation from animal holding areas. This should be done both mechanically and in the space planning process through physical isolation,” said Richard Suminski, an architect with VisionTect Studio, an architectural practice with an award-winning veterinary design focus. Plug-in air fresheners will also help.
  • Avoid a Dog Eat Dog World. Minimize pet interaction, which will reduce noise and anxiety. Even if you do not have the space for separate waiting areas for dogs and cats, think about arranging seating in ways that will reduce contact. Or consider installing leash clips where dogs can be tethered while clients pay their bill. Additionally, moving anxious patients directly into exam rooms will also provide a helpful refuge and will certainly be appreciated by their owners.
  • Cat Got Your Tongue? Don’t let it! Brag about your clients and their pets, showcase testimonials and pet photographs. Celebrate relationships with clients and build new relationships with potential new patients by displaying the photos, cards, letters, or other correspondences from patients. Encourage your clients to send photographs or letters about their beloved pets and positive experiences. Take the time to create a creative, eye-catching photo board and display prominently in your waiting room area for pet owners to enjoy.

Show Off Your Improvements

Got a new Keurig machine? Offering fresh-baked muffins or specialty pet treats? Do you have free Wi-Fi to help clients pass the time? How about a special area for nervous cats? Make sure your current clients and potential clients know! It may make the difference between seeing pets for regularly scheduled wellness exams or only when they are sick. Or it may be why a new pet owner chooses your hospital instead of your competitor’s. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, email blasts, and website updates are all great ways to spread the word about all the wonderful ways you are leading the veterinary pack in your community. Let VetNetwork help you today!

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