Disclaimer: This blog article was written by an AdvancedMD partner. The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of AdvancedMD.
It’s a fact: positive word-of-mouth reviews bring in new patients. Before the internet, people relied on friends, family, and neighbors for practice referrals. Today, people often choose a practice based on opinions from patient online reviews. So cultivating a positive reputation online has become critical for growth and your competitive success. However, here’s another fact: every practice experiences negative reviews, no matter how hard they focus on delivering quality service. Mishaps and miscommunications happen. And people do not always refrain from sharing their disgruntled opinions online.
So what should your practice do about negative online reviews? It starts with monitoring your online reputation across various review sites. Then whenever you spot a negative review, you should be ready to apply best practices for responding. It’s also good to proactively request reviews from satisfied customers to ensure more positive reviews get posted online.
Monitoring Your Online Reputation
Online practice listings are important for helping potential patients make informed decisions. It’s not enough to simply claim your practice listings online. You need to go the extra mile and check these sites regularly to stay informed about your practice’s online reputation and take action on any negative reviews.
What sites should you monitor? Facebook is a major source for reviews, which are tied to user profiles. Since Facebook users typically use their real names, it’s fairly easy to identify and address any fake reviews on the social network. Another important source for reviews is Google My Practice. These reviews are critical since Google ties ratings directly to their search engine results.
Responding to Negative Reviews
Another key component of reputation management is responding to reviews—both positive and negative. Even if you receive a positive review that is only a few words long, a simple “thank you” shows online users that you care about your patients and about delivering quality service.
Of course, responding to good reviews is an easier task than handling negative reviews. Your first instinct may be to avoid poor feedback or argue your case. But those approaches are never good solutions and don’t read well on public forums. By responding according to a few proven best practices, you can master the art of responding to negative reviews.
1. Reply with personalized responses.
It’s tempting to have a few scripted responses you can use routinely. But depending on these can make you appear insincere, disengaged, or disinterested in patient interaction. Instead, it’s best to respond in a way that shows you’ve read the review and understand the reviewer’s point of view.
Reference the reviewer by name and directly comment on an issue they raised in the review. If possible, ask the reviewer to move the conversation to a private space to further address the issue. That way, you’ll show the reviewer that their thoughts matter and resolve the matter privately on your terms.
2. Respond quickly.
For many users, leaving an online review is a way to “vent” about a poor experience. They may not be expecting their feedback to be heard or acknowledged. After all, many reviews—both positive and negative—go unanswered.
However, a good rule of thumb is to respond to reviews within a day. Yes, this can be a time-consuming task, but it’s critical for your practice’s reputation management. The biggest reason for this is that you don’t want leave negative reviews untouched for long. A single negative review can sometimes provoke others to share negative feedback that can ultimately hurt your online reputation.
3. Acknowledge the reviewer’s perspective and take responsibility.
Some negative online reviews raise valid points, but others may seem to have little merit. No matter the content, you should treat reviewers with courtesy. Tell each reviewer that you appreciate the time they took to leave the review and share their perspective. Affirm your commitment to service and acknowledge the reviewer’s concerns. Let the reviewer know you’ve taken the feedback to heart and will strive to keep improving. Be careful not to react defensively.
Consider the following scenario: You have a new patient whose usual practitioner is unavailable. After the visit, the patient complains online that you suggested too many costly tests that their regular physician would never have recommended. Instead of getting defensive about your practice and care standards, thank them for visiting your practice. Let them know that you always aim to be clear about care recommendations and pricing, but misunderstandings happen. Say that you appreciate their feedback and will use it to improve patient communications going forward.
4. Communicate next steps.
At times, you may need to handle a reviewer’s concerns personally. In those instances, make it easy for people to contact your practice. Give them a contact name, along with an email or phone, and encourage them to get in touch. Never discuss personal situations or treatment plans in a public setting though. Instead, encourage reviewers to reach out to you to address these issues privately.
Automating Review Collection to Build a Positive Online Reputation
A negative review doesn’t have to have a devastating effect on your practice. Responding with empathy and acknowledging opportunities to improve can show that you care about your patients.
Another way to counter the effects of negative reviews is by being proactive about collecting positive reviews. This sounds daunting, but software can streamline this step of the reputation management process for your practice. With reputation management software, you can send automated review requests to patients after visits or consultations. Patients can respond with ease and you can share the reviews you collect on various review sites. With this approach, you can publish a steady stream of reviews about your practice and ensure you maintain a positive reputation online.
Mastering Reputation Management for Your Practice
Today, online review sites play a major role in helping every practice win new patients. Users read online reviews before engaging with a new company. That’s why every practice needs to pay careful attention to online reputation management.
Ideally, you should look at online review sites every day and aim to respond to all reviews within 24 hours. Although you may be tempted to ignore negative reviews, those are the ones you should give special attention. The truth is, every person has had a poor experience with a practice. But it is possible to turn those poor experiences into positive ones. Responding to negative reviews with care and empathy is a step in the right direction.
When you follow these best practices, you’ll foster trust and positive sentiment. You’ll show that you take patient concerns to heart and that you’re always striving to improve. Would-be patients won’t feel deterred by a negative review, but instead will see that you truly work to make each experience a positive one. Without question, that devotion to patient service is certain to motivate more people to engage with your practice.