This particular article focuses on online marketing issues and their solutions.
Q: I just got a negative review online. Should I respond to it?
Great question! I’m glad you’re looking to be proactive about your online reviews.
The short answer (in most cases) is YES!
On most review sites (like Yelp and Google), you have an option to respond publicly to reviews. This response will appear right alongside the review, so people reading the review will see it immediately. It’s a great chance for you to improve the reader’s impression of you.
However there are three important considerations:
- HIPAA (patient privacy issues),
- Potential malpractice issues (i.e. potential claims) and
- Assuming there isn’t a HIPAA issue, don’t be argumentative!
If the complaint is about treatment, then you wouldn’t respond online – you may be violating HIPAA and potentially fueling any claims (real or otherwise, justified or not) that the patient may make in the future.
So, realistically, you’d be responding to reviews that are primarily customer service or administratively related (i.e. they complain about how your receptionist was rude, there was a billing error or they waited a while as you were running late, etc.). I’m not an attorney, so if you’re concerned about whether to respond due to HIPAA etc., I’d run it by your attorney or malpractice carrier.
Now, when responding to a review, even if the reviewer is nasty and lying…be super-duper friendly and even thank them for coming to your practice and leaving the review—no matter how painful it is to do so.
Because even if you are 100% right and the reviewer is 100% wrong, as soon as you start to get argumentative or accuse the reviewer of anything (deserved or not), the person reading the review will think, “Oh, that reviewer must be wrong…but jeez that dentist still seems like a jerk.”
Arguing on the internet never resolves anything. If you don’t believe me, just read some YouTube comments sometime (ugh… it’s a wasteland of pointlessly offensive arguments).
Conversely if you are really friendly and cordial, then even if the person reading the reviewing thinks you were the one in the wrong, they’ll at least also think, “He/she seems very nice, though, and it sounds like they’re working hard to fix it.”
So in your response, say things like, “Thank you for pointing this out…” “We’re sorry you didn’t have a great experience with us…” “If you contact us we will do everything we can to sort it out…” and “We take issues like this seriously and we’ve now fixed it so it won’t happen again…”
Remember: the point of this response isn’t to settle things with the reviewer (you should contact them privately if you want to sort things out with them), it’s to show a good face to the public and appear like the good guys/gals.
Q: Is it worth it to pay for Yelp? (Or ZocDoc, Google ads, Facebook ads, etc.)
This answer will be a quick one: TRY IT!
In marketing, it’s important to try new things and track the results. You’re better off having six different ways of acquiring new patients than relying on just one.
So yes, I absolutely think you should try some of these marketing avenues. There’s a few things to keep in mind, though:
- Only pay Yelp if you have a fair amount of positive reviews. When you start paying them, they’ll begin advertising your Yelp page and displaying it to more people—meaning if you have bad reviews, then that’s a bad thing because more people are going to see them. But conversely, if you have excellent reviews, then it could be totally worthwhile and bring you more new patients—if you are in an area where lots of people use Yelp.
- Don’t quit a successful marketing action in order to try something new. If you are sending out postcards or doing something else and actually getting new patients from it (even if it’s not as many as you’d like), don’t quit it completely and re-direct all that money to Google ads. If those ads don’t work, suddenly you have zero new patients and insufficient funds to experiment with anything. So start smaller, and just divert enough money to give it a try without killing other marketing actions that are actually getting a result.
- Give this new action a few months and make any tweaks you need to get it going successfully…but if it isn’t working by then, pull the plug. This is the beauty of trying several different marketing actions. If you try six or seven different things, a few of those are bound to work, so you can cut out the ones that don’t without a second thought. Don’t keep dumping money into something that isn’t getting you results. Use that money for something more effective.
Q: The person who used to run my practice’s Facebook page left, and now I can’t access it. What can I do?
This happens way more often than most people would expect. It’s one of those things that you don’t think about until it’s too late, and I see a lot of business owners in this exact pickle. Either an ex-employee took the administrative rights with them, or an external web company created the page for you and never gave you admin rights in the first place.
The best thing to do is contact the person who is in control of the account and retrieve the username and password from them. Even if you are no longer on good terms with them, try to smooth things out with them and do whatever you can to get it from them (without being threatening or doing anything illegal, of course).
Trust me, in most cases, tracking down this person’s contact info and having an awkward conversation with them will actually be much easier than trying to get Facebook to intervene and restore your page to you.
Now, if you really can’t retrieve the username and password, then you’ll have to report them to Facebook. You can do this by going to the business page and reporting it, or fill out this form: https://www.facebook.com/help/contact/164405897002583.
After you submit the form, someone from Facebook should email you about the situation.
But…here’s the thing: Facebook doesn’t want to get involved in these disputes—and from what I’ve seen may try to brush you off.
This is extra frustrating because they don’t provide a phone number to call—meaning you can’t even yell and scream until they put their manager on the phone. So, you just have to fill out the form and hope they get back to you.
If they reply and then proceed to help you gain back control of your page, it’s a long and tedious process. You’ll need to provide proof that you created the page and own the business that page represents, and then it generally takes 1-2 months minimum to sort it all out.
Your other option is to simply create a new page and start from scratch (ignoring the old stolen page).
My most important piece of advice is: make sure you have control of all online accounts for you and your business!
This would include Facebook, Google (even if you don’t know it, your business probably has a Google Page, and you should be in control of it), Twitter, Yelp, ZocDoc… or any other website or service you use.
It doesn’t matter how much you trust the person who controls things currently or how “unsavvy” you might be with technology. If you are the business owner, you need to have ultimate control of anything that represents your business or any service your business uses.
So if you don’t currently have the username and password for any such accounts, go get them as your first order of business.
Of course other people might make edits or add information to your Facebook Page or Google Page. Give them access, but make sure they can’t kick you out.
For instance, on Facebook you can make your own account the “Administrator” account (meaning the one who ultimately controls the account) for your business page, and then your office manager could have their own account with “editor” rights (meaning they can add info or make changes, but can’t kick you out and then change the password).