For Better or Worse — Dealing with Online Reviews

Search Engine Marketing (SEM)There was a time when “reviewers” were paid positions. Consumer Reviews made an entire magazine empire out of reviewing everything from baby cribs to cars. Siskel & Ebert were the trusted source to tell you if you should bother going to see a new movie or not. Every newspaper in every city and town had a food “critic,” whose sole job was to go out to eat around town and tell the readers what he or she thought of the food and the service.

Those days are over. Today everyone’s a reviewer, whether they are qualified to be or not. Who buys something on Amazon without first at least giving a look to some of the reviews? And if a product has only three stars, forget about it! While some people may still read the single review of the hot new movie in the local paper, more likely they’ll go to Rotten Tomatoes and see what all the critics and regular viewers think about the show.

Doctors, dentists, dermatologists, and plastic surgeons didn’t escape the trend. Before the Internet, these medical specialists were never really “reviewed,” people found a new doctor through word of mouth. No longer. Today, when trying to find a new doctor or surgeon to perform a procedure, they’re more likely to hit the web, seeking sites such as RealSelf.com, healthgrades.com, Yelp!, and others.

Is this a good thing or not? After all, these reviewers of a practice are basically faceless, and who knows what their true motivations are. Did they not follow their recovery instructions and are now blaming the surgeon? Were their expectations out of line, and they’re taking it out on the practice online? When the President is an Internet troll, what’s to stop anyone else?

Your practice received a bad review. What can you do? Sure you’re mad, but you’ve got to try and not take it personally. As with most things, dissatisfied people are more likely to crow about their gripes than satisfied people are to tout your work. Same with reviews of medical and dental practices. But negative reviews can give you some clues to things you can do to improve your practice. Here are some tips for dealing with online reviews, good or bad.

Keep up with the reviews

Most of these sites provide notifications when you have received a new review or comment. But you still need to monitor these review sites and your practice Facebook page, checking for reviews. It’s especially important if you get a negative review. Someone in your office needs to have this as part of his or her job description — keeping an eye on the practice reviews.

Don’t join the frauds

While it can be tempting to delete the bad and add lots of good, you can’t join the fake reviewer world.

  • Don’t delete negative reviews. It can be tempting to simply wipe the negative review away by deleting it. The problem with this is the reviewer. When he or she sees their review is gone this only makes them angry, and they will step up the negative banter. The way to stop the insults/nastiness is to respond to the review. Hopefully, you can try and solve the reviewer’s problem, or at least acknowledge it openly. This shows everyone that you’re involved with your patients, even if everything didn’t go smoothly. Now, a truly nasty review, one that is probably based in some sort of personal animus, can be requested to be removed (often the websites will remove these on their own).

One good thing about a sprinkling of negative reviews is that it makes potential patients believe your reviews are legit and not faked. If a practice has only positive, glowing, off-the-charts reviews, people get suspicious.

  • Don’t post fake reviews. It can be tempting to start posting a bunch of glowing reviews of your practice, but that’s no good. And you can’t ask your neighbors, friends, employees, or colleagues to do so, either.

Respond to the reviews

Reviews of all kinds need a response. For a nice review, it can be something as simple as “We appreciate your business. We’re glad you are satisfied.” You cannot use full names or anything here, as that violates federal privacy regulations.

For a negative review, it’s a little more involved. If possible use the person’s first name (not last), “Hi Beth, I’m sorry your PRP therapy wasn’t what you thought it would be…” You could then add that results may take a few weeks to fully realize, or something like that.

You can’t fix a more involved negative review in the comments section. These need to be taken in-house, and out of the public forum. In these cases, provide them your business email address with something like this: “I’m truly sorry you were disappointed with XYZ procedure. Please contact us directly through [email protected] and we’ll try and resolve the issue.” If you are able to then resolve the problem, ask the person if they would go back into the health site and amend their review to update the process.

Don’t let it get to you

A word about human nature — some people are nearly impossible to please. Their reviews can be personal, even petty. But stay above negativity. Try to respond and explain without being negative and without an edge. You could even use a statistic that addresses the possible issue, something like “The duration of Botox results can vary due to the person’s metabolism.”

Be sure to prime the good side

A good way to counter the occasional negative review is with a plethora of good ones, as long as they are legit. Invite your patients to go to Yelp! and RealSelf and review away! Have a sign on your front counter that they can see on the way out. Include it in a follow-up email after their procedure. Ask them to “Like” your practice on Facebook.

Online reviews aren’t the most popular part of most practices, but they are here to stay. The key to reviews and comments, whether good or bad, is interaction. As a practice, good reviews will beget more patients, and the majority of reviews will be good. And acknowledging and addressing/resolving the occasional bad review will give you even more credibility with the public. Overall, just show you’re engaged with posters and you’ll come out ahead in the public relations game.

Posted in: Blog, Online Reviews

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