Patient complaints are a harsh reality for most dental practices. Your staff or service might be top-of-the-line, or your patient service may be best-in-class, but you may still get both positive and negative patient feedback.
Here’s some food for thought:
- Most customers write positive reviews. Yelp reports that nearly 80 percent of all online reviews are three stars and over.
- Nearly 85 percent of customers read up to 10 online reviews before they can trust a business. (Source: Brightlocal.com)
- Online reviews impact 67.7 percent of customers’ buying decisions. (Source: Moz.com)
Getting patient feedback, negative or positive, is actually good for your dental practice’s growth and online presence. This is because patient reviews are a goldmine of valuable data that can help you understand the needs and expectations of your target market base.
According to reports, for every customer who complains, 26 others remain silent. In other words, patient reviews can give you insight into potentially widespread problems that are bothering a large segment of your patient base. When patients complain, they are actively telling you how to improve your service or products.
Why Are Patients Posting Negative Feedback?
Often, getting a negative comment feels unfair. After working tirelessly to provide excellent patient service, you cannot let an existing or ex-patient badmouth your efforts just because he or she was having a bad day. This feeling can tempt you to lash out in response to a scathing review. Unfortunately, an angry response will make your brand look bad and may even worsen the situation. So take a deep breath, step back and consider the reasons patients post unfavorable comments.
The good news is, only 23 percent of customers post negative reviews out of vengeance. Just remember this when responding to negative comments. Most of your patients do not intend to take revenge on your dental practice. The feedback is not meant to attack you, even if it feels that way. In addition, nearly 70 percent of people who post bad reviews are hoping to receive a supportive response. This shows that people who criticize your dental practice only do it because they had a bad experience and wanted you to resolve their problems.
It may also interest you that almost 90 percent of people post feedback online to help your potential customers make better decisions. Their comments inform or warn other customers about the quality of your services. So if you can improve the experience of patients who were not happy with your service, they might modify their review to reflect the helpfulness of your staff.
How to Respond to Patient Feedback
Take the first step to protect your online reputation and request your Online Reputation Assessment.
Responding to patient reviews is one of the most effective ways to manage them. With 97 percent of customers considering customer service an important factor in determining brand loyalty, successfully dealing with patient feedback is more crucial than ever. This is because when you pacify an angry patient, his or her odds of doing business with you again will increase compared to if he or she had never made a complaint in the first place.
It is a good practice for dental practice owners, marketers and doctors to respond to all patient reviews, both positive and negative. Your responses are read by your existing and potential patients and greatly influence their decisions to do return to your dental practice. It shows that you take pride in your brand, are personable and are looking to maintain and improve the quality of your patient relations.
When responding to online patient reviews, keep these tips in mind:
- Respond specifically to the issues brought up by the
- Offer an apology and acknowledge any mistakes on your end.
- State what you plan to do (or have already done) to fix the situation.
- Propose how you will make sure the situation does not reoccur.
Reviewers do not want a vague response that insults their intelligence. If you are responding to online feedback – negative or positive – it is essential to be specific.
Based on our conversations with practice owners and healthcare marketers from all sizes and specialties, we came up with six golden rules to keep in mind when responding to patient feedback:
- Stay Calm: It is obvious to press the panic button the moment you see a scathing review. However, you cannot please every patient, and not every patient is going to like every aspect of your service. It is vital to understand that not all feedback is beneficial. Taking each review personally can actually harm your service and reputation. When you are reading through online reviews, start by looking for repeated issues. For instance, if the most common word in negative reviews is “disappointed,” this may imply that the patients had higher expectations from your dental practice than what was offered. Once you have identified the patterns, figure out what aspect is causing an issue with your patients.
- Respond Promptly: This might seem like a no-brainer, but many healthcare marketers fail to respond to most of their online reviews. According to online reputation management experts, a lack of response is also a response. It is a response that says, “We do not care much about our patients.”
Sometimes there are underlying factors that prevent dental practices from responding to patients’ comments online. For example, small dental practices that are just setting up their brand name may be less inclined to enable their staff to respond to online reviews, for fear of saying something that could “get them in trouble.” In such situations, it is important to have preapproved responses on hand. Whether you have received reviews related to critical service issues that need to be addressed by your doctors or an appreciation for your quality products – every feedback deserves a response. Your team needs to be trained to respond quickly and professionally to these comments without the need to run everything past a legal department first.
- Never Delete a Negative Review: Ignoring a bad comment on social networks may seem like the best move for a while, but a prompt and professional response is a better plan of action. A soft yet firm response to online reviews will not only help establish a long-term relationship with the dissatisfied patient but will also show that you are trying to resolve their concerns. Patients often post negative reviews for practices that are not up to the mark on patient service and then try to evade the blame. Therefore, instead of playing the blame game, look for ways to keep improving your service quality. The truth is, negative reviews are problems in disguise. They are your chance to engage with patients and get their feedback to help your dental practice grow. Do not be defensive when responding to grievances. Sarcastic replies and comments will reflect poorly on your dental practice. A proper response should include an apology for the patient’s experience and an offer to fix the issue and address the problem.
- Notice the Frequency and Nature of Online Reviews: This is because one complaint is a random issue, two complaints could hint at a pattern, but if you receive three or more negative reviews, there is definitely an underlying problem.
If multiple patients are having the same type of problems, make an effort to find and correct the cause as quickly as possible. By the time more patients start experiencing the same problem, you should be in a position to reassure your panicked patients that the issue is already being taken care of. If you can settle a snowballing problem before it becomes too big to handle, you will be doing your patients, your dental practice and yourself a favor.
- Never Argue with a Patient, Especially on Public Platforms: It is not advisable to argue with patients, especially when thousands of existing and potential patients are expected to read the same conversation online. A spat or an exchange of unpleasant remarks online can make your brand look unreasonable in the face of a patient service problem.
If a situation goes beyond your control, consider hiring an online reputation management agency to ensure everything is being done to deal with the problem at hand. If the patient begins vaguely and/or rudely, it may be best to avoid responding at all. If the reviewer mentions a specific problem, however, you must step in and try to make the situation right.
- Pay Attention to Your Competitors’ Online Reputation: Tracking social activity and online presence of your competitors can help you better serve your patients. In order to stay competitive, it is just as important to listen to what people are saying about your competitors as to what they are saying about your dental practice. Maybe people are saying great things about your competitors, or maybe they are getting berated with patient complaints. Either way, knowing what people like and do not like about your competitors is extremely important. A well-crafted online reputation management strategy could bring you new patients.
Whether you are a newly set up dental practice or an established one, interacting with your patients and followers is worth the time and investment. Not responding to a patient question is like not answering the phone at your front desk – not good for your business. In addition, executing great review response strategies can drive loyalty and wow patients. Do you need help managing your dental practice’s reviews and brand image? Contact us to see how we can help your dental practice look its best.