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How to Make the Wait Easier at Your Veterinary Clinic

Long wait times are becoming more common in the wake of the pandemic, so help your clients wait in comfort.

It’s all over the news: veterinary clinics are stressed to the max and long wait times — if you can get an appointment at all — are becoming the new norm in the wake of the pandemic.

One news article highlighted clients waiting hours for their pets to be seen, even when they were in need of urgent care. Patients with less severe ailments had to wait even longer. Just as with doctor’s offices, wait times have always been a thorn in the paw of the customer experience at veterinary clinics.

There may not be much you can do to reduce wait times right now, but you can make the wait more pleasant for your clients and their furry (or feathery or scaly) family members. Here are five ways to create a nicer waiting experience at your veterinary clinic:

  1. Take steps to reduce stress for pet patients. Do what you can to reduce pet stress, which can make their humans anxious as well. For example, my veterinarian has the waiting room divided, with a big “cats only” sign on one side of the room. There’s a waist-high wall separating this side of the clinic from the dog side. This can greatly reduce the stress cats feel sitting in carriers getting sniffed by passing dogs. Playing calming music like “Through a Dog’s Ear,” scientifically proven to calm pets, would also lower stress on pets and their humans.
  2. Offer connectivity. These days, Wi-Fi is a must. Offer free Wi-Fi, and don’t make clients ask for the password: instead, post it prominently on an attractive sign. That way, clients can connect and scroll their phones without burning through data, or open their laptops and get a little bit of work done while waiting.
  3. Provide refreshments for everyone.  Make fresh water available for pets who are waiting, GeniusVets recommends. While you may not want to put out a communal bowl for health reasons, you can offer a water cooler and disposable pet bowls. For the humans, offer coffee, tea or hot chocolate and water, with bright, cheerful signage telling clients they can help themselves to a beverage. My veterinary clinic has a coffee machine stashed in the corner but, as a new client, I didn’t notice it until another client went to grab a cup.
  4. Create a training station. While it’s common for veterinary clinics to offer a cookie jar of dry Milk-Bone type treats, your clinic could upgrade the concept to create a mini pet training station in a corner of your waiting area. Offer an airtight container with high-value training treats. Make cute “training zone” signage, and offer cards that show how to teach dogs different simple tricks and commands. This could also help pets develop positive associations with visiting the vet.
  5. Revamp your retail area. Most veterinary clinics have a small section with a few leashes and collars and maybe some deodorizing shampoo for sale. In some cases, it can feel like a bit of an afterthought. Consider refreshing your retail area to make it feel more like a mini pet shop that clients will want to browse. Put thought into selecting cute products, and add a few unusual ones too. For example, you may want to sell puzzle toys for dogs that need mental stimulation or snuffle mats that can help dogs learn to do nose work. “Stocking products that support the needs of pets saves time for owners and can increase your profitability,” Today’s Veterinary Business states.

Take these steps to make your waiting area comfy and cozy, and clients (and their pets) won’t mind hanging out a little longer while waiting to see the veterinarian.