Don’t panic.

Take a deep breath.

Calm yourself down.

That scathing review that some anonymous person just left on Google is not the end of the world. It can be resolved.

But we’re getting ahead of ourselves. Let’s take a few steps back.

You, as a hardworking professional, are undoubtedly doing the best you can for your patients. You have a caring staff, excellent customer service and the general atmosphere in the practice is happy. Of course there may be days when things don’t go exactly according to plan – a patient has to wait longer than usual, there’s an error on a patient’s statement, a lab case didn’t arrive on time, etc. – these things happen from time to time even to the best of us.

Then, the “bad review” hits on Google. You find an internet complaint about you, your practice, staff or your treatment. “Whoa,” you think, “What is that all about?”

This can be a very upsetting moment – and I understand. Your first reaction may be to call Google and give them piece of your mind. But I implore you to stay calm.  The absolute first thing you should do is actually read what this person has to say – even if it sounds outrageously untrue. What’s the story here? Who is this person? What happened?

(Related: How We Get At Least 5 New Positive Online Reviews Every Week)

Reviews are normally done with user names or nicknames, not the person’s full name and address. You also don’t see an email. Service providers and search engines such as Google protect the identity of the complaining person. But you may be able to figure out who it was that wrote the review by checking into some points of the story. For example, the person complains about having to wait too long last week for an afternoon appointment, you may be able to figure this out by looking at the schedule and so on.  If you can figure out who it was, you can look into what happened in your office that may have brought on the complaint. This is important, as the person complaining may have a point about an issue that needs to be addressed in the practice.

Next, there is a datum in marketing that you should be aware of: Roughly 1 out of 5 people tend to be negative – for them the glass is always half empty. Even if they feel great one day, they’ll feel bad the next. So they will be thankful initially but, at home, they may get “second thoughts” and suddenly don’t like you or your treatment coordinator and so they write a bad review.

And then there is the personality that, no matter what you do, even if you treat them with 14K golden dental equipment on a feather down chair they will still complain. In their mind, you will not be able to do anything good for them. That’s just the way it is.

So, while the overwhelming majority of your patients are fine people, there are some who will complain no matter what you do.  What can you do about this? Well, assuming you’ve looked internally and you have in fact done nothing to warrant a complaint I wouldn’t really give these types of reviews any further attention.

“Okay,” you will say, “but the review is just sitting there on Google? People will read it and will think I’m a schmuck!”

(Related: How Important is a 5-Star Rating on Google or Yelp?)

Well, there are a number of things you can do about them:

1. Underneath each Google review there is a sentence: “0 out of 1 people found this review helpful. Was this review helpful? Yes – No – Flag as inappropriate.” You can click the “Flag as inappropriate” button which takes you to a list that says:

Violation Type: *

0 This post contains hateful, violent, or inappropriate content

0 This post contains advertising or spam

0 Off-topic

0 This post contains conflicts of interest.

Click the most appropriate item, submit, and your feedback will be registered at Google. Given enough objections to the review, it will be removed by Google.

2. Many patients, happy with your treatment, will be more than obliged to post a positive review of their office experience. I’ve even seen some doctors who have a computer terminal where patients can sit and write their review right in the office. Sometimes all you have to do is ask.  If there are 20 good reviews on top of 1 bad review, few people are going to take the effort to scroll down to find the bad review that’s buried at the bottom. In other words, when the good news on your practice gets out, it outweighs the bad. If the patient has a Gmail address, have them post the review on your Google page.  Otherwise they can post reviews on Dr. Oogle, Super Pages, Yelp, etc.

3.  If the bad review borders on (or is) libelous, contains lies and so on, you or your lawyer can contact Google at:

1600 Amphitheatre Parkway

Mountain View, CA 94043

Phone: +1 650-253-0000
Fax: +1 650-253-0001

Bad reviews can also appear on other sites, such as Dr. Oogle, Super Pages, Manta, etc. The procedure to follow remains the same:

a) First see if the person has a valid complaint and handle accordingly,

b) If not, you can respond to the review as inappropriate or false,

c) Get a flurry of good reviews published, or

d) Contact the site and demand removal of the review if it is nasty, or just full of lies. In my experience, most web sites will remove the review if it’s really incorrect or inappropriate.

As a last point: Remember that the large majority of your patients are good people that can be helped. Cater to them and you will be successful.

Good luck!