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Implementing Live Chat For A Local Veterinary Clinic

I do a little work on the side helping local businesses get leads. Most often this is related to some very basic SEO. And when I say basic I mean very basic like setting Google My Business and just making sure the basics are set up. You can actually get a lot of leads just through Ad Words and some conversation rate optimization. I don’t talk about it much but I thought I’d share one of my strategies for easily increasing conversion rate. I recently asked by a friend and veterinary practice owner about what she could do to increase basic conversion. She didn’t ask because she knows I’ve helped small businesses in the past she asked because she knows I have a technical background. I am the “technical guy” in my friend group and so I get called on for all kinds of projects like this. It’s kinda like being the only person you know with a truck. When someone has to move, they call the guy with the truck. If you have any kind of technical or IT background it’s basically the same scenario.

But, I’m always up for helping a friend. This post is going to be about how you can use live chat to increase conversions and we will talk about the user interface of my favorite software because I just can’t help myself. Its relevant too. The user interface is a key part of anything related to conversion. 

First off, realize that there are a huge number of live chat options out there. Many of them distinguish themselves from the rest with a lot of bells and whistles that may be valuable to some enterprise or corporate level businesses but my friend wants her veterinary clinic (Parkside Animal Health Center) to just have some basic live chat for increasing her conversion rate. She pays for traffic through AdWords from time to time and she wants to make sure she is doing everything in her power to convert that traffic. So we need live chat that can do the following:

  • Look good for both the user and the business side
  • Affordable
  • Simple

There are several great options out there but my favorite is PureChat. They focus primarily on…live chat. And by that, I mean that many companies add a lot of bells and whistles to what they do to try to add value. But what we really want is live chat. While they do offer additional analytics for an extra cost (around $15 a month) you can actually use the software for up to 15 chats a month for free. Pretty good deal and pretty smart too since it allows business owners to try it out and see how it work. Once a business owner converts one visitor to a client I’m sure they’re all in for live chat.

Let’s take a look at the UI:

Pretty slick. Does it look similar to anything else you’ve seen? It looks very similar to the UI of text messaging on an iPhone or any other smartphone. You can’t go wrong with a proven concept and the Apple iPhone is more than a proven concept.

The image of a real person for the user gives them the sense of an advantage since they get to the see the person they’re talking to but not the other way around. Like a one-way mirror. And we aren’t talking about the power struggle in any kind of weird way just but it’s a reality of online communication. The noises made by pure chat are noticeable but not annoying. Too often live chat notifications are pretty obnoxious and repetitive. PureChat has a couple of options that business owners can use but the best is a simple bell.

Do People Actually Use Live Chat?

Yes! Have you? Well for my friend’s veterinary practice they saw an increase of 2.5% for their conversion rate. Well worth the cost for the most part but a lot of those chats take a lot of time. Especially in the case of an animal hospital. Some of the conversations walk a fine line. While people ask for it all the time, any good veterinarian isn’t going to over major medical advice over the phone. Let alone over live chat. Not everyone gets this and sometimes live chat becomes a more difficult venue to have this conversation. 

A Competitive Advantage in The Aurora Veterinary Clinic Industry

When you’re dealing with a small pool it can be a lot easier to get a competitive advantage. In the case of local businesses, not everyone is doing the same thing. And when businesses owners are also doing advertising, marketing and the actual work you end up with a lot of bare bones approach to things. That means that with a little effort of your own you can end up with a solid advantage over other businesses in your field and region. Once Parkside Animal Health Center decided to launch live chat, that made them the only vet in 80015 that actually used live chat. Again, the 80015 zip code isn’t huge but it does give them a clear advantage over other clinics in the region.

What Type Of Live Chats Came To The Veterinary Clinic?

Over a month period here are some of the questions that came to the animal hospital via live chat:

  • Are you AAHA accredited? They are (AAHA stands for American Animal Hosptial Association) and it says it right on the website but people want to track this information down. But that is part of what live chat is about: convenience for the user. 
  • My cat is sneezing a lot more than usual. Do I need to take him in? These are someone tough questions. You don’t want to give medical advice but you also don’t want to come off as just blowing off the client. My friend’s animal clinic offers a cheap one time check up exam to address these types of concerns. They always had this but they are advertising it more after live chat. That’s one of the good things about live chat: it lets you see what the user is wondering or looking for when they see your site. 
  • How much does it cost? This one came in when no one was manning the chat and is truly a mystery.

Worth The Trouble?

I would confidently say that live chat is worth the trouble of setting up and managing. The benefits to conversion rate, even if minimal, are worth it. It also opens you up to a whole new set of information. The other major factor is if you’re operating on the local level there is a good chance that much of your competition will not be using live chat. When you have a much smaller market its easier to find advantages that other guys don’t. In fact, Parkside Animal Health is the only vet in 80015 that has live chat. Is it a huge advantage? Maybe not. But is it an advantage for sure? Yes, no doubt about that and that’s enough.

5 Common Database Pitfalls Software Engineers Make

With the amount of time being spent on databases, you can really start to see a difference in quality between those who know what they’re doing and those who have no idea.

You don’t want to be that guy. So here are five database pitfall you should work on avoiding.

 Number One: Abuse of Primary Key Value

The worst mistake found in database development is having a developer who has absolutely no idea how the primary key should be used. The primary key value has nothing to do with the data nor does it have any use for application data. Primary keys must be randomly generated by the database and never be changed unless there are certain circumstances.Those circumstances are not appropriate to be covered here but if everyone wants a post on that I would be happy to put one together.

Number Two: Turning Everything & Anything Into Something

With organizing data, some mistakes developers make lies with object design. Developers have the tendency to turn every useless detail into something. Unless there is a special issue where the data has its own unique needs, there are some things that should or should not be split out. If the data is shared among multiple rows, one change will affect the other rows. If the data is shared among multiple rows, it should not affect the other rows. Adding complexity to your database can greatly increase the difficulty of working with the data base. Anytime you are adding complexity always ask if its worth the return.

Number Three: Overused Stored Procedure

While stored procedures are useful, most modern applications make them less necessary. More and more stores procedures are becoming an old method of database management. Stored procedures are now considered as a maintenance disaster as there is no easy way to audit which apps are using them for. This means that any major change will require you to write another procedure rather than changing the existing one. Make it easy on the person who will manage the database in the future and don’t overuse this.

Lack of a Primary Key

Developers who use the wrong type of data for primary keys will find out they may not be unique. This situation will play a role on the proliferation of stored procedures and views as subsequent developers have a hard time masking the database mistake.Just don’t do it. Now that I think of it, we do need a primary key post!

Hard Delete of Data

While hard delete of data can make sense, they are often less common than the times you will need to restore the database to a new server. That is why it is better to use soft deletes on applications as the ORM will automatically filter by default.

What are your thoughts on these common database pitfalls? Comment below and share your opinion with us!

Simplify the Complex Procedure of Analysis of Competing Hypthoses

Analysis of Competing Hypotheses (ACH) is a procedure that is applied to debugging issues. The procedure instructs you to provide possible causes for the bug, find evidence for and against it, and how to eliminate the possibilities. The most powerful thing about ACH is the way it forces users to eliminate hypotheses by countering our instinct to gain evidence.

Through falsification, it can be accomplished with just a single detail that is inconsistent and lasers through other forms of evidence. However, this may be obvious to any reader. It is the challenges that programmers craft that will help simplify the series of steps in this procedure.

Follow a Checklist

Even the most highly trained teams are able to perform better by following simple checklists. While it should not be used as a flowchart, it should be used as a step process. The imposition of the process will support the effort under time and difficult constraints and allow them to use their higher knowledge on the task. This allows them to focus on the current issue instead of trying to remember what comes afterward.

A previous survey found that 80% of doctors encourage the lists as they were able to become more efficient in their patient’s health care. However, 20% did not agree but still used the checklists while going through the operations.

Humility in Acceptance

Following the physicians’ take on the checklist, it is not easy to recognize the steps that will help a highly trained professional. Rather the key is humility in accepting that will allow you to submit to the discipline of the process instead of assuming the best way.

Use of Appropriate Process

Following the ACH process, this simple process will help you in everyday coding. For example, you will start by adding a test, running the tests to check for fails, write the code, scan the automated tests, refactor the code, and finally GOTO 1. The sense of humility is required to admit to the simple unit tests that will help make your output significantly better. The checklist will create order to be effective.


With a simple process of support in decision making, this can play as a powerful tool. However, having the humility in the struggles of complexity will allow you to create effective results.

What Really Happens at a Code Retreat for Software Geeks

If you have ever attended a code retreat, it is an annual event held each year where developers around the nation gather online or in person to meditate and discuss their coding. It is considered as one of those national or even global events where you can focus on code and merge your meditation into your practice.

A code retreat is a day-long event that is focused on practicing and sharing the fundamentals of coding and software development. This even is used as the perfect opportunity to learn and discuss the latest practices such as networking with other developments and following behavior driven development.

Software participants build a network to plan their meeting at a convenient location where they can discuss and go through a series of software exercises that will educate and enforce the multitude of aspects on writing tests and solving software problems.

Each exercise allows particip

ants to delete their code and start anew. While the problems may be the same, they are not always solved. In the end, they can happen anytime and anyplace, depending on the network.

If you haven’t already heard of Conway’s Game of Life, this is what most of the exercises are based on. It is a zero-player game that follows the cycle of cellular automata. The game is played on an infinite 2D grid where each cell’s state is changed and determined by its neighbors to work together.

Rules of the Game:

  • A live cell with less than two live neighbors will result in loneliness
  • A live cell with more than three live neighbors dies from overcrowding
  • Lastly, a dead cell with three live neighbors will become a live cell through reproduction

Of course, as programmers, the Game of Life is a problem that has already been solved in nearly every language of programming.

If you are interested in joining a Code Retreat, don’t miss out on the opportunity to build new networks and possibly stronger connections. A Code Retreat wouldn’t be as successful as it is today without the strong leadership and vision of its developers.