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Business owners from nearly every sector have come to recognize the importance of online reviews. People are leaving reviews for everything from strange decor pillows and their most recent meal out, to health professionals and even entire cities. What’s more, everyone else is reading them.

A recent BrightLocal survey saw a whopping 97% of consumers report using online reviews to evaluate businesses before visiting them. And for healthcare providers, online reviews are even more popular than government ratings.

These trends can be either good news or bad news for businesses, depending on their review management strategy. Despite common misconceptions, there are actually a set of reliable tactics for safeguarding your online reputation beyond just hoping that the occasional unsatisfied customer doesn’t blast you on Yelp.

Online review management is a three-pronged approach to leveraging the power of patient reviews to help your practice. As always, it begins with delivering excellent service, followed by encouraging reviews, and ends with leaving a proper response to any reviews you receive.

We’ve already gone over ways to effectively encourage reviews for your services, and now it’s time to evaluate the best way to respond to reviews, both the good ones and the bad.

Truth be told, positive reviews will promote your business whether or not you weigh in, but responding to them can boost their effect. In fact, a PhoCusWright survey found that 78% of respondents agreed that seeing a business respond to their reviews made them feel cared about. Showing your appreciation for a review sends a nice message to the reviewer and also displays your caring approach to everyone else. For a healthcare provider, especially, that’s a helpful quality to promote to potential patients perusing reviews of local providers.

But what about those dreaded negative reviews? They’re nearly impossible to avoid even when your service is impeccable. Frankly, some people are difficult to please no matter what, and now that there’s an easy way to vent frustrations for all to see, it seems there are more people like this than ever. Fear not, however, because a negative review does not have to be the final word.

Sadly, this isn’t where we explain how you can pay to remove these pesky reviews. Despite the growing number of ads and companies offering to eliminate your negative reviews for a price, the fact remains that popular review sites like Google, Facebook, Yelp, and Healthgrades are not affected by them. File these offers away with the emails from an Ethiopian prince needing to wire all his family’s wealth to you. They’re simply a scam.

Not only will these offers not get you what you pay for, but they could also get your business into hot water. Popular review sites depend on reliable, credible reviews for their own reputations and some even go so far as blacklisting businesses that try to undermine their efforts. Yelp, for instance, has begun boldly flagging businesses that are caught interfering with the authenticity of their reviews.

But just because you can’t pay to remove negative reviews doesn’t mean they have to negatively impact your business. By delivering an appropriate response to a negative review, you have the opportunity to reverse its effect on public perception. Just think about your own experience reading reviews. Sometimes people leave obviously unreasonable reviews out of sheer frustration and unrealistic expectations. And other times, their complaints are legitimate. But in either case, a calm, understanding, and reasonable response from the business owner or manager can go a long way in resolving any lingering doubts you might have.

The key here is delivering an appropriate response, however. If a negative review is not handled correctly, it can send an even worse message to prospective patients. Luckily, solid responses have common themes. Let’s take a look at what they entail:

  • They convey an understanding of the reviewer’s perspective
  • They apologize for playing a role in the reviewer’s frustration (even if they didn’t really mess up).
  • They are calm and not reactive.
  • They avoid being defensive, but do offer the business’s perspective on the issue at hand.
  • They offer “a second chance” (often for free, or at a discount) to achieve the customer satisfaction they strive to deliver, often leaving an email or phone number for the reviewer to use.

Replying in a reasonable way to any negative reviews you get might require that you take a day or two to gain a calm mindset about it. Getting critical feedback is hard, especially when it’s unfounded, and it’s all too easy to fall into defensiveness or reactivity when we respond while still feeling frustrated.

Take some time to formulate a response that you can view from the perspective of a perusing patient who knows nothing of the situation. It’s also helpful to have someone outside of your business, like a friend or colleague, read your response before you publish it. Remember: your response is your one chance to nullify the impact of a negative review, so take the time to get it right.

By getting to the end of this article, you’re already light years ahead of many other businesses online. The number of poorly-rated businesses without any effort to reply to their critics is a large one, and is unfortunately affecting their success. The worst thing you could do with negative reviews is to ignore them, so consider yourself already one giant step closer to successful review management.

When we work with clients, their success is our success and we know how critical their online reputation is. It’s why we created ReviewMe to help them generate more positive reviews and increase their visibility (and attractiveness) online. Contact us today to learn how we can help your practice find success too.

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