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3 Ways to Offer a Better Waiting Experience at Your Emergency Veterinary Hospital

Try these tips to make a stressful experience a little better for waiting customers.

On Sunday, I had to rush my dog Sunny to the emergency vet after two stray dogs attacked her while we were out for what was supposed to be a peaceful nature walk. The most vicious dog bit and attacked her repeatedly before I could scare him away.

Our regular vet was closed on the weekend and I didn’t want to wait, so I had two emergency vets to choose from, one a mile or two closer and an easier drive than the other one, which I actually prefer for many reasons. The emergency vet that was further away has a more caring staff, shorter wait times (usually) and more reasonable pricing overall.

Even so, I chose the emergency vet that was closer because my dog was in pain and had puncture wounds. I wanted to get her some help as quickly as possible. When we arrived, they took her right back to be examined and said a vet would be with me once they completed their assessment.

I thought I might be there for a couple of hours. Instead, the whole experience spanned about six hours, including time I spent at home anxiously awaiting a call from the vet that her wounds were cleaned, she would be okay and I could come pick her up.

I don’t fault this emergency clinic for that long wait. After all, many patients in crisis arrive and need immediate care that requires staff to tend to those animals first. But I did notice a few pros and cons at this emergency clinic when it came to how it handled waiting customers.

Here are some guest experience aspects that I liked, along with a few things one that left a bit of a bad taste in my mouth and ways to improve it.

Offer waiting room entertainment as a distraction

The clinic had a nice waiting room with a big-screen TV playing funny animal videos. So customers could have an occasional chuckle in the midst of all our waiting and worry. The clinic eventually sent me home to wait longer and then called me to pick up Sunny five hours later.

When I arrived, I had to wait about another hour, but they had the NFL game with our hometown team playing on a different TV. Meanwhile, the other TV on the other side of the waiting room still played funny animal videos.

This was a great touch that made waiting more palatable and helped pass the time.

Provide vending machines

One thing I liked was that there were two well-stocked vending machines in the waiting area. I hadn’t eaten since breakfast so by mid-afternoon, I was hungry and happy to be able to enjoy a snack and a cold beverage while I waited.

Be mindful of how stressful it is to wait

I realize that staff can’t predict what kinds of crises will walk (or be carried) through the door, so they didn’t want to tell me a wait time and risk my potential upset if they couldn’t meet it. However, I do feel they could have narrowed it down a bit.

For example, when I asked how long I might have to wait at home, the receptionist told me, “wait for us to call. Don’t call us.” Okay, that’s reasonable. I’m sure they get people pestering them all the time while they’re waiting to hear about their pet’s prognosis.

But I waited five hours at home without an update call. And when I finally did call, a staffer told me my dog was still coming out from under sedation and there was no way to predict how long that would take. I understand that too, but surely the vet had an idea of whether it might be an hour or several more hours.

I told them I’d call back in an hour if I didn’t hear from them. Within ten minutes, the vet called me and said Sunny was ready to be picked up. So, someone probably could have given me an estimate if only they’d asked the vet.

Instead, they just left me in limbo without regard for my need to plan around picking up my dog. Trying to accommodate clients paying a lot of money by providing more thorough information on possible wait times can go a long way towards creating a better guest experience.

Next time: Back to the other clinic

I was grateful to this emergency vet for cleaning Sunny’s wounds and sending us home with pain pills, antibiotics and instructions for wound care. They got the job done. However, the lack of communication or concern with providing updates put me off just enough that I won’t be back to this emergency vet clinic again unless I have no other option.

Next time, I’ll drive the extra three miles and navigate traffic on the highway to go to the other emergency vet that’s more communicative and at least acknowledges that someone spending $1,000 expects at least a little consideration and kindness during an already stressful situation.