Many moons ago, I learned that it is very difficult to make a blanket endorsement or recommendation of the latest social media feature. The reason? Every clinic is COMPLETELY different. What works for one is a total waste for another. What gives one clinic the edge will be a total dud for the next. So, I do my best to learn about the pros and cons, try out all the features, and teach you HOW to use it and WHAT it can do for your practice, but leave the utilization decision up to you.
There's no better example than Facebook Messenger. When Facebook recently rolled out options for customized away messages and instant replies, I contacted the owners of the clinic Pages I help to manage. Expecting similar answers, I was a little surprised to learn that they all had vastly different feelings about using it.
So who chose the correct option? All of them! You have to pick what works for your practice, and for whomever is assigned to responding to these messages. For some practitioners, it's a quick and easy way for them to communicate with their clients-- it allows them to quickly answer questions with a time and date stamped message that can be copied into the medical record. For others, there's simply not the manpower to check and respond to these messages in a timely manner.
There's no right or wrong answer here, but if you want to use Facebook Messenger, there are new features that can help make it work as a great communication tool for you and your practice.
Not sure what we're talking about? Let's first check to see if you have Facebook Messenger for your veterinary clinic enabled:
1. Visit your Page settings, and then click on the sixth item down called "Messages." If your page allows people to message you, it will say "People can contact my page privately." If not, it will say "People cannot contact my page privately." To change this option, click the "edit" button to the right of this option.
2.. Next, let's check your Messenger settings. On the far left hand of the page there is a separate toolbar. Click the second option, "Messaging." You should see a new screen with options for you to customize your "Response Time," "Outside Business Hours," "Instant Replies" and "Messenger Greetings." We'll go through each of the of the options below!
3. Response Time. Your Your response time appears in the About section of your Page. Per Facebook, your response time will only be visible on your Page if you visit your Page at least once a week and answer 90% or more of your messages. You can choose the option you think best represents how quickly you reply to messages, or have your response time updated automatically.
You're given several choices, and my personal favorite is to select the "Typically Replies in a Day." Why? Because I like to underpromise and overdeliver. Sure, you might answer that appointment cancellation question quickly today, but if all hell breaks out loose tomorrow (it is supposed to be a full moon) and you don't get to that message until the following day, you don't want people to EXPECT a response in a few minutes. Set the bar low, and give them other options to contact you (we'll talk about that more in a minute).
Some clinics, however, WANT to encourage messages- so for them, choosing other settings like "typically responds in minutes" may set the tone and expectations for faster customer service.
4. Next up is "Outside Business Hours." Make sure your business hours are correct in your Page's about section before you change anything here. This will basically allow your senders to know whether or not to expect a response outside of your normal clinic hours.
You're given the option to select "Show status as Away when your business is closed" or "Enable Away Messages to quickly respond to initial messages when you're away." Messages received when your Page is Away aren't included in your Page's response rate or response time, if that rating is important to you.
If you choose to set your business messenger to "Away" when you''re closed, you can also set up an automatic message. Here's where I like to add a custom message sharing the names/phone numbers of the nearest emergency clinic. Think of it just like you would your answering machine at your clinic. If someone calls in the middle of the night, your message likely directs them to the nearest 24 hour clinic or for some of you, your mobile phone. You can include that information here. I like saying something like "Thanks for contacting us. We're currently closed. If this is an emergency, please call 555-5555. Otherwise, we will respond to your message within 1 business day or you may call our office at 9 am tomorrow for more prompt assistance."
If you want to get fancy, you can even customize your message further by clicking "Add Personalization" in the bottom left hand of the away message text box. Here, you can set your message to automatically populate with the sender's first/last name, or your phone number or address.
5. Now we're up to "Instant Replies." Another useful feature, enabling this will give your customers an idea of what to expect. Regardless of when your customer sends a message, they will automatically receive a bounce-back message from you. If you'd like to use this feature, try something like "Hi! Thanks for your message. We do our best to check our Facebook messages twice a day (or whatever your clinic has chosen for your policy) and we'll get back to you as soon as we can. If you need more immediate assistance, please call our office at 555-5555."
Again, you can personalize with your customer's first and last name if you'd like. The downside of this feature is if your customer sends multiple messages (e.g. a message and a few pictures), they'll get this bounce back on every message they send. If you have clients sending a lot of photos individually, this may not look as courteous as you'd like.
Ok, you're all set! So what's your verdict? Will your clinic be using Messenger? Let me know, and if you have any questions, you can send me a Facebook message anytime! Here's my Facebook Messenger code, which you can scan from the Facebook Messenger App! If you need help finding yours, find the instructions here! -Happy Messaging, Caitlin