Monitor your clients' wait time

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Oct 01, 2010

You can keep clients happy with a reasonable wait time. When dealing with emergencies, walk-ins, and extended visits, a veterinary practice can easily get off schedule. Ask your front-desk staff to stay on top of how long clients have been sitting. That can help you prioritize to attend to them faster. When someone's in the waiting area for 30 minutes or more, you can pick up the pace. Without knowing about the backed-up schedule, you may not be as motivated.

Clients realize that we may get behind because of the nature of our business, but make sure team members acknowledge when clients wait and keep them informed with updates. In my clinics, if we keep a wellness-care client beyond 45 minutes, we give a "waiting patiently" discount of $5. That's not a huge chunk of money, but enough to make a huge difference in the client's attitude, because it shows that we respect the client's time.

Another way to decrease client wait times is to post a sign that reads, "If we have not attended to you in the last 15 minutes, please check with the front desk." This helps in two ways. First, the client feels more comfortable about approaching us about the time. Second, clients take the initiative during really busy times so we don't neglect them.

If you're not measuring wait time, try it. Receptionists can keep a chart of appointment times, actual arrivals, and checkout times. You may discover a chronic time problem that's driving clients away. If you're consistently falling behind, you may be understaffed or need longer appointment times.

Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Jeff Rothstein, MBA, is president of Progressive Pet Animal Hospitals in Michigan.