Maintaining your online reputation is critical to the success of your medical practice. Potential patients rely on online reviews more than ever, bypassing practices that are flooded with negative online reviews.
Whether you like it or not, online reviews impact customer behavior. In fact, almost 79 percent of customers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. This is why understanding how to handle negative reviews, while promoting positive ones, is a vital part of your online marketing efforts.
It is important for medical practitioners to understand that patients feel more comfortable voicing their concern anonymously online than discussing them with your staff. The sad reality is that the review websites such as Yelp and Healthgrades often attract patients who are keen to post negative comments rather than positive. In other words, it is almost sure that every medical practitioner will encounter negative patient reviews.
The way you handle the negative reviews will determine how your patients will view your practice. By adding a bit of strategy to your responses, you can turn negative reviews into positive lessons that will help grow your practice.
Why are you receiving negative reviews?
Often, getting a bad review feels unfair. After working tirelessly to provide an excellent customer service, you cannot let a 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 negative review. Unfortunately, an angry response will make your practice look bad and may even worsen the situation. So, take a deep breath, step back and consider the reasons patients write negative reviews.
The good news is, only 23 percent of customers post negative reviews out of vengeance. You must remember this point when responding to negative reviews. Most of your customers do not intend to take revenge on your practice. The online feedback is not meant to attack you, even if it feels that way. Also, nearly 70 percent of reviewers who post bad feedback are hoping to receive a response. This shows that customers are criticizing your practice because they had a bad experience and want you to address their issues.
It may also interest you that almost 90 percent of customers post online reviews to help potential customers make better buying decisions. Their comments are intended to inform or warn other customers about the quality of your services. So, if you can improve the experience of people who were not so happy with your practice, they might modify their review to reflect the helpfulness of your staff.
How to handle negative patient reviews?
You are passionate about your practice and care about your patients, so negative reviews are going to sting. However, negative thoughts will make the situation worse. So, take a step back and remind yourself that negative reviews do not make you a bad practice. Instead, negative reviews are an inevitable part of running a business. Keep these tips in mind when responding to negative reviews:
Do not delete or ignore the review: Maybe you are afraid of bringing the issue any undeserved attention. Or, maybe you feel the grievance is not worth addressing. The truth is, negative reviews are opportunities in disguise. They are your chance to engage with patients in meaningful ways, get valuable feedback to help your practice grow and show your patients that you are willing to accept and fix your mistakes.
Be professional and polite in your response: Do not be defensive when responding to a patient grievance. Sarcastic replies will reflect poorly on your practice, and even an attempt to justify the situation may make your practice look unreliable. A proper response should include an apology for the patient’s experience. Regardless of your version of the actual situation, the patient had an unfortunate experience, and an apology may soothe upset feelings. You can also add a positive statement about your practice in order to mitigate the negative comments made by the reviewer. Finally, thank the patient for his or her feedback and ask to connect with them offline.
Take the first step to protect your online reputation and request your Online Reputation Assessment.
Respond quickly: Do not let damaging thoughts linger. A quick initial response is the first step to addressing customer grievances. Your prompt reply will show the complainant that you are paying attention and that patient issues are a priority. You must regularly check review sites you are listed on and monitor your social media feeds. You can set up online alerts at mentions of your practice.
Apologize, even if you are not wrong: While being right feels great, being forgiving is better for the reputation of your medical practice. Irrespective of what went wrong and why, always apologize to your dissatisfied patient. Your first message when responding to negative reviews should be that you feel sorry your patient had an unpleasant experience, and you would like to address the issue and compensate for the inconvenience. Be generous. Offering a discounted service can not only turn an upset patient into a satisfied one but can also attract more patients who will be impressed by your generosity and compassion.
Encourage online reviews: The more online reviews you have, the less impact a negative review will have on your overall satisfaction score. For instance, if you have only five Yelp reviews, then one negative review can drop your satisfaction score by 20 percent. However, if you have 20 positive reviews, then a negative review will only bring your average score down by 5 percent. Also, most of your happy patients will not bother leaving online reviews unless you ask or remind them to do so. On the other hand, unhappy patients will be posting their unpleasant experience online as soon as they walk out the door. So, do not leave any stone unturned to convert your happy patients into brand ambassadors.
Do not take negative reviews personally: Physicians tend to take all criticism personally, which makes discouraging feedback all the harder to hear. It may be tough to regard criticism as an inevitable part of the job, but it is what it is. For sure, patients do not expect you to be 100 percent perfect, and the same patients will find an 89 percent positive rating more authentic than a 100 percent rating. While it is critical to managing your patients’ expectations, you must also manage your expectations for yourself. You have to understand that you may not be the right fit for every patient and that sometimes it is an intelligent decision to let a patient go.
Learn from the experience: Despite the sting, every negative review offers a learning opportunity. If a patient is struggling to find kind words for how he or she was treated, your staff may not be following the right protocol. Through negative feedback, patients can point out things that you may have overlooked, such as parking problems, vague billing practices, long wait times and many more. Even if the patient’s problems seem silly to you, try to fix the issue. It may help change the patient’s perception of your practice.
Follow HIPAA guidelines: One of the biggest reasons to move the conversation offline with the reviewer is to avoid disclosing a patient’s personal information publicly. Never disclose any of the patient’s personal information, even if the patient initiates specific details in their review. It may become challenging to discuss a complaint while remaining vague. Explain your limitations in your response and ask the reviewer to discuss the problem one-on-one, where you do not run the risk of revealing their personal information.
Negative reviews are difficult to handle. An unhappy patient leaving scathing reviews for your practice is like a swift kick to your online reputation. Online reviews tend to keep displaying in search results for years to come and can make patients turn their back to you.
However, negative reviews can be used to your advantage, as long as they are surrounded by a handful of positive reviews. The trick is to interact with your patients and assure them you are addressing the problem. One of the most effective ways to reverse the ill effects of a negative review is to respond to the reviewer in a positive manner. A positive response to a negative review can reduce its impact and create growth opportunities.
In addition, be sure to inform your employees of the reviews you have received, both positive and negative. Negative reviews are an indicator that there are systems and processes within your practice that you need to improve. Formulate a plan to respond to reviewers quickly and professionally, and make sure their concerns have been adequately addressed. There is a possibility that some of your reviews are fake. If the negative review is fake or you doubt its authenticity, contact the third-party review site and ask them to review it and/or remove it.
Knowing how to respond to negative reviews is the key to customer relationships and continued growth. Negative reviews are not the worst thing in the world and, when handled correctly, they can be turned into opportunities to satisfy your patients better and grow your practice.