Chatbots – a must for modern dental practice websites?

Chatbots – a must for modern dental practice websites?

Love them or loathe them, chatbots are here to stay

You may have noticed a proliferation of “chatbots” appearing on dentist’s websites over the last 12 – 18 months? For those of you who are wondering what one is, it’s the little dialogue box which pops up from the bottom right-hand side of the screen when you visit any page of the site.

A “virtual assistant” greets you and then leads you through a series of questions to determine what type of treatment you are seeking. Depending on the sophistication of the chatbot, different answers can be delivered depending on the specific needs of the website visitor.

How effective are dental website chatbots?

We’ve been installing chatbots on dentist’s websites and blogs for over a year and the feedback has been excellent. Whilst there are website users who don’t like this type of “intrusion” when they are using a site, the data suggests that the large majority do and find the interactivity and speed of response from the dentist to be very useful.

What are the pros and cons of chatbots?

As with any “new” type of website interactivity, there are pros and cons which need to be understood before you dive in. Knowing this, you can then determine if the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and hence if the system is right for your own business.

The pros:

  • Provides the option of instant interactivity for a website user
  • Provides an engaging mechanism to answer their questions
  • Starts to build the dentist:patient relationship to help encourage fast enquiries
  • It’s modern – and most people like “modern”
  • Builds a large array of follow-up data if configured correctly

The cons:

  • Some people don’t like any form of website “pop-up” – however please note that the chatbot windows can easily be closed by the user
  • Google can penalise websites which use what is known as “intrusive interstitials”, in simple terms things which pop-up and compromise what Google considers to be a good user experience. However, so far we have not seen any detrimental effect on SEO when using chatbots.
  • Page load speed can be affected. Even slight delay can affect the user experience and compromise the new “core web vitals” parameters that Google is now using as a search ranking signal. However, so far the adverse effects of this seem minor.
  • A dedicated resource is required in the practice team to check the chatbot responses and respond to patient enquiries accordingly – so potentially new training and procedures will be needed. It is important to note that this isn’t the same functionality as “live chat” and the response from the dental team member isn’t in real time. That said, our systems can also use live chat if required.

The bottom line at the moment appears to be that as long as you manage the implementation and management of chatbots effectively, then they are very useful tools to help new patient engagement and boost enquiries from dental practice websites.

If you’d like to know more about implementing chatbots on your own website, please get in touch with the team at Dental Media on 01332 672548 for more information and examples.