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Create the ultimate clinic experience

First impressions matter, so think about what clients smell, touch and see when they arrive at your hospital.

Create the ultimate clinic experience
Attractive and cheerful waiting rooms reduce anxiety and create a perception of quality care.

Pet spending in America has reached over $69 billion a year. With that kind of price tag, luxury is a must within a veterinary office. Clients often expect warming pads, soft music, dim lights and separate waiting areas to help alleviate the anxiety that comes with a visit.

But even though pets are the primary concern at a veterinary office, the pet owner, found on the other side of the leash, cannot be forgotten. Look at how skilled retailers and spa owners create a welcoming and pleasant environment for clients.

When it comes to a veterinary clinic, focus on the front of the house. What senses are first impacted when someone enters your clinic? Here are a few that quickly come into play.


How a veterinary clinic smells is extremely important to presentation and yet one of the most frequent complaints of pet owners. Be sure your staff is aware of this and doesn’t become desensitized to odors. The best way to address this is to minimize odors before they can spread. Consider adding an odor eliminator to your cleaning solution along with a natural cleaner designed to remove the scent of urine. Investing in natural air-freshening products can help make your clinic smell pleasant and welcoming.

The University of Minnesota Veterinary Medical Center added pheromone diffusers when updating its feline waiting and exam rooms. Eliminating dog smells in your clinic’s waiting and exam rooms can reduce a cat’s stress level. This is beneficial for both the cat and owner.


Something as simple as client check-in can be greatly improved with technology. A tablet or kiosk with a self-check-in option can definitely make a trip to the veterinarian a lot smoother.

After check-in, “Have a seat” is a commonly heard phrase. While pet owners might not choose your practice based solely on the waiting area, they will have memories of their visit. A comfortable waiting area can enhance the experience.

To start, offer a variety of seating options. Rather than lining a large area with chairs, try a cluster of chairs around a small table to create a more welcoming atmosphere. Chair clusters create separate seating areas, minimizing animal interaction and stress. If possible, have separate seating areas for dog and cat owners. Also important is mobile seating so that people can move chairs and be more comfortable.


Attractive and cheerful waiting rooms reduce anxiety and create a perception of quality care. The same goes for your lobby and check-in desk, which should be sparkling clean at all times. Pet owners worry about exposing Kitty or Rover to germs and contagions during visits, so make sure to keep entry areas wiped down and free from pet accidents.

When it comes to aesthetics, colors are important. Choose soothing colors such as white, green or pale blue. One study found that these colors tend to relax the mind, while red environments induce stress. Another stress inducer is abstract art. If you’re looking to decorate your clinic with artwork that soothes people and their pets, go with landscapes, nature scenes, and photos of adorable puppies and kittens.

In terms of lighting, stay away from fluorescent fixtures, as some studies show they can cause headaches, vision issues and problems with focus. Rather, choose bulbs that emit natural, muted light comparable to what you would use in your home. Allow plenty of sunlight, too, and avoid curtains or window coverings when possible.

Finally, waiting can be irritating, especially when a client doesn’t know if the pet will be seen next. Providing a video screen showing approximate wait times can make a huge difference by allowing pet owners to better manage their time. This can be particularly helpful if the animal is anxious and would be more relaxed outside the building or by taking a short walk.

Going to the veterinarian can be stressful. Whether the pet is not feeling well or gets uneasy at checkup time, the visit is not something a client typically looks forward to. It’s up to you to make the experience as enjoyable as possible by setting things up for success. Taking simple actions today, such as ensuring your clinic smells good, the seating is comfortable and the lighting gives off a positive vibe, can make all the difference with repeat clients and one-time drop-ins.

George Bird is director of in-store experience at Sandbox Agency. Email specific questions to Bird at [email protected]. Protection Status