Handling Bad Online Reviews

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The Internet has a wonderful democratizing characteristic — everyone can be a writer, a video star, a movie critic, a comedian, even a product tester. And they can be reviewers of your practice…for better or worse.

Formerly if a business had a disgruntled customer/patient, that person had to make it his or her personal goal to go around and tell everyone they knew just what they thought of the business. Back then you heard it through the grapevine.

Not now. A bad review can get out there for everyone to see. And that means everyone. Yelp.com and healthgrades.com are easy to post to and easy for others to read. And you know what they say, “A happy customer (patient) will tell two friends. An unhappy customer (patient) will tell everyone.” Only now the telling is far easier.

Doctors can be petrified of online ratings, but they really shouldn’t be. Potential patients use them to judge the viability of a practice, and they are leery of practices with no reviews. The thinking is that the practice could either be a ghost town, or that it has removed all the reviews because most of them were negative.

RealSelf, the online cosmetic surgery community, includes reviews on the site. RealSelf CEO Tom Seery says, “Reviews drive practice economics. Think of them as a form of advertising, the most believable form there is.”

The number of reviews is important. “If a practice has over 10 reviews,” he says, “they’ll get a significant number of contacts.” He estimates that two positive reviews should equal at least one patient inquiry each month. For that reason, you need to encourage your customers to post reviews, particularly if they are thrilled with what you’ve done.

Bad reviews

That’s all well and good, but what about a bad review? They can really take on a life of their own, especially if the doctor takes it personally and addresses the review in a defensive way.

Seery advises the doc to step back. “When you see a negative review, take a break and walk away,” he says. If the post is just hateful, RealSelf and the other sites will take it down. But, as long as the patient isn’t totally out there, you should probably leave it up so the person feels he or she has a voice.

But you should respond. You can leave it to a staff member if you think you can’t deal with it. By responding, the customer will then feel you’re listening. This applies to reviews on Yelp and such, but also to posts on your Facebook for Business page.

How you should respond

It’s a good idea to reach out to the patient to see if the problem can be resolved. Frequently, if the person’s issues are addressed, that negative initial review can be converted into a positive. Once you resolve it, then you can ask the patient to either remove and repost or to update the review to show the actions you made to address the concerns. That one-star review can turn into a five-star review.

Things you can do to head off bad reviews

There are certain other things you can do to head off negative reviews from coming in the first place.

  • Slightly downplay expectations. Remind the person that the procedure will not remove every wrinkle, etc.
  • Use percentages if possible. “With this procedure, 20% of patients need an adjustment afterward.”
  • Stress healing time and patience. As scars fade and swelling subsides, patients become much more satisfied.
  • Beware of abusive or impossible-to-please patients. If a patient seems like they will never be satisfied, it’s worth it to recommend not having the procedure, or to possibly set up a referral to another practice. The money you receive for a procedure from this person won’t be worth it.

Don’t fear online reviews. In fact, they can one of your best forms of free advertising that potential patients really look at when considering your practice.

If you have any other questions about handling your reviews, don’t hesitate to call your MyAdvice representative for help.

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