How and why Facebook Messenger might make your web site obsolete and improve your patient experience

Behind all the negative press on data security, the social media platforms owned by Mark Zuckerberg continue their influence in our day to day communication with each other and engagement with the world around us.

Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp dominate social engagement, appealing to different demographics – many is the dental practice I’ve met whose team are now using WhatsApp as a primary communication tool, despite its shortcomings in that respect.

In my own business, we use Slack as a team communication channel, preferring the ability to break down our conversations into individual channels, based on subject matter.

This week I’ve been looking at Facebook Workplace, which attempts to do the same – I’m not yet persuaded to change (even though the Premium version is cheaper than Slack) largely because we have a successful Slack habit and, it ain’t broke.

On a wider front, Facebook are investing huge resources into Messenger, not just as a communication channel but also as an e-commerce platform.

I’ve recently noticed a few practices who have introduced a Messenger symbol on their web site home page, as a “live chat” channel, so that prospects and patients can connect in real time with a front desk and/or TCO.

Like all live systems, it’s only as good as your ability to have a talented team member at the receiving end – I’ve never been a great fan of call-answering services (either audio or digital) as they rarely have the authenticity of an actual team member.

Last week in Milan, I was working with my client’s marketing team on researching online appointment booking through Messenger.

My Italian client already uses Messenger for live chat and a short search quickly revealed two plug-in systems to Messenger that allow for online booking. We immediately decided to investigate further – in phase 1 to make that facility available just for new patient consults.

The challenge over the medium term will be to integrate Messenger bookings with existing Practice Management Software (PMS). My Italian client uses Dentally, one of the newer companies who encourage open API access with external software.

Many of the larger and longer established PMS providers are more protective of their platforms and less inclined to allow “bolt ons” – it will be interesting to see how that changes in the years ahead (I think it must).

Here’s my prediction for 2025 (it’s an opinion – I’m not asking for a confidence vote):

  • Web sites will be well on their way to becoming obsolete;
  • Your first digital contact point with new and existing patients will be your Facebook Business Page;
  • Existing patients will be invited to a private Facebook Group for your practice;
  • Through your Facebook Messenger channel, all-comers will be able to
    • communicate with any team member (including clinicians)
    • book appointments
    • receive their reminders for Dental Health Reviews
    • read/listen to/watch their treatment plans
    • pay for their plan and/or Fee Per Item treatment
    • receive real-time feedback on their ongoing oral health (through integration with digital oral care devices at home)
    • leave reviews
    • post comments
    • read your blogs and patient newsletters
    • study dental health education material in a variety of formats
    • refer friends, family and colleagues
    • integrate with Instagram
    • integrate with Google to maintain optimum organic search position
    • integrate with other healthcare advisors to provide patients with a comprehensive health review, again in real time

You, the practice owner will be provided with comprehensive feedback on the facts, habits and opinions of your patients as a marketing and CRM tool.

No doubt, there will be  other levels of engagement that I cannot yet imagine.

The web developer of the future will be a channel, platform and e-commerce manager.

I’m not suggesting you should scrap your web site just yet (in fact I’m currently commissioning my latest web site from the good folks at Dental Focus) but be mindful of the changes ahead.

In the New Year, I’ll be tasking my own support team to look at online prospect and client call booking through Facebook Messenger and I’ll be using one of the two applications identified in Milan to do that.

Interesting times.


Published by

Chris Barrow

Chris Barrow has been active as a consultant, trainer and coach to the UK dental profession for over 20 years. As a writer, his blog enjoys a strong following and he is a regular contributor to the dental press. Naturally direct, assertive and determined, he has the ability to reach conclusions quickly, as well as the sharp reflexes and lightness of touch to innovate, change tack and push boundaries. In 2014 he appeared as a “castaway” in the first season of the popular reality TV show “The Island with Bear Grylls”. His main professional focus is as Coach Barrow, providing coaching and mentorship to independent dentistry.

2 thoughts on “How and why Facebook Messenger might make your web site obsolete and improve your patient experience”

  1. Hi Chris,

    Dentally is really great from a marketer’s point of view. A lot of the Messenger integrations you mention above are already possible using FB Messenger and Dentally, either with API integration or through a tool like Zapier.

    It means you can integrate it with almost anything and really tailor your marketing to specific patient segments depending on when they have last been seen, age/gender, if they are overdue an appointment, etc – automatically. Meet them where they are at, so to speak.

    The main thing, as you allude to, is a change in process and working culture – to adapt to these ever changing channels. And, staying on top of all of it!

    We’ve managed to book patients in via Messenger and also send appointment reminders, so the rest (treatment plans etc.) isn’t a million miles off. Albeit, that hasn’t been with Dentally so with R4 and SOE someone still has to ‘bridge’ the gap between the Online Appointment Booking software and their PM software.

    I do agree the way consumers (and patients) consume content is changing, and the conversational way that platforms like Messenger have is very engaging and digestible. It allows you to tailor content not only to the specific person but also to where they are in the “buying” cycle.

    Where younger patients (by younger I mean 20-40) have come in through Facebook ads, I have actually found that Messenger is the best way to follow-up. It’s native to their experience and open rates are as high as text (98%). You can also actually make ‘appointments’ within Messenger itself, which sends reminders to the patient a day before as well as an hour before. Very effective and very much embedded and native to their daily lives!

    The practices that are getting the best ROI from Facebook (for younger demographics) are the ones that are following up via Messenger and secondly picking up unresponsive leads via Text.

    I still owe you that article about how and why Facebook ads work for full-price treatment. I have drafted it but I am not yet happy with it… will share it as soon as it’s done!


  2. Hi Chris, great article as always.

    Watching my two young adults interact with the web, I agree that Messenger will be the way forward for bookings, reminders and conversations but I don’t agree about Facebook Pages replacing websites (although I did wonder about 6 months ago).

    Phoebe (23) and Nelson (21) don’t go anywhere any social media sites any more. FB is for the oldies. They just have private friend text / chat groups in What’s App and Messenger. They still “google it” if they want to find info about a company so you need a website right now as the Big G still favours them.

    They have even stopped posting anything on Instagram Stories, and, as far as I can tell, nothing has replaced IG. They are all just out there living their lives.

    I am busy learning how to use Messenger bots (to teach my small biz clients) though, as I do believe email marketing will decline steadily in the next 5 years, even in our age group where it is still strong – I came here today from one of your emails!


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