Online live chat is growing in popularity with businesses. If you’ve a problem with your phone, why waste time getting through to BT on your mobile or landline – just opt for ‘live chat’ on the website. Want to ask about a product before purchase? Try live chat. Need customer services? Once again, live chat is a convenient option.
But live chat isn’t just the domain of retailers. It is also a service that is being evaluated by .gov.uk, who see it as giving a useful alternative contact channel for their users.
GP practices can equally benefit, adding chat to the range of ways patients can communicate with them. Which is why at Silicon Practice, we have added ‘Chat’ to the range of services that FootFall can provide.
What are the benefits of Chat?
One GP practice which has been trialling Chat over the last few weeks is the Waterfield Practice in Bracknell.
Waterfield is a practice with 12,500 patients and two sites. Its FootFall website went live in February last year, and has had a huge impact in terms of reducing workload for staff by driving patients towards online services.
So, has Chat helped the team? And has it improved communication with patients?
Gary Hughes, Practice Manager, explained why Waterfield went ahead.
“I really like online chats. Just the other day, I was buying some chairs and wanted to check details of the warranty, so I used an online chat service. In the same way, we felt this type of function could benefit patients.”
Currently, three of the practice team – Gary and two admin staff – are tasked with answering the online live enquiries. So is this proving yet one more thing to do in an already busy day?
“In some ways, Chat goes against the aim of FootFall, which is to free up staff from dealing with on-demand enquiries from patients. But in fact, I don’t think this is an issue. Chat is very easy to turn off and on, and keep an eye on. Although at the moment the three of us are responding to Chat while we are doing office duties, I would envisage that it could be run effectively by reception teams who are also dealing with patients face-to-face and over the phone.”
Has Chat increased communications with patients?
“We gave Chat a very soft launch, and it is getting very little use at the moment, but it is early days. However, we have plans to promote it, which we can do in a number of ways, such as by making it more visible on the website, advertising it on our surgery TV screen, or through social media and in the leaflets we give out with prescriptions.
“Once patients are more familiar with it, I think it will be extremely useful for answering simple queries, such as whether a prescription is ready.”
Tips for making Chat a success
- Put processes in place so Chat is monitored and responded to quickly when it is switched on
- Provide training for the team tasked to use it
- Target promotion towards the patients who are most likely to use it
Finally, as Gary says, go for it!
“While we embraced FootFall from the first, we were a bit cautious about promoting Chat. On reflection, we should have really thrown ourselves into it from day one then it would be really up and running.”
If you could like to chat about Chat for your FootFall site, or talk about Footfall in general, please get in touch with the team here at Silicon Practice.