Turn bad online reviews into positive ones?
People are talking about your medical practice on the web, like it or not!
Review websites are playing a growing role in managing your medical practice’s reputation.
Are online reviews important?
A study conducted by Search Engine Land over the last five years revealed 72% people say a positive online review will make them trust a local business or medical practice more.
In short, people do look at online reviews and trust them. They are rated as the second most important factor in a decision making process after recommendations from friends.
In Australia it’s illegal to have testimonials on your website but not uncommon to have people commenting about service levels, friendly staff or having a good experience at medical practices including Dentists, Surgeons and Fertility Specialists.
The reality is the vast majority of patients comments will be positive. Patient feedback will very rarely be about the quality of medical advice. Most comments will be about issues with parking, office managers, billing practices, operating hours or bedside manner.
Take medical online reviews seriously. They are a lot more serious than a review of your local restaurant. Patients put their lives in the hands of doctors, so reviews on the Internet have a tremendous impact on the public perception of your practice’s integrity.
How to handle a bad online review about your medical practice
You can’t safeguard your medical practice against negative reviews. They can be a nightmare.
Best advice – Treat them as an opportunity to improve and follow these guidelines:
Is the statement in question made factually correct and not just an opinion you don’t agree with?
If it is and you can prove it, you have the right to ask for the comment to be removed. This may seem simple, but in reality getting a comment removed can be very tricky and time consuming.
You can only be successful if you can provide conclusive supporting evidence which shows, without a doubt, the comment is factually incorrect. If you can’t provide proof, the sad truth is you won’t get anywhere.
Is the review fake? Ask the question of the review site. The site will protect the patient details but if there is credible evidence that the review is fake, the site should be interested. Review websites hate fake reviews as much as doctors do.
A patient who posts a negative review about your practice has the ability to update their review or rating.
By understanding and using a little psychology and having a strategy in place, you have a good chance to turn around an existing negative review into positive one.
Listen to your patient
Get their details and take the conversation offline to address their issue or complaint.
When responding, keep in mind privacy rules and protect the confidentiality of the patients information.
Respond publicly only if necessary. I’ve seen a doctor’s happy patients rush to the defense of their doctor under attack and independently rebut a negative review.
Whatever You Do, Don’t Get Defensive
The second you get defensive you have lost the battle and the war. A review is not about your opinion, it’s about your patients point of view and how they feel they were treated.
Repeat the main problems to them that they highlighted to confirm you have the issues correct that they would like addressed.
Ask them what they would consider an ideal solution. If you don’t have an immediate solution, tell them and confirm a time you will get back to them.
This is about being seen to be flexible and providing a fast response for your patient.
Working with a patient who left a negative review gives you the opportunity to show everyone on the review site that your practice strives to provide the highest level of customer service and patient care and that when an issue does occur, you will immediately look into it.
Position your medical practice as a practice that fixes issues as fast as possible.
The world is not perfect. Most of the time people will except that mistakes and misunderstandings happen. Resolve their issues quickly and without a hassle. This is how you turn an unhappy patient into an advocate for your medical practice!
Show empathy to their situation
If you need more information, ask questions to make sure you understand why they are unhappy. If they know that you are concerned about them and are listening to what they have to say, this might be enough for them to become satisfied that their issue was addressed.
This can also be a great opportunity for you to get feedback on how you can improve your medical practice.
Some patients will expect you to do more than just listen to their issue.
Take the steps necessary to remedy the situation as best as possible.
The goal is that you keep your patient loyal and then ask them if they would kindly update their review that shows you resolved their issue to their satisfaction.
The Difficult Patient
There are those customers who have unreasonable expectations and/or just don’t behave like the typical patient when they have an issue. Everyone makes mistakes and most patients recognise this, but if you have an issue with a customer who is unrealistic, then you may need to go to plan B.
If a patient is being unreasonable online, other people will most likely see this. What people don’t want to read about is you telling the patient they are wrong and then start battling back and forth with them on the review site. This could do more harm your practice’s reputation.
Instead, use this as an opportunity for you to control your reputation and define your brand, in a positive light, by showcasing your willingness to address their issue.
If all else fails
You could also try to push the poor review down the site with positive reviews from your happy patients.
WARNING – This may be see as soliciting reviews and not looked upon favourably by some countries and medical governing boards. I recommend you check with your Medical Governing Board in your respective country before trying this approach.
The wisdom of crowds
One or two negative reviews is not the end of the world. If the number of patient reviews is large enough, any negative review will be significantly diluted by the others.
Where a review criticises a doctor’s medical advice
This is a grey area. One that is best avoided as whole number of legal ramifications may come into play. None of them positive.
Digital Media Project at Harvard University state, there have been several court cases over the past five years related to online reviews of doctors. Those lawsuits have mostly shown how difficult it is for doctors to win.
Two main results from these court cases have occurred:
- The court threw out the case
- Patients took down the review to avoid a suit
Most experts warn doctors against taking legal action because of negative online reviews. Not only is the potential high for losing a costly legal battle, they warn in many cases, filing a suit only brings additional attention to the patient’s complaints.
In all cases try to solve the problem face to face professionally.
Know and manage your online reputation
Knowing your online reputation can certainly be beneficial to your online presence. Remember to take reviews with a grain of salt, and if you choose to respond, do so carefully and respectfully. These sites can be great tools for your practice if you used them appropriately.
I hope you enjoyed and found useful “How to handle a bad online review about your medical practice.”
“These strategic tips have proven very useful for the majority of the practices we help.
If you have any questions please feel free to call me.”
David Douglas – Medical Website Solutions