Online reviews provide a form of social proof to potential patients. In 2014, almost 90 percent of customers checked online reviews for all types of business, whether local or online. Those numbers have increased now. According to BrightLocal, only 8 percent of customers do not read online reviews, and nearly 87 percent of customers will not even consider a business with low ratings on third-party review sites. This means, if you are not paying attention to online reviews of your practice, you could be missing a huge opportunity to attract new patients and retain existing ones.
Technological advances have also made online reviews more important than they have ever been. Today, a bad patient experience can travel twice as fast and reach twice as many people as it did in the past simply because of online platforms like Facebook, Google and Yelp. These third-party review sites have become powerful forces in the online reputation world, with almost 92 percent of customers saying they believe online reviews more than personal recommendations from family and friends. Online reviews have become more trustworthy than word-of-mouth. In addition, because of their popularity, most of the third-party review sites turn up higher in search results than any other SEO-friendly website. This means it will be easier for potential patients to come across any positive or negative reviews of your practice.
The impact of negative online reviews
According to a survey by Dimensional Research, an overwhelming 90 percent of online visitors who read online reviews agreed that positive reviews influenced their buying decisions, while 86 percent of readers said buying decisions were influenced by negative reviews.
Depending on which side of the stats you look at, somewhere between 67 percent and 90 percent of customers read reviews before they decide to do business with a brand. It might seem as if bad reviews would immediately affect your patient volume or bottom line in a negative way. After all, a negative online review shows that your practice is not perfect. Right? The truth is that any sensible patient knows services and medical practices are never perfect. So instead of believing that patients only choose practices that have all stellar reviews, it will not be incorrect to say that potential patients also tend to trust practices or businesses that have a few bad reviews. The reason is, from the patient’s perspective, a total lack of bad reviews means the practice is either burying negative reviews or the positive ones are not legit, which can be even worse.
According to a report by Moz, businesses lose about 22 percent of potential customers when only one negative search result is seen when researching whether to buy a product or service. When there are two negative search results, the losses double. When three negative comments appear in search results, the losses can mount to 60 percent. And when there are four or more negative reviews, a business is likely to lose nearly 70 percent of potential customers.
So if a negative review is causing 22 percent of potential patients to flee before even contacting your practice, you are losing one out of five patients. Do you want to figure out how much this is costing you? Use this formula:
(Potential Patients x Closure Rate) x (Patient Lifetime Value) x 22% = $ Loss
If there is more than one negative result on the first page of search engine results, the losses will be higher. If negative results are not on the first page of search results, then the loss will be less because not many people go to the second or third pages of search results.
Take the first step to protect your online reputation and request your Online Reputation Assessment.
Patients are not the only ones who care about online reviews. Search engines value them, too. Almost 7 percent to 13 percent of your website’s search engine rank is dependent on online reviews. Positive reviews are a sign of how trustworthy your practice is, giving your website a higher search engine ranking. For instance, your search for “Denver physician” will yield hundreds of results, but the practice with more positive online reviews will show up on top of those with few or poor reviews.
Effectively handling negative reviews
Online reviews are shaping patient behavior across all specialties, and an increasing number of potential and existing patients are attempting to validate their decisions by looking up reviews on social media, third-party review sites and feedback from their family and friends. But how are patients using online reviews to find, assess and choose a medical practice? And how are practices responding to the continually evolving needs and expectations of today’s social-proof-seeking, research-driven patients?
While most of your patients would be happy with your services, at some point a dissatisfied patient will write a negative review about your practice. While practice owners often wonder if and how they should respond to a negative comment, experts are of the opinion that appropriately handling a bad comment can minimize damage and may even get the reviewer to take down a negative comment.
While no business wants to get negative online reviews, they are bound to happen. Here is our list of six best practices for responding to negative online reviews:
- Never ignore bad comments: Ignoring a bad review may seem like the best move, but a polite and timely response is the best plan of action. Responding to reviews will not only help establish a long-term relationship with your patients but will also show that you are trying to resolve their concerns.
- Apologize: Try not to be aggressive or defensive, and never accuse the reviewer of exaggerating or faking the situation. In order to change the reviewer’s perception, you should try to explain how and why the incident occurred. Remember, while you are exchanging messages with the reviewer, other people are reading your comments and wondering whether or not to visit your practice.
- Try to resolve the issue: If the reviewer’s concerns are related to poor service, it is your responsibility to address the issue. Patients often post negative reviews for practices that are trying to evade the blame. Do not play the blame game, and look for ways to keep similar issues from happening again.
- Look at the brighter side: If every review on your website is positive, potential patients could become suspicious that the reviews are “fabricated” and not real. Therefore, a couple of negative reviews can contribute to building patient trust.
- Know when to stop engaging: Some patients are difficult to please, and they just love to complain, leave negative comments online and cause trouble for your practice. Do not engage with such patients for long. Just tell them your version of the story, apologize and leave the conversation.
- Learn from bad reviews: If you know that the negative comment has merit, it is essential to take proactive steps to fix the concerns. You can use the information provided by the reviewer to prevent other patients from having similar problems in the future. Always remember, no matter how scathing the comments are, you can always learn from them.
Maintaining a strong reputation is important, and negative online reviews will affect not just your reputation but also your growth and revenue. So the most effective way to manage online reviews is to hire reputation management consultants. An online reputation management company will monitor your online presence while implementing strategies to help you look your best. A professional reputation management company can improve your brand image by handling negative reviews and ensuring that your patients only see positive reviews when they search for your practice.