Experience design in the world of brick and mortar

This is an account of my experience at an eye clinic in Bangalore. The main intent is to identify the key user experience issues faced as a first time visitor with a list of suggestions on how to improve the experience.

The first phone call:

The first thing one does is to call up the clinic to fix an appointment. The phone rings and rings but no one picks up the phone. I start wondering if the clinic closed down. I got to know later that the phone hadn’t been working for a few days. The toll free line was the only one that worked. After fixing the appointment, there was an SMS acknowledging the conversation but it did not have any details of the appointment. I expect to see a confirmation of the appointment and not a ‘nice talking to you’ SMS. The first touch point is very critical to building the brand. It is key to making the first connect with the customers, make sure it is not broken.

At the clinic:

It was a part of the city I wasn’t familiar with, so took a cab instead of driving. On reaching the place, the first thing I saw was the Optical store in the ground floor. The rest of the floors had a dark blue facade all over with the name of the hospital written on it. Still, I wasn’t sure if this was where I should be. I stepped out and asked the security guard if this indeed was the clinic. He was new and didn’t know the answer. So I walked up the stairs and found another security guard who pointed to a door on the side as the entrance. Still, all I could see was the Opticals. I got a glimpse of some waiting area which comforted me into believing that it must be the clinic. I was surprised that there was a side entrance despite having a floor to ceiling glass facade facing the main entrance. On my subsequent visits, I got to know, that it was in fact, the main entrance which had been locked on the day I first visited.  A phone that didn’t work and a locked main door – badly hurt the brand and the experience.

I walk in, and, again, the first thing I see is the Optical store. There was a small Information Desk on the left, but I couldn’t find anyone there. Then I found another prominently placed long desk all the way to the far end of the waiting room, against the wall with the name of the clinic. Two of the staff members were manning the desk and a few others crowding around the sides. I spoke to this lady and she helped me out with filling out the new patient registration form and asked me to be seated. It was a chaotic scene, there were a few rooms on the right side where folks would come out, and shout out a name, and if it was audible enough the patient  would go into the room. There were few folks walking  up and down from the main desk to these rooms with files, and, a few folks walking around and administering eye drops to patients in the waiting area. I was worried they will forget about me in all this chaos. So, I walked up to the desk and asked the lady what the next step was. She pulled out the file she had prepared  and asked me to pay the consultation fee. She also told me to be seated and that she would come over and let me know when it is time to meet the doctor. She had to be good and remembering faces and yes, she was. She came over and informed me when it was time. They called out my mom’s name from one of those doors and we went in. After the tests, we waited outside again, to hear the name called again from another room. Same process – we waited and then finally heard another call to meet the doctor. We didn’t even know the name of the doctor we were sent to. It turned out to be not the one we had an appointment with. We were then taken to the first floor of the building where again there was a lot of chaos. But we finally got to meet the doctor we had fixed an appointment with, almost  two hours after the scheduled time.

My observations:

– The first point of contact is the phone line. If it is not working, make sure it is updated on the website or an alternate number is listed. Make sure the alternate point of contact – the appointment lines can handle the volume of traffic – hearing ‘all our representatives are busy’ isn’t the first impression you want to make. A broken telephone line at the clinic was just unfortunate – it almost shooed me away from fixing the appointment.

-First time at a place can be a bit disorienting without proper signs.

– I was confused about the function of the building – is it an optical store or a hospital. The cues were almost hidden.

– An entrance door on the side was not what I expected when the whole of the front facade was glass.

– No sense of where to start – an empty information desk and then no clear signs.

– No sense of how long the wait time is and what the steps are – lack of communication made the wait time seem a lot longer and more uncertain.

– No indication of the number of patients ahead of you.

– The crisscross movement of staff and doctors made the place look busy and less organized, although they were very systematic – it was more of a perceived chaos.

– The people were really nice and diligent, but the lack of communication on the wait time and the various steps diluted the experience.

– Anywhere you wait, if you know roughly how long the wait time was, you can prepare accordingly, but without that clarity, it feels very uncertain and you’re constantly looking around to see who and from where would call your name.

How to improve the experience:

– Do not lock the main entrance doors

– Make sure the information desk is manned, otherwise, just remove it.

– For a first time patients, inform them the process while filling up the forms – they’ll know what to expect rather than being in the dark.

– Give some rough indication of how long the wait time will be.

– Either a token system or some display indicating the next few patients in line.  Otherwise, when the patient checks in, let them know of the expected wait time and the time it would take for the entire process.

– Communication is key – can’t stress this again – unknown wait time is one of the biggest things patients dread while visiting a hospital. Anything to ease that will be looked at as a very positive experience.

– The entire staff right from doctors to the front desk, technicians, lab personnel and housekeeping staff were definitely doing a good job with a smile on their face, but some of these small issues dampen the whole experience.


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