Social Customer Service—Is Your Vet Practice Meeting Client Expectations?

‘Social Customer Service’ – yes, it’s a thing!

According to Hootesuite’s Social Media Trends 2023 report, a shift to digital during the pandemic left customers more willing than ever to engage with brands over social and messaging channels, but it’s also left them also increasingly impatient, inclined to prioritise convenience over price, and ready to walk away from businesses that aren’t meeting their expectations.

I’ve always found this to be fairly common in the veterinary industry, particularly in regard to price shopping, but I’m noticing that pet owners are now expecting a response at any hour of the day or night and they are waiting a shorter time for a response before moving on. The behaviour that stuns me the most is when a client prefers to spend several minutes typing out a long-winded message and going back and forth in the chat, rather than picking up the phone and making a quick call. Even in an emergency!

Human vs. Chatbot

Non-routine enquiries will need to be handled by a human when more information needs to be exchanged, however an automation tool can be very effective at capturing the initial enquiry details. Hootesuite predicts that cost-effective automation tools will be key in 2023, and that businesses will turn a critical eye on who exactly is expected to manage customer service within the organisation.

The key here is follow up. Once an online enquiry has been submitted the client will expect a fast response. The truth is they will often expect an instant response, and if they don’t get the answer they are looking for, they will abandon the chat and go elsewhere. It’s also worth noting that there are currently no tools that will reply to comments on posts or give followers some love with an emoji reaction – yet!

With conversational AI still in its early stages I am hopeful that chatbots on social and messaging apps will become even more user friendly in time. In fact, I believe that automation tools are a worthwhile investment for vet practices wanting to take advantage of emerging technologies over the next decade.

Free Meta Auto-Reply Tools

If you’re not quite ready to invest in a customised automation tool, there are still some useful features within Facebook Messenger and Instagram to help you set up automated responses to common client questions, including Welcome messages and Away messages.

These tools will help you to:

  1. Make a good first impression
  2. Set expectations about response time
  3. Collect client details

In Meta Business Suite navigate to Inbox and select Automations at the top of the screen.

Then you can choose the type of auto-response you want to set up.

Welcome Message

A brief message to greet the sender can include an expectation about response times and what to do in an emergency, for example:

“Thank you for messaging us. We try to be as responsive as possible and we aim to get back to you within xx hours. If your question is about an urgent pet medical matter please call xxxxxxxx.”

Frequently Asked Questions

You can also set up answers to Frequently Asked Questions such as:

  • What are your opening hours?
  • Where are you located?
  • Can I book an appointment? (include link to website)

If you really want to get clever, you can use the Custom Keywords tool to set up auto-responses to questions that contain particular keywords. e.g. ‘vaccination’.


Spammers love nothing more than to flood your inbox with annoying links and messages.

Don’t forget to use the Hidden Words feature in Instagram to filter out spurious messages and comments. If you haven’t seen this feature, my previous blog has step-by-step instructions for keeping spammers out of your inbox.


Despite advances in technology the human touch still goes a long way. I monitor my client’s online messaging 7 days a week for both Facebook and Instagram—even those with chatbots—so that I can offer assistance and alert the vet practice if necessary.

Socials were never meant to be customer service channels, however online customer service is here to stay and we need to stay on top of it. Whether you choose to automate your message responses or monitor them manually, your client retention and new client captures will be much higher if you ensure that your practice is receptive and responsive to online enquiries.