Allow Your Clients to Book Online to Boost Business

booking online cat in lap

By Caitlin DeWilde, DVM

Do you spend your days telling clients who request a time slot on Facebook Messenger or via email to call the hospital to schedule an appointment? Or, you mention a 1:30 p.m. appointment time is available, just to have the client say they need a morning. You offer a morning option later in the week, only to have them tell you that day doesn’t work. Before you know it, you’ve spent your entire 10-hour shift discussing appointment times and still haven’t locked one in. With Vet2Pet, Facebook appointment scheduling, and specialized real-time appointment-booking software, those days are over. Update your practice’s technology, and your clients can schedule their own appointments, without tying up your phone lines.

What if you don’t have real-time scheduling software?

Real-time scheduling software is a handy tool for eliminating client conversations about scheduling appointments. However—it’s expensive. Many practices opt not to purchase costly real-time scheduling services, but if you have a service like Avimark Rapport or Vetstoria, your clients can see the times available, and schedule their own appointments, which then pop up in your practice management program.  

So, do you want to drive your online appointment bookings and, in turn, drive business to your practice, but don’t have real-time scheduling software? No problem! With the Vet2Pet platform and Facebook buttons, you can easily boost your online appointment bookings.

Online bookings via your branded hospital app

A simple way to boost online appointment bookings is through your practice-branded Vet2Pet app. Your clients who have downloaded your app not only have the option of requesting a preferred appointment time, but can also choose the type of service for their pet, such as dentistry, blood work, or a wellness or problem exam, when scheduling their pet’s appointment. Plus, clients can add a description of the presenting problem, or request a reminder to pick up parasite prevention while in your hospital. 

Once your client has chosen their preferred appointment time (e.g., early morning, or late afternoon), you can respond through the app with an exact time (e.g., 2:30 p.m.). Your client can confirm or reject the time slot, and you can enter the appointment in your practice management software. 

An added benefit for your clients who book appointments through your app is the 2-Way Chat feature. For example, if your client schedules an appointment for their dog with diarrhea, you can send a quick chat asking them to grab a fresh fecal sample before heading to their appointment. Or, if they schedule a surgery for their pet, you can send a chat instructing your client to withhold breakfast the morning of surgery.

Online appointments through Facebook

Do you typically have an abundance of Facebook messages requesting an appointment? Or, do you often get the ever-so-popular request, “Does this sore/bump/limp/rash need to be seen by a veterinarian?” If so, you’re already using Facebook to “book” appointments. However, you can take things up a notch by implementing an actual “Book Now” button on Facebook, instead of the typical “Visit Our Website.” 

  • Change your page’s “Call to Action” button — In addition to scheduling ads that have a “Book Now” button, you can switch your main call-to-action button to encourage your clients to make appointments. Select the “Edit” button, and choose “Book Now.” From there, you can choose to link to your real-time appointment booking URL, your website appointment request form URL, or a Google form URL. Alternatively, you can also use Facebook’s own native appointment scheduler by creating an appointment calendar that offers appointment times, manual appointment confirmations, Google Calendar sync, and the ability to list services. 
  • Hit the “Book Now” button — If you’re not particularly tech- or social-media savvy, follow these steps to ensure your Facebook ads’ call to action is “Book Now”:
    1. Click on the “Promote” tab across the top of the page.
    2. Choose the “Get More Website Visitors” option for your ad.
    3. Find the area on the left-hand side that has a drop-down screen under “Button Label.”
    4. Choose the “Book Now” option.
    5. Type your desired website address in the “Website URL” spot under the button label area. Instead of simply putting yourveterinaryclinic.com, have a URL that links to your website’s real-time booking link, appointment request form, or to a Google form, if your website does not have this feature.

When using Facebook to schedule appointments, keep in mind that Messenger is the least-efficient method of doing so and should be considered a last resort. Instead, use the “Book Now” button to shuttle clients to your website’s real-time booking link, appointment request form, or a Google form. Facebook’s appointment booking feature can also be used in a pinch, since it reduces time-wasting back-and-forth conversations common to Messenger.

Drawbacks to social media appointment booking

Overall, platforms like Facebook provide multiple solutions—free and paid—to facilitate online bookings. Utilizing these tools allows clients to schedule their appointment at their convenience, improves efficiency for both the team and the client’s process, decreases phone calls, and improves no-show rates. But, there are a few drawbacks to be aware of:

  • Beware double-booking — When using the “Book Now” feature on Facebook, or any social media platform, be diligent about checking your appointment requests and adding them to your practice software’s appointment calendar. Otherwise, you risk double-booking your veterinarians. If your practice is extremely busy, you may need to check for appointment requests every 15 to 30 minutes, but usually you should check every hour or so. Keep in mind this double-booking issue only applies to practices using Facebook’s appointment-booking feature or their hospital’s website request forms. Real-time appointment booking programs are perfect for managing this issue.
  • The missing link — One of the downsides of scheduling appointments via back-and-forth conversation with Facebook Messenger, or other messaging services, is that they do not link with practice management software, and appointment dates, times, and important conversation details will need to be copied and pasted into the PMS. You’ll also need to take that extra step of copying and pasting your entire conversation into the medical record for legal purposes. Furthermore, you must have a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship (VCPR) before you can offer advice or guidance over social media. 

Although social media may seem to work well to facilitate online appointment bookings, since clients can request appointments when you’re out of the office, and it removes the need to juggle phone calls when clients are lined up in the reception area, it can create much more work than alternatives. If you don’t have the luxury of real-time scheduling software, online booking can easily be accomplished with minimal effort using your hospital’s Vet2Pet app, with the same conveniences.

Do you want to boost your online appointment bookings, and leave your CSRs free to manage your in-practice clients? Contact Vet2Pet’s dedicated support team at info@vet2pet.com to guide you through your app’s appointment-booking feature.

Are you interested in learning more about the app? Visit vet2pet.com/demo to schedule a 30-minute demo of how Vet2Pet can help make your practice more efficient.

Dr. Caitlin DeWilde

Dr. Caitlin DeWilde is a practicing veterinarian graduate from the University of Illinois and is the founder of The Social DVM, a consulting firm devoted to helping veterinary professionals learn, manage and grow their social media and online reputation. She has taken on a new role as Social Media Coach at Vet2Pet, working to help Vet2Pet practices with their social media strategy and goals. She can be reached at socialdvm@vet2pet.com.

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