The term “waiting room” seems somewhat outdated today. In fact, it is so out of touch with the realities of today that if you type in the term “waiting room” into a Google search, you get a reference to a Fugazi song called Waiting Room!
In 2019, StudyFinds.org posted the results of a survey of 2,000 British adults. They found that customers’ patience appeared to be growing thinner. Those surveyed reported that they began getting frustrated and impatient after waiting for a stoplight to change for just 25 seconds—and the trend is even more pronounced with technology. Respondents reported they were willing to wait just 16 seconds for a website to load before getting frustrated.
One-third of consumers are generally frustrated with slow page loads. The data reviewing Millennial consumers seems to be even more direct—41% reported slow page load frustrations.
Most of those surveyed thought that technology was at least partially to blame for their growing lack of patience. When you combine the results of this survey with the fact that consumers engage an average of 8.8 hours per day with digital content, you often cannot help to wonder if there is a connection.
While we all want to avoid waiting ,for the most part, the waiting room still has relevance today for some business sectors. However, modernizing the waiting room experience to elevate the perceived experience is key to long-term success.
There are always going to be occasions where consumers are going to have to wait for service, even if you make every effort to avoid it. As a result, it makes sense to invest the time and effort into making that experience as calming (and not frustrating) as possible.
What Is a Waiting Room?
The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of a waiting room is:
“a room (as in a doctor’s office) for the use of persons (such as patients) who are waiting”
A waiting room can literally be a room with seating for clients to wait for service in the traditional sense. Today, however, waiting rooms can be much more than that. Regardless of whether you are in the hospital or retail setting, the term “waiting room” can describe a much more flexible queue system.
Technology and the Waiting Room Experience
While you can modernize your physical waiting room by adding new furniture, new art, and a few televisions, clients might enjoy an optimized waiting room experience a lot more than mere furniture upgrades.
Waiting room entertainment often traditionally only involves a television set to a random channel. Your guests rarely have control over what they see on the TV, and it may not hold their attention very long. In the healthcare setting, one study indicated that only 41% of people said they would like to watch TV while waiting. Reading and using a mobile phone were considered more appealing activities.
Instead, more tailored forms of entertainment can be a great way to modernize a waiting room. For example, having individual, stationary tablets with games, reading options, or other ways to interact might be appealing to some clients. Trivia games or quick matching games can be a good way to pass the time, no matter how old your clientele may be.
Give Clients More Information About Their Wait Time
According to a 2016 study, 55% of clients wish they had access to estimated wait times while they were in a waiting room. Another 61% said they would like an alert when their appointment was expected to be late.
Simply having information about how long you can expect to wait (and being fairly accurate about that information) can go a long way. Even showing how many other people are in line ahead of someone, often if you cannot estimate wait times well, can be very helpful.
Allow Clients to Take the Waiting Room on the Road
Perhaps the best way to modernize the waiting room is to make it completely virtual. Allowing clients to check-in online for appointments and get status updates about when they can expect to be served allows clients a lot more flexibility. They can stay at the office to work a bit longer before their appointment or run other errands while waiting for their turn in line.
Smartphone queue management apps make this type of high-tech option available to even very small businesses. Showing clients how much time they will have to wait allows them to do something productive with that waiting time—often making clients feel like they are not waiting at all.
Make the Waiting Room Technology Friendly
Most waiting rooms today have wifi access. There might be a code or password to get on the wifi, which is typically acceptable. However, it is important to ensure that information is easily accessible, so your clients feel welcome to use that resource while they wait.
You might also want to consider adding desks or “workstations” that provide outlets and charging stations. Since many people are missing work to make appointments, particularly in the healthcare setting, providing resources to continue working while they wait can help reduce stress levels.
While the ultimate goal is to decrease wait time as much as possible, providing clients with these types of resources will make their wait seem less pointless—they are not just waiting; they are charging their phone, sending a few emails, or making phone calls.
Make Sincere Efforts to Make Clients Comfortable
While comfortable chairs and inviting couches are nice, you can use technology to take comfort levels one step further. For example, one dentist incorporated massage chairs in her waiting room. When a mom posted that she was getting “me time” while her children were in with the dentist, it got a huge response on social media. This type of more extreme example not only makes your clients feel like a priority, but, in this case, it was a beneficial marketing tool as well.
Consider Using Check-In Kiosks
A check-in kiosk allows the client to check in on their own, without any interaction with a staff member. While some might argue kiosks take out the personal touch in customer service, in the era of COVID-19, it might be a safer way to serve your clients.
Kiosks often also reduce wait times and assist with getting information from clients to check-in. They are also more private compared to verbally sharing information with an employee.
Rui is COO of Ombori Grid. Before joining Ombori in 2017, he worked in Beijing, Tokyo, Silicon Valley and Zagreb before ending up in Stockholm. He previously spent nine years in R&D at Ericsson as Operative Product Owner, and is a highly skilled leader in IT and communications with a successful track record of working closely with both stakeholders and management.