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Reception areas and color (Proceedings)
Nothing impacts a client more than their first impression of your veterinary practice.
Nothing impacts a client more than their first impression of your veterinary practice. Whether it's the image your building presents to the neighborhood, the convenient parking space adjacent to the front door, the odor one might experience upon entry, or the smile they receive when first greeted, it is true – first impressions are important!
The reception area, lobby, waiting area – whatever you might name it – is yet another important item to add to that "first impressions" list. The reception and waiting space or combination of spaces is an area which is arranged by organization and function, but should be highlighted with light, color, art and signage. They should be defined by both architecture and furnishings. The relationship with other "front end" hospital spaces, how they are managed and how they are maintained is a direct reflection of your practice of veterinary medicine in the eyes of your clients.
Design and Traffic Flow
The design of your reception area is dependent upon how you organize traffic flow. Start by thinking about how your clients and their pets enter and exit the hospital. It is important to visually align your reception counter with the entrance so clients can instantly identify the "path" to the admissions area of the counter. If you wish to have separate entry and exit doors, the traffic flow must be very well defined, because people are naturally inclined to try to leave the same way they came in.
If your clients and their animals are greeted and moved quickly to an exam room, you may be able to minimize the size of your waiting area. This also decreases the opportunity for unwanted encounters or constant barking. However, if your clients are likely to wait for longer periods of time your waiting area must be more spacious and comfortable. Define how many seats your waiting area should have; keeping in mind that one person and an animal might occupy two or more seats. Also be aware of the potential for pets or pet carriers to take up space in walkways and around counter areas. The prevention of crossing paths of client and pet movement both within the waiting area and around the reception counter is desired for client and animal ease and safety.
The placement of the reception desk relative to other hospital functions can affect how you design and utilize it. In a typical hospital floor plan, it is common to align the reception area with the exam rooms, with staff-only circulation behind it. As the number of exam rooms increases however, a different layout may be necessary to prevent too much activity from occurring in one location.
Color, Light, and Materials
The design, color and materials of your reception area can create varied impressions. The image can be one of a folksy, "down-home" pet hospital or that of a high-tech medical center. There is no set formula for designing a reception area. The design should be a direct reflection of your individual practice philosophy, the way you use the space and the image you wish to project. There are a few tips to creating a successful reception area design:
• Incorporate color to draw attention and add interest
• Use varying levels of light to add depth and accentuate specific areas
• Always utilize finish materials that are durable and easy to maintain
• Install furnishings that add warmth and texture
• Consider space requirements for necessities (records systems, computers, telephones, credit card machines etc.)
• Design "cubbies" for storage, handouts, forms etc.
• Provide conveniences for your clients such as a refreshment center and information station