By Ryan Hungate, DDS, MS, practicing orthodontist and founder and CEO, Simplifeye.
From Uber to Airbnb, disruption is all around us. While older generations may look at Millennials askance for changing the business and societal frameworks they built, it is undeniable that many changes make life easier. Many now prefer to do the bulk of their shopping through apps; tech-empowered logistics make one- and two-day shipping possible; requesting a taxi no longer requires a loud whistle; and scheduling appointments can now be done online.
The factors that have driven digital transformation and disruption thus far – convenience, simplicity and accessibility – offer clues as to which industries or processes need to adapt. Considering that 63 percent of millennials prefer live chat to phone calls, 88 percent of millennials prefer texting to calling, and 60 percent of the same group dread making phone calls to set appointments, it is reasonable to predict that millennials will no longer opt to make phone calls when dealing with businesses in the near future. So, what are the alternative solutions?
Many platforms have emerged over recent years with frameworks empowering businesses to offer options for setting appointments and getting quick answers without relying on phone calls. The overarching feature is the ability to participate in live chat, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to make inquiries and schedule appointments with real people, not chatbots. In addition to this, many of these platforms feature self-scheduling capabilities enabling people to book appointments via online portals, as well as streamlined invoicing capabilities so both businesses and customers can enjoy a seamless payment and record-keeping experience. Some providers have even integrated video portals to facilitate appointments, which offers convenience for both the business and patients.
To glimpse what this type of technology looks like in practice, imagine someone in need of an appointment with an optometrist to discuss a vision issue. The person may get busy at work, then go to the gym, and then head home. Later that night after dinner when the busy day finally winds down, the person at last remembers to set the appointment. Instead of having to wait until the following business day to make the call, the person visits the optometrist’s website and is immediately greeted with a friendly welcome message in a chat box staffed by a trained representative who can schedule the appointment within minutes.
Through this method, the patient is able to manage appointments at leisure, without having to call and inevitably wait on hold while a receptionist deals with other calls and patients at the practice. Instead, the patient has the option to ask questions and set appointments via live chat in a timely manner at convenient times, even if the business day is over. The practice benefits from this type of technology as well, because the reception staff no longer has as many competing priorities to tackle at once and can focus on providing the patients in front of them with the best experience possible.
Live chat has applications outside of the healthcare field as well. In fact, any type of business, from retail to entertainment and everything in-between, can utilize this kind of technology as the primary point of contact, both for inquiries and appointment setting. Additional capabilities are platform-specific but can add even more value in terms of future-proofing businesses from global events that require rapid adaptation to remote processes. After more than a year of the COVID-19 pandemic, adaptability is a proven must for any business.
Although live chat technology has been around for some time, the adoption of and progression towards simpler methods of doing everyday things doesn’t occur overnight. As more and more busy Americans realize the convenience and simplicity that 24/7 live chat offers in interacting with businesses and managing appointments, it’s only a matter of time until it becomes the standard method of communication between businesses and the people they serve.