Tip: Here’s how you can turn your waiting room into a comfortable zone
It’s the central hub and linchpin of every practice visit, a link between reception and the treatment room: the waiting room. With some thought, you can ensure that the room invokes positive associations for your patient and allows them to remain comfortable and relaxed.
Waiting times can be tricky to control: It shouldn’t be so long that it annoys the patient, but also not too short, as many patients appreciate time to sit down and mentally prepare themselves for treatment. Whether it’s chairs, a lounge area, atmospheric room design with music and fragrances or even film entertainment – a patient-focused waiting room is not just characterised by equipment, it is all part of the service offered. It is therefore important that your patients feel comfortable and an effort has been made to meet their individual needs. You should thus design your waiting room to support your ethos of customer service keeping in mind the fact that even small details can have a big impact.
Your favourite little spot, the waiting room
You know that a patient is now much more than just a service recipient. They are a guest and a customer so your focus must be on making sure that they feel 'looked after' – in all stages of their practice visit. Set yourself this challenge and turn your waiting room into an oasis of comfort. This can be achieved, for example, by providing a coffee machine, a selection of tea and of course, water. The latter should be provided in small bottles, as bulky water coolers with 20-litre containers are declining in popularity due to the potential for bacterial contamination. Plastic bottles should be chosen over glass bottles due to the potential for injury. If desired and if it fits with the corporate identity of your dental practice, various suppliers can develop your own label design. You should always avoid offering sugary drinks such as juice or lemonade – the dentist and the prophylaxis specialist will be happy to see clean, non-sticky teeth when treatment begins.
Ensure you provide choice reading material
Magazines and periodicals are standard in every waiting room. Make sure you provide a high-quality range and adapt your title selection to your patients. This doesn’t necessarily need to involve a magazine subscription service, sometimes it’s best just to buy your own. In addition to the larger selection that this offers, you can freely determine intervals and vary the issues accordingly. Dispose of any magazines which are dirty, tattered, greasy or simply no longer presentable. No patient wants to hold a worn-out magazine. And naturally, all issues should be current and not outdated. Providing a daily newspaper is also a great service point. Subscribe to one or two titles and enable your patients to keep themselves fully up to date and informed.
You could even provide reading glasses. This is another great service option that your competitors are unlikely to be offering. Reading glasses are now cheaper than ever. Create a selection in varying strengths and offer them when needed. The patient will thank you.
And, of course, you can’t forget to provide a range of practice information material. Quality instead of quantity is the magic formula – pay attention to an inviting but subtle presentation.
Free Wi-Fi shows modernity and service-oriented thinking
Free Wi-Fi is now a matter of course in most public locations. Why not also in your waiting room? It’s easy to establish separate guest access and thus offer the patient digital added value.
And what about for little guests? If this makes you think in horror of plastic chairs and the classic ball pit, you can breathe easy: there is a whole range of furnishings beyond the mainstream made especially for children. If your dental practice is oriented toward paediatric dentistry, it is appropriate to design the entire waiting room in a child-friendly manner, for example with an experience and discovery world on the topic of dental health like you’d find in a museum. Make sure you create separate areas within the room for the different age groups. Small children with their parents wait in a different manner to young people who just want to listen to music or study. Digital gadgets such as PlayStation or Nintendo consoles are enjoyed by people across many age ranges.
Outdoor waiting area for those who love fresh air
If your practice premises allows for it, an outdoor waiting area can be a really special service for the patients. A patio, a rooftop terrace or a green front garden would be perfect for this. An outdoor waiting area should only be offered in the warmer months. Furnish it with all the comforts of your regular waiting room and keep plenty of sun protection in mind. Depending on the location and personnel structure, the patient can either be personally collected from the waiting area or contacted using a pager system. Pagers are well know from system catering – they are small devices programmed individually which emit a signal (usually a vibration) as soon as it’s your turn. The aim is for the patient to experience comfort and relaxation, and to feel as though they are being looked after exceptionally well.
Service beyond the waiting room
The above comforts should extend to the treatment room, particularly when it comes to digital services such as music or film entertainment. For example, the patient could bring their own music and listen to it via the practice iPod during treatment. Video eyewear is also proven to make treatment feel quicker and more comfortable when it comes to complex procedures or treating anxious patients. You can present the film selection in the waiting room.
Communicating services effectively
Even if you provide the best service, it’ll all go to waste unless the patients know it exists. Present your services on your practice website, giving yourself an edge over competitors. In addition, placing service displays at reception and in the waiting room is highly recommended. For example, you can use descriptive icons and short texts to make added value immediately recognisable.
If you would like to offer Wi-Fi to your patients, you can either fully open up the network or make access details clearly visible in the waiting room. This way, your patients won’t have to constantly ask your practice team for this information.
Use simple tricks to ensure maximum satisfaction – after all, a happy patient will come back and become the best marketing instrument for your dental practice.