Are Your Customers in the “Waiting Room?”

The other day I had an appointment for my yearly physical.  I have been seeing this physician for many years and really appreciate him, his nurse, and the office staff.  That being said, I fell victim to one of the things that patients state as their highest frustration in dealing with physician offices…. Waiting time in the waiting room.

Now, for 15 years I was the business manager for many internal medicine offices in the West Michigan area. I know exactly what the offices are working with in their quest to see as many patients as possible in a finite amount of time.  There are many variables working both for and against them.  Coming from that world, I tend to be a bit more forgiving than most on wait time…….up to a point, that is.

I waited for over an hour in the waiting room with no contact from the front desk as to how long wait time would be.  I checked in, filled out the paperwork, and that was it.  I did cringe when other patients checked in and announced that their appointment was with my physician as well.

Once I got in to see my doctor, I was treated with respect and they apologized for the delay.  There had been a procedure he was performing that had some unexpected complications, thus causing the delay.  I understand that these things happened, and, as I said, I love my doctor.

The point to all of this is that I had two other errands that were time sensitive that could have easily been accomplished during the time that I was waiting in the waiting room.  Now, I felt pressure to get these done before the bank and the post office closed for the day.

In retrospect, it would have been extremely helpful had the check-in clerk let me know that they were running behind when I arrived.  That way, I would have been given the choice to wait it out, quickly run my errands, or reschedule my appointment.

The trick to that is to design service into the daily operations.  In medical offices, the clinical staff needs to effectively communicate time delays once they reach a predetermined threshold, example, 15 minutes behind schedule.

While I’m using medical offices as the example, this transcends into any business arena.  Some supermarkets do this in their operations.  When there are more than three people in line, the manager makes sure another registered is opened immediately.  A bank that I was at recently understands this as well. The manager addressed each of us in line to determine if there were any of us that required his services in the transaction.

The bottom line is, when schedules change or delays occur, be sure to let your customers know immediately.  They will be much more understanding of the situation when you give them the power to choose how to handle it, or at the very least, let them understand when the product or service will occur.  Consumers know that no organization is perfect.  When they are included “in the loop” of information, it makes them feel part of a team and their customer satisfaction levels remain higher than if you leave them out in the “waiting room.”

One Reply to “Are Your Customers in the “Waiting Room?””

  1. Good post. A big part of good service is managing expectations. A favorite saying of mine is “you many not always like what I have to say, but I’m going to tell you what I know as soon as I can”.

    Medical offices would do well to tell us what they know about their schedule even if we might not always like it. Then at least we can make choices about OUR schedule as you described.

Please share your thoughts and opinions here...