Use these 6 strategies to cut clients' wait
It's easy to overlook the problems that come with making clients wait. We think, "Hey, it comes with the territory." We make excuses. And we hedge our bets, knowing most clients only grow dissatisfied when they wait more than 30 minutes. But that approach won't wow clients. In fact, even a short wait may leave clients disgruntled. So it's an issue you should aim to manage.
The first step is to learn where you stand. We use tracking sheets to monitor check-in, appointment, and checkout times so we can see when we're running behind. Next, we convert this data into statistics for review. Check a few days a week to see how you do on average. Then you may want to compile an ongoing monthly report. Finally, you'll work to improve. These steps can help:
1. Ask new clients to fill out paperwork before arriving. Offer downloadable forms on the clinic Web site, or send clients paperwork by mail. If these tactics don't work, ask clients to come in 15 minutes early to fill out forms.2. Leave a few open appointments on each day's schedule. These open slots will keep you from overbooking, which can get you off schedule, and give you time to handle emergencies or catch up if you get behind.
3. Schedule enough staff. If the doctor is doing a technician's work, he or she isn't seeing appointments. Typically you need three to five staff members per doctor to work efficiently, and sometimes you can justify more.
4. Encourage drop-off appointments. This strategy lets you take advantage of slower times during the day. And if clients provide their cell phone numbers, they're easy to reach if you have additional questions. One warning: With this approach, it's important to have the pet ready to check out when the client's scheduled to return.
5. Find ways to maximize efficiency. Work on more than one thing at a time when you can. For example, while a technician is working on the pet, an assistant or receptionist can enter charges, the doctor can write up the record, and the owner can potentially be checked out. Everyone wins. The client leaves on time—and with a little luck staff members and doctors do, too.
6. Think outside the box. Some clinics call clients when they're running behind and ask them to come a little later. Our clinics give a $5 discount if the wait has been noticeably long. More than anything, clients appreciate that we acknowledge their inconvenience.
Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member Dr. Jeff Rothstein, MBA, is the president of The Progressive Pet Animal Hospitals and Management Group, which owns and operates hospitals in Michigan and Ohio.