In my last post, I covered the key factors that may be sabotaging any internet marketing that you might be doing. I finished the post with the beginnings of a checklist on how to create a positive online presence for your practice. To read last week’s post, click here.
I’ll continue this checklist in this week’s post with the must-do’s, must-don’ts (and the “don’t even think about its…”) of Online Reviews.
Online reviews are important—and they’re there whether you like it or not.
Nowadays, just about everyone checks online reviews for just about everything–restaurants, cars, movies…and of course, dental offices. And reviews will show up for your practice on Google and Yelp no matter how much you try to avoid them. So you’re better off taking control.
Which brings us to Step 1:
1. If Yelp or Google has created a page for your office, go ahead and follow any necessary steps to claim it and show them that you’re the owner (even if those pages are riddled with bad reviews).
2. Use the review site as a marketing tool. Since it’s going to exist no matter what, use it to the best of your advantage. Put up nice photos of the office, staff, and happy patients. Write a nice description of your office and the doctors. Make sure the page links to your office’s website.
3. Encourage happy patients to leave reviews—perhaps through a follow-up email. Of course, you can verbally ask patients to leave reviews, but do not ever have anyone post reviews on a computer in your office. Review websites can tell if several different reviews come from the same location, and will consequently delete them, assuming it’s just one person trying to fool them by posting multiple reviews.* I suggest sending a follow-up email to patients after their appointment, thanking them warmly for their visit and containing a link to your Yelp and Google+ pages so they can leave a review. Some softwares will allow you to set up an automatic email to go out after every appointment. If you don’t have a software like it (or if you’d like to be more selective about which patients you ask to leave reviews), a front desk staff member would have to manually email happy patients after their visits. We also have a template for a paper handout you can give patients on their way out, with instructions on how to leave a review in case they’ve never posted on Yelp or Google before. For a copy, feel free to email me at email@example.com.
(*Note: Some paid services, like DemandForce, follow a different set of rules, because again, they are paid services, not true review sites. You may be able to leave reviews from the same computer with these services and filter out bad reviews. If you hire such a service, just check with them.)
4. Bad reviews—what can you do about them? First things first. Bad reviews aren’t the end of the world. In fact, a bad review can actually be a good thing (assuming it isn’t really, really horrible). How? Well, what do you think when you see a business with just a few reviews that are all 5-star? You get a sneaking suspicion these reviews might be fake–or just written by friends and family–right? Inherently, everybody knows there’s always a bad apple who can never be pleased and will leave a nasty review. And we know that any business can make a mistake every once and a while. The important thing is that the reviews are mostly 4 and 5 star. So the best solution when you get a bad review is to just apply point number 3 above.
5. It’s okay to reply to negative reviews publicly…but ALWAYS be warm and friendly! Getting into a public argument is always a lose-lose scenario. Trust me, I know that nasty reviewers can be completely unfair, crazy, or just outright lying. I’ve seen a nasty, vitriolic reviewer (the type of person nobody can stand) tell obvious lies on Yelp. The doctor responded by pointing out this person was a liar and proving that they were untrue. I’ve seen outright HIPPA violations in responses (names, etc.) where the doctor caused themselves more trouble than if they said nothing at all! And in each case, you know what? Even though the patient was nasty, the doctor still came across as the bad guy! People tend to be sympathetic with reviewers and skeptical of business owners. So even if the readers see that the doctor was undeniably in the right…he still seems like a jerk.
The doctor in that scenario could have (and should’ve) taken the high-road. You will NEVER look bad by being too polite, kind, humble, or forgiving.
Something to keep in mind, as well: a customer leaving a review about how their experience at a restaurant was terrible (servers impolite, etc.) is FAR different than a patient leaving a dissatisfied review about a dental office or any treatment they might have received.
With the restaurant, the owner would be polite, apologize their restaurant wasn’t on their “A” game, and life goes on. With a patient complaining about some procedure, the dentist doing the same (i.e. sorry it didn’t go well, we weren’t on our “A” game) is evidence in a Board Hearing!)
While strictly customer service issues (waited too long, receptionist impolite, etc.) should be safe to respond to (and keep HIPPA in mind as you do so), it may not be a bad idea to review any clinical (or anything patient-care related) online complaints with your malpractice carrier before you respond (if at all).
With any response, the guiding rule is to be MORE polite and humble than the negative reviewer. Thank them courteously for visiting your office; apologize sincerely if their experience (with the last paragraph in mind) wasn’t up to par; thank them for sharing, because helping people and treating them greatly is your number one priority. Never accuse the reviewer of anything, say they were lying, or challenge them in any way. Take the high road.
It can be painful to do the above if the reviewer is lying and being unfair about the entire thing, but you know what, who cares if it was a lie or not? Now you have an opportunity to show the public that you’re humble and kind. Now readers will wonder why that nasty reviewer is giving a nice, gentle person such a hard time.
6. Getting unfair reviews deleted–it’s possible…sometimes. Yelp and Google (and other review sites) generally have Terms of Service or Guidelines for reviewers. This will usually contain some rules about reviews that will be deleted, like profanity or racially insensitive remarks, outright lies or inaccurate claims, or reviews from persons who never actually frequented the business in question. So, check the guidelines of the site the nasty review is on. If you can prove the review violates those guidelines, you may write to the site asking them to take it down. Having said that…you also need a little luck. I’ve seen plenty of cases where Yelp and Google ignore these requests, even if it’s proven. Taking legal action is up to you, but that’s typically not worth the effort. Again, apply point number 3 above.
7. Take advantage of healthcare directories and review sites. Some dental or healthcare specific sites allow patients to leave reviews, such as ZocDoc, RateMDs, Healthgrades, etc. Go ahead and create nice profiles on as many sites as you can and encourage patients to rate you on them. (Some of these charge a fee to use. You’ll have to decide if the price is worth it in your situation. I do know several doctors that pay for a ZocDoc account and absolutely think it’s worthwhile, but it will be different case by case.)
8. Have great customer service! This one is self-explanatory. The best way to get good reviews and avoid bad ones is to have exceptionally good customer service and to truly care for your patients. Make sure your entire team is on board with this.
That about wraps it up for this week! In my final post next week, I’ll cover Social Media – How to Build a Foundation.
Good luck! And feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions along the way.