I recently went to a doctor's appointment with my husband to a physician specialist who is said to be "one of the best" in his field. The appointment was at the doctor's office at the local Medical Center.
My husband's appointment was for 1:30 pm and I was meeting him at the doctor's office because I was coming from a business meeting. My business meeting got out a little late so I raced down the highway because I didn't want to be late for this appointment. I even attempted to save time by valet parking my car to eliminate the need to wind my way through the garage looking for a parking space.
I flew into the waiting room at approximately 1:33 pm and saw my husband sitting there so I was relieved that I had made it! Once in the waiting area we sat, and sat and sat there waiting to be called back to a room. My iPhone has been a wonderful little gadget in that it helps to distract me when I am stuck "waiting" on service (is that an oxymoron?) but after 30-35 minutes of waiting even my iPhone runs out of activities to keep me occupied. By this time I've caught up on my email, played a few games of solitaire and Angry Birds and I'm starting to get antsy.
At 2:06 pm my husband went back to the receptionist and asked about the appointment and was told that we "were next". Well that gave me hope that the wait was almost over. We waited another 35 minutes before finally getting called back to the exam room. The nurse sheepishly apologized for the wait and when the doctor came in another 15 minutes later he apologized also. I only wish this doctor's office was more sensitive to customer communication on patient wait times.
He was a great doctor in that he was kind, a good communicator and patient enough to answer all of our questions so I did like him but I don't think that resolves the wait issue. I really do get it in that a good doctor takes time with his patients and doesn't let the clock dictate that sometimes critical communication process. But what I don't get is the process not allowing for communication to those sitting in the waiting room with Judge Judy playing on the television.
Whether the business is a physicians practice, auto repair shop or hair salon - customers should be given the courtesy of communicating service delays. Delays happen, and that is OK, but figuring out how to manage the wait time is where the successful set the standard.
6 Strategies for Managing Customer Wait Times
1. Employee Training
Employees on the front-line are the ones who can help make a great customer experience. Employees need to be trained and equipped on how to manage customers, communicate information and resolve issues. Well-trained employees can help turn a negative customer experience into a positive one.
2. Set the Expectation
Setting the expectation for the length of a wait psychologically prepares the customer and gives the customer options. If we had been told that we would have an hour plus wait, we probably would have gone and gotten something to eat, taken a walk or gone next door to shop. It is only common courtesy to give people a heads up when the wait will be extra long.
3. Communicate with the Customer
Things happen and delays are inevitable - and most customers are understanding and forgiving. That is why giving the customer an idea about how long the wait will be, accompanied by an apology, goes a long way in showing respect for the customer and their time.
4. Pleasant Waiting Area
Reception areas and waiting rooms should be clean, well maintained and aesthetically pleasing. If someone is waiting on a service they should at least have a comfortable place to wait. Crowded and noisy waiting rooms can agitate customers and not prepare them well for a good service experience. Waiting rooms should be able to accommodate more people than would be waiting at any one time. People don't like to have to look for a seat and customers often "spread" out - so having plenty of seating is important.
5. Provide Distractions
Typical waiting room distractions are magazines and sometimes television but it is important that the magazines are current and that the television is on an appropriate channel for the clientele. My dentist does a great job with this in that they keep the TV on but have it muted with scrolling text on it, pleasant smelling candles lit and comfortable furniture to sit on. It is also a great idea to have activities for small children if kids are expected to be waiting with parents. My kids orthodontist had video games in the waiting room to distract the kids.
6. Service Recovery
Too often organizations get so wrapped up in "performing a service" that they lose sight of the service experience. Now might be a good time to assess your service through the eyes of the customer and make adjustments to ensure that they have an experience that not only meets their needs but exceeds their expectations.
photo by: paulswansan