The Waiting and Waiting and Waiting Room

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Summary:

One component of providing superior service is managing the customer's perception of the service. I heard about a medical office study that supports this view. The study found that if, upon entering the examining room, the doctor smiled, exhibited a friendly manner, and made immediate eye contact, patients' estimates of the time they spent waiting dropped by half.

One component of providing superior service is managing the customer's perception of the service. I heard about a medical office study that supports this view. The study found that if, upon entering the examining room, the doctor smiled, exhibited a friendly manner, and made immediate eye contact, patients' estimates of the time they spent waiting dropped by half.

I find this study fascinating, yet suspect. No matter how friendly and empathetic the doctor is, I can't imagine being mesmerized into thinking that a 15-minute wait was only 7.5 minutes or that a 30-minute wait was a mere 15.

Nevertheless, I recall an experience in which the doctor's manner did make a difference. After a minor condition escalated into a Nasty Nuisance, I called my doctor for an appointment. He was on vacation. Instead, I was given an appointment to see one of his office-mates, a doctor whose schedule, I was told, was full, but if I wouldn't mind an end-of-day appointment, he'd see me that very day.

I'm a Patient Patient

I arrived at the appointed time, and naturally, I had to wait. But I appreciated that the doctor was willing to see me, so I didn't mind the delay. Still, I waited a l-o-n-g time. Finally, a nurse guided me into the examining room, where I continued my waitathon.

At length, the doctor appeared. I was about to thank him for making time for me when, to my surprise, he offered me an apology. Really! He apologized profusely for keeping me waiting so long. I assured him that there was no need to apologize, and told him how much I appreciated his willingness to see me after a near-endless day. He said that was beside the point; he still felt bad that he had kept me waiting so long.

Had this doctor just graduated from Bedside Manner 101? Was it perchance Be Kind to Patients Day? Or could this be his normal behavior? I had no way of knowing. All I knew was that his warm and genuine manner, combined with his awareness that I'd waited a long time and his expressed concern about it made that wait irrelevant.

Wait a Minute—or an Hour

Hardly anyone likes to be kept waiting. But sometimes the only way you can give current customers adequate attention and reasonable service is to make other customers wait. But the way you treat those who have had to wait can make a big difference in how satisfied they are with your service. If your customers have ever complained about the time they spent waiting for your help, try exhibiting the same sort of caring, empathetic behavior that this doctor did.

Don't make people wait if you can avoid it. But when circumstances leave you no choice, exhibit a friendly manner, make immediate eye contact, smile, and offer a sincere apology. You may find your customers willing to forgive and forget.

User Comments

2 comments
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

It is all a matter of thinking about how the waiting person would feel. If you are left sitting in a waiting room with no idea what the delay is, you will probably start to think no one cares about you. You might wonder if they have forgotten you.<br><br>On the other hand, if someone checks in to see how you are doing and gives you an update on what is happening or why you are still waiting, you'll probably feel better. You'll know they haven't forgotten about you. You might even know how much longer to wait.<br>

December 30, 2009 - 1:07am
Anonymous's picture
Anonymous

Darrell, you have provided excellent advice on how to manage the wait state. Thank you! ~Naomi

December 30, 2009 - 1:08am

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