Is Your Lobby Engaging?
I have the opportunity to walk into a variety of hospital lobbies, and I spend time perusing them online too. This arena is often so overlooked and underutilized. Make your lobby or waiting area an engaging place to be! I know, many of you say "we strive to make waiting the exception, not the rule". I agree. But the fact is at some point, your clients will wait. Walk in's, emergencies, additional tests, the flu that has you running with less than optimal staff ... it will happen. Let's plan for it!
*Make It Smell Great
Use whatever your heart desires that isn't overwhelming. Some use candles (if you sell them this is a great way to advertise), plug ins, and vaporized scents. Bleach and disinfectants are part of every practice, but your clients don't need to know that. How about baking cookies in a toaster oven, or a small popcorn machine? Have a kennel or grooming area? Try KOE (Kennel Odor Eliminator) in your mop water for a better scent than disinfectants provide.
*Welcome All Pets
If you don't have a welcome board in your lobby order one or buy one today! Clients LOVE this. Chalk boards and "white boards" (they come in black) in a 2'x3' size are perfect for showcasing your client's ingenuity naming their pets; they just make a soul feel welcome. These boards tell clients you care, you're looking forward to seeing them (you thought about their pets ahead of time) and they are great conversation starters. Use bright liquid chalk pens to make the names pop. Draw cute pictures, change them with the seasons, dot the "i"'s with hearts or little paw prints. Make your welcome boards a unique reflection of your practice.
Along with your welcome board, create another that highlights specials and talks about your doctor's recommendations. This one might look great sitting on an easel near the front desk, or on a wall across from your general seating. Advertise your prevention rebates, let them know Dr. Smith recommends annual blood work and why, and remind them that funky pet breath needs to be addressed. Make it cute, make it fun. How about a trivia question for a free bag of lean treats? Get the entire staff involved and be sure to post the board in all of it's cute glory to your favorite social media sites.
Many of you have flat screen TV's in the lobby. Use them wisely! When I have walked into lobbies with a dark TV it is almost universally because some kind of educational material that plays over, and over and over and over is what that TV is used for. It drives the front desk staff insane and the videos are sometimes dated and frankly boring. Find your happy place, whether it's CNN, Fox News, Animal Planet ... keep it current and culturally relevant. I don't believe we have to drown clients in recommendations. The old adage that a client needs to hear it at the front desk, the exam room (from doctor and tech), be given a handout and a website to visit and then again at the desk if they didn't comply is often perceived by clients as pushy and annoying.
If you don't have a TV, how about speakers at the front desk playing something pleasing from an internet radio source? If you have a sound system in the building all the better, but many buildings do not so the desk speakers work well.
*Provide Human and Pet Treats and WiFi
Seems so obvious, but there are still practices that do not do this. If you have the space, create a beverage and snack station. Offer a water cooler, or bottled water (label it with your practice logo), coffee, drink boxes for kids ... whatever suits. Bake cookies in a toaster over and keep them in a glass dome for clients to eat. Even a candy jar says "we're thinking of clients too". Let clients know you have free wi-fi and while they are using it, be sure to check in online at ABC Pet Clinic! A Chris Kiess blog regarding user perception of time makes a great distinction between wait time and occupied time. Engage a client to turn waiting for something into doing something.
Find a way to engage kids while they are with you. Coloring books, etch-a-sketch (dating myself I know), a play corner with puzzles and a table full of toys will help parents occupy inquisitive minds. Hang a white board for kids to draw a picture of their pet (now that's a Facebook post that's sure to be shared!) or have them write down why they love their pet for all to see. Make sure the doctors let them listen to heartbeats or even take a peek in the microscope. You just might spark an interest in a young mind!
Keep your space updated. Neutral colors with attractive artwork or wall hangings can lend a touch of class and fun to the waiting area. Showcase your practice's personality. Rather than those white metal shelves holding pet foods and retail items look for cheap flea market furniture that can be painted and add some interest to the area.