How to Reduce Waiting Room Crowding and Limit the Spread of Illness During COVID-19

How To: Reduce Waiting Room Crowding and Limit the Spread of Illness During COVID-19: NextME Digital Waitlist App

Long wait times can hinder customer experience across a number of industries - from food services, to retail stores, to medical offices. However, the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the potentially negative effects and dangers of overly crowded hospital waiting rooms and long wait times beyond an inconvenient patient experience. Specifically, they can increase the spread of illness to waiting patients and working staff. Similarly, long wait times create delays in treatment for the severely ill or injured patients - these scenarios can result in an increased risk of death for emergency departments. 

Guidelines for Reducing Waiting Room Crowding and Limiting the Spread of Disease

How To: Reduce Waiting Room Crowding and Limit the Spread of Illness During COVID-19: NextME Digital Waitlist App

With the increased risk that our current landscape brings, the OHSU School of Medicine has developed a set of guidelines to help reduce overcrowding and long wait times in emergency departments in order to improve patient experience and eliminate delayed patient care. Although these guidelines were made for emergency departments, they can be extended to cover waiting rooms across various clinics and physicians’ offices. Through interviewing top performing hospitals, OHSU School of Medicine narrowed down four Ways to reduce waiting room crowding, thus improving patient care. 

Support and Involvement of Medical Clinic Executives

First, a hospital or clinic must have strong support and involvement of their executive leadership teams. Cultural shifts happen from the top down and it’s imperative that leadership stands behind decisions made to keep waiting patients safe. Executives also control funding shifts and can set large projects in motion. 

Coordination and Involvement of All Medical Clinic Staff Members

Moving down the chain of command, a second way for hospitals to lessen patient wait times is for hospital care coordination to occur through the involvement of all staff members. For example, involving all staff members in the turnover process so multiple tasks can be done at once can open up more beds sooner for waiting patients.  

Use Predictive Analytics to Forecast Wait Times in Medical Clinics

NextME Predictive Analytics to Forecast Wait Times in Medical Clinics

Third, medical offices can leverage predictive analytics to forecast high traffic times and adjust their staff and practices accordingly. This can seem daunting and complicated for many local offices, but NextME is here to make it easy. Not only can NextME provide a digital waitlist and waiting room system to limit the number of patients physically waiting together, our predictive analytics help medical clinics analyze their existing practices. This includes quoting wait times for patients and determining how to adjust to make the process more efficient and seamless. NextME has already helped Mid City Pediatrics, a physician's clinic in Louisiana, to improve their waiting room process during the Coronavirus pandemic. When the clinic began testing for COVID-19, they needed to pivot away from their existing waiting room set up to implement new protocols that keep patients and staff as safe as possible. As part of this protocol, they began screening patients at the door, asking patients to fill out virtual paperwork through NextME, and allowing symptomatic patients to wait in their vehicles until they received a text via NextME that it was their turn to be seen. As a result, Mid City was able to eliminate their crowded waiting rooms, implement contactless check-in procedures, separate sick patients from the healthy ones, and increase overall waiting room efficiency by using virtual paperwork and a text message-based apportionment system. 

High Staff Accountability

Finally, tying all of these concepts together leads to high staff accountability. Ensuring hospital and clinic staff are involved, knowledgeable, and responsible for their tasks in the hospital will help lower wait times, potentially saving lives. 

Implementing these 4 steps to improve the efficiency of waiting rooms is more important now than ever.

COVID-19 is changing the landscape and consequences of crowded waiting rooms, and of patients’ willingness to enter those wait rooms. As we all begin to re-enter our communities, a new normal is needed to ensure the safety of patients across the country. Now might just be the perfect time to explore how a digital waitlist can move your business and organization forward into this new normal. Request a NextME demo today to discuss what we can do for you.


How Small Businesses Can Optimize Appointment Waitlist Management

How Small Businesses Can Optimize Appointment Waitlist Management

Waiting is a fact of life. And managing waitlists is often a big part of doing business. 

You may be thinking of the waiting area at your favorite salon or those little buzzer coasters at restaurants. But there are so many more industries who have to tackle this problem. From bowling alleys, to car lots, to stylists, to sales professionals, to event organizers and exhibitors, waitlists seem to be everywhere.

And those annoying buzzers or the old-fashioned clipboard technique are a poor way to keep track of such a vital part of your business. Fortunately, today’s technology has given us a better way to manage the wait through appointment waitlist platforms.

How Small Businesses Can Optimize Appointments and Waitlist Management

Create an Appointment Waitlist

If your salon, repair shop, or other service business uses a walk-in model, you might be leaving money on the table. But moving to an appointment-only model can also have financial drawbacks. A better solution is to create an appointment waitlist — it’s the best of both worlds.

An appointment waitlist allows you to schedule clients way ahead of time — regular visits, planned service appointments, monthly appointments. And it also allows you to manage walk-in clients. So if your dog grooming business has monthly bath and cut clients and walk-in flea baths or nail trims, you can include all of these types of visits in the same system. This allows you to fill slow times or no-show appointments with walk-in clients, and also reschedule late clients or last-minute drop-ins with ease.

Confirm Appointments with Text Reminders

Many walk-in type businesses have found that setting appointments can actually hurt their bottom line when people don’t show up. They may have booked a full day of appointments and staffed their business appropriately only to find that half of the clients have gone elsewhere or forgotten the appointment. Staff is left twiddling their thumbs waiting for people who are not coming. The whole business is less busy, and consequently less profitable, than it should be. 

This is similar to the no-show problem restaurants have faced for years using reservation systems like OpenTable. Since NextME was originally designed for the restaurant industry, our platform was created with this difficulty in mind. 

With a simple text message, just before their appointment clients can let you know if they’re still planning to keep their appointment. If so, they are prompted that they’re soon to be next in line. If not, the waitlist is moved forward accordingly and the day progresses smoothly. The staff stays busy, the business stays active, and workers and clients alike don’t have to waste time waiting. 

Let Clients Control How They Wait 

By sending SMS updates estimating wait time and then notifying clients when they need to head back, you allow clients to control and manage their own time. They don't have to hover in or just outside your shop (or keep checking back). They can take off and do as they please, then only begin to return once they receive a text letting them know that they're next or almost next in line. 

Not sure how this would look? Take Apple's Genius Bar. They do an excellent job of allowing clients to schedule their appointments and then wait wherever or however they like. Since many of their locations are inside shopping malls or busy commercial areas, this means people can shop or run errands as they wait. This leads to happier clients and better customer service ratings across the board. And there’s no denying that they’ve managed to create a loyal following.

Take Advantage of Clients' Captive Attention

In today’s data-driven world, your clients are constantly bombarded by marketing messages. So finding ways to get their attention is harder than ever. What if you could get your clients to view a page with your chosen messages, voluntarily?

One of the best features of NextME’s waitlist platform is that it sends your clients to a page where they can monitor their place in line in real-time. This creates a captive audience who is already interested in your business and its services. And you get to decide what content is displayed on the page beneath the countdown. 

This means you could advertise potential upsell products or services like adding a blowout to a hair cut or offer new air filters for clients coming to your automotive shop. You could also showcase your website, give customers the option to sign up for your email list, or encourage them to follow your brand on social media. Have a customer loyalty plan? This is a great place to give them a sign-up link.

This waiting page is also a great option for event management teams. It allows event exhibitors to manage wait times for attendees visiting booths. The marketing page allows exhibitors to prep attendees while they’re waiting to experience all a booth has to offer. They can use the page to help attendees make a more meaningful connection to your brand or cause by combining mobile marketing content and one-on-one meetings with staff members. 

Want to see how an appointment waitlist can help you grow your business? Give NextME a call today!


Restaurants Save Time and Money with a Waitlist App

Technology is everywhere, from the smartphones we carry with us to the advanced systems in our cars, to the tech in use at places of business large and small. And the restaurant industry is no exception.

From touchscreen food and beverage dispensers that offer diners more options and a serve yourself experience, to biodiesel converters that will convert your used fryer oil to fuel delivery trucks and catering vehicles, technology is improving the way we do business. And better yet, it’s improving the bottom line of an industry with infamously tight margins.

But how, exactly, is all of this progress helping restaurateurs to save? We’ll examine how just one inexpensive bit of technology can increase profits, decrease costs, and help your restaurant run more smoothly even at the busiest of times.

Stop Seating Parties Like It’s 1999

Many eateries who don’t accept reservations are still relying on those costly, germ-ridden pager systems they’ve been using for 20 years or more. Yet these systems are pretty much the opposite of technological progress.

In addition to the sizeable cost of outfitting a restaurant with these bits of last century tech, you’re also on the hook for the expense of maintaining them, and replacement costs that can reach up to $100 per unit. Then there are the man hours spent on upkeep, searching for wayward pagers when guests get tired of waiting and just ditch them in the waiting area, and the eyesore of a blinking tower of plastic that greets your guests when they approach the host’s table.

Ditch the pagers, and instead tap into the technology that most of your diners are already carrying with them anyway. With a waitlist app like NextME, you can replace all of that outdated equipment with a single sleek and sophisticated iPad or iPhone. Plus, the app is a simple solution to implement, and new host staff can be trained and up to speed quickly for a minimum of downtime. As an added bonus, guests don’t even have to download the app to take advantage of the NextME system! They simply give the host their phone numbers, then receive SMS texts notifying them of their wait times and positions in line.

Keep Guests Engaged to Prevent Walkouts

Hosts see it daily. A party comes in, puts their name on the list, and sits down to wait. But when their turn comes and their name is called, the party is nowhere to be found. The host then has to spend valuable time trying to locate them before moving on to the next party in line. It’s a frustrating experience for all involved.

With the NextME waitlist, customers can see exactly where they are in line, along with their estimated wait times - all via SMS texts without needing to download a separate app. Additionally, they can browse the menu, check out your current specials, read reviews on your social media pages, and otherwise engage with your brand while they wait. All of this leads to 25% fewer walkouts over all. But what about those who still leave? Since guests can confirm or cancel their table when they’re told it’s ready, your host won’t have to waste time tracking down wayward parties.

Double Your Table Turns

If you could double the number of tables you could serve per hour at peak times, what would that do for your bottom line? You may be wondering how such a thing is possible, and what it has to do with waitlist apps.

Displaying digital menus to patrons while they wait can significantly cut down on the time spent at the table trying to decide what to order. And since NextME’s customer facing mobile marketing page allows you to display your menu, specials, social media, and other promotional messages to each guest on the waitlist, you can expect tables to turn much faster – up to twice as fast! For those who are counting, that means double the revenue during peak dining hours.

Keep Your Front of the House Running Smoothly

Have you even calculated how much time your hosts spend answering questions about how much longer the wait will be? Or tracking down parties who have wandered off or pagers that have been ditched in the bushes outside? As you’ve already seen, waitlist apps can help eliminate each of these time sinks to allow your hosts to focus on what really matters: hospitality. And that increased staff efficiency means more productivity with fewer FTEs, and a less stressful shift for those working peak hours.

But Does It Really Save Money?

NextME’s track record has been proven, and restaurants can attest to the effect it’s had on their customer satisfaction as well as their bottom lines. Of course, your results will vary depending on the size of your restaurant and the volume of guests you seat on a given day, but it’s not unreasonable to suggest you’ll likely save thousands. In fact, Southport Grocery & Cafe, a tiny brunch destination, saved over $2,000 by switching to NextME. And a larger chain, Lou Malnati's, saved upwards of $10,000 across their 13 locations. So the real question is, can you afford not to update your waitlist?