Online Chat: How to Start, What to Expect
For years, Apple, REI, Disney and many other industry-leading companies have been using online chat to achieve superior customer experiences and increase sales effectiveness.
Research shows that visitors who chat are 7.5 times more likely to complete a purchase than visitors who don’t chat.
Chat also leads to greater customer satisfaction and more frequent repeat business. But is it right for professionals and private practice dentists?
The theory behind chat is fairly simple; make it easier for potential patients to communicate with your practice, interact with a greater number of potential patients, and schedule more consultations.
Though the theory of chat for your practice is simple, the practice of chatting professionally is difficult to execute.
So, Is it worth implementing in your practice? What are the costs and the benefits of chat? Should I manage chat in-house or outsource the management of my chat? What’s a budget-conscious way to get started?
After more than one year of extensive data collection with 300 doctors, we have answered these questions, and many more. Our clients range from small rural one-doctor, one-location practices to 15-doctor practices in the urban core. We serve more than two million annual dental web visitors and answer about 80,000 dental chats per year.
Just like moving from two-step exams to habitual same-day starts, adding online chat is simply a change in approach.
Would you prefer patients leave without signing a contract, or would you prefer them to get started today?
Would you prefer your web visitors to be in control of calling you for a new patient consultation, or would you prefer to collect their information and have your best new patient coordinator call them?
What Should You Expect?
Interact with new patients outside of normal business hours and increase web-conversions
Because chat is more effective than a life-less “Request an Appointment” button, you will convert more web visitors into new patients when your office is closed by live interaction with the patient.
Our goal as marketers should be to meet the buyer where the buyer wants to buy.
Lower communication barriers help increase the frequency of communication with new patients on your website
Our statistics show that 3-6% of non-bounced web visitors are likely to engage with dental online chat.
Of the total chatters, over 40% will be new patients.
With an experienced and high quality chat agent, you can expect to collect contact information from 50-60% of those new patients.
Better organic search ranks due to longer user session duration
When patients chat with your practice, they stay on your site for a longer period. Longer session duration leads to higher organic Google search results.
Because the average chat length is between seven and eight minutes, chatters are staying on your site longer.
Compared with the same period in the previous year, we noticed an average session duration increase of 10%.
Fewer current patient calls to your practice during peak hours
Client data shows that 61% of chats are taken from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. CST., 19% are taken before 10:00 a.m., and 20% are taken after 4:00 p.m. By answering patient questions during the day, your staff can focus their efforts on outstanding in-office patient service.
Increase in patient satisfaction
Your office will be more accessible to patients throughout a greater portion of the day. When accessibility increases, new patient satisfaction increases. Not only will new patients be impressed, current patients will use it during your busy days and while they are at work.
Professionally managed chat is a financial investment
If you chose to have a professional manage your chat service, expect the starting rate to be $249 monthly.
Increased website bounce rate
We noticed a slightly higher bounce rate after installing chat on practice websites. However, the evidence suggests that the benefit of session duration outweighs the negative effect of the slight increase in bounce rate. We only saw increases in Google organic rankings after adding chat and never decreases.
(Potential) Patient frustration for poor chat execution and framing
Chat is easy to do poorly. If done poorly, patients get frustrated, staff get frustrated, and chat is ineffective.
Just like the phone, if your team has poor service, poor phone skills and poor scripting, your phone conversations will not be effective.
How Can I Start?
There are three options for implementing online chat for your practice.
Outsource chat to industry insiders
Chat agents that are well versed in nuanced differences between different treatment types and know about the dental process will be more effective at answering chats. This will lead to better patient experiences and more effective collection of new patient information.
Additionally, if the agents know about your practice offerings, they can build value for your practice, specifically.
This option is best for offices without large call centers.
Outsource chat to industry outsiders
There are hundreds of options to outsource your office’s chat. Service can range from per minute fees, to a flat monthly fee. However, be aware that these chat agents do not know much about dentistry or specifics about your practice.
Manage chat in-house
Chat software can be placed on your site very easily. There are services that range from free (Tawk.to or MyLiveChat) to more than $100 per month (BoldChat, LiveChat).
This works best for practices with a large call center already established for extended hours.
It is difficult to reliably answer chats if it is not the staff person’s main responsibility.
Beginner mistakes to avoid:
Having a pre-chat survey
Do everything you can to decrease new patient barriers…that’s the whole idea of chat!
Making the chat box look “spammy”
You want the box to look trustworthy, not like a cheap service outsourced from another country.
Not tracking your results
Make sure you are keeping track of the effectiveness of your chat
Believing your patients when you survey them about chat
If you ask a patient, “Would you have come here to the office if not for our chat?” they are going to say “yes!” 100% of the time. No new patient wants to admit that the convenience, alone, of chat was enough to get them into your practice.
Not having a “pop-up” greeting
Pop-ups are generally annoying and detract from the web page. So it’s important that your greeting is tasteful and it looks like a real human is on the other end.
Pop-up chat welcome messages are responsible for starting productive chats 75% of the time.
Just like direct mail, Facebook marketing, and Google Adwords are not for everyone, chat is not for everyone. However, when chat is implemented deliberately and correctly, it can be an extremely effective tool for driving revenue and “wowing” existing patients.
If you are interested in implementing chat on your practice website, whether you are looking for a professional service or you are looking for help getting chat setup in-house, feel free to chat on our website and our team will gladly offer complimentary help.