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Generate Talk: Use Online Reviews to Boost Your Practice

In the socially connected world of the new millennium, a practice’s reputation is vetted in real-time by patients leaving feedback about their experiences as online reviews. Essentially the evolved form of word-of-mouth marketing, online reviews have made it easier than ever to capitalize on this powerful form of patient referral. It’s also never been so easy to get it wrong. And the facts are clear: this is the time to get it right.
A stunning 90% of consumers rely on online reviews before choosing a business, and patient-targeted studies have found that at least 72% of patients read online reviews as their first step in choosing a new health care provider. What’s more, these trends are only getting stronger, with incredible growth year after year. This comes as no surprise considering the ever-widening reach of sites like Google and Facebook across a rapidly increasing number of people online.
Gaining more reviews for your practice does wonders for your visibility online. This is especially true for local search results, as search engines like Google give a higher search result ranking to businesses with “prominence” online. Prominence refers to several things, including positive rankings on review sites. Online reviews can be a powerful ally for your business’s ability to reach a wider local audience online.
Beyond local searches, having your website mentioned (and linked to) by various review sites is also an excellent way to boost your overall search result ranking, and is a critical element of a successful search engine optimization (SEO) strategy. Better ranking in the results makes it easier for people anywhere looking for hearing help or information to find your website through popular search engines. Considering that the children of aging Baby Boomers (who often live in different cities) are commonly interested and willing to help their parents search online to find the hearing services they need, it’s important for your website to be easy to find for anyone—anywhere.
By now, if you haven’t been making online reviews a focus of your marketing strategy, you might be reconsidering it. If so, you may be wondering, “How do I increase the amount of reviews I get anyhow?” This is a valid query, as simply asking your patients to leave you a review isn’t always enough. Busy lives and the endless threat of distraction can quickly defeat even your biggest fans. Some hearing practices try to work around this by setting up a “review station” in their waiting room—complete with a laptop and simple instructions. This isn’t ideal, however, as some review sites actually penalize businesses with too many reviews from the same IP address.
There are a variety of approaches to increasing the number of online reviews you receive. You could offer an incentive, such as a free pack of hearing aid batteries or discount on their next purchase. This is considered ethical (and within review sites’ terms and conditions) as long as it’s not dependant on the review being a positive one. A more cost-effective way to boost your reviews is simply to provide clear and concise step-by-step instructions for leaving a review for your practice. You already know you have happy patients leaving your office each day. Many of them would be more than willing to sit down to help your services reach others in need. But they may need a little guidance, so a quick and easy “cheat sheet” with a clear call to action (i.e. “Help Us Help Others!”) and a few steps for them to complete the reviews can go a long way.
Ultimately, no online review strategy will make up for sub-par services or care. This goes without saying, but there are a couple of tips about patient communication that can help boost your online reviews and maintain a positive reputation online. The first is to make a point to thank every patient who leaves you a positive review—and to do so publicly. Almost all review sites allow the business owner to comment on a review, specifically so owners can address negative reviews, but few people actually take advantage of those comments to return praise to patients who took the time to write a nice review. Showcasing gratitude bears well on your practice’s image and encourages future patients (especially those who found you by reading your reviews) to leave one for you as well.
The second (and critical) communication strategy for online reviews is to immediately reply to any negative ones you might receive. Your comment below a negative review must reflect patience, understanding, and a willingness to acknowledge where the reviewer is coming from. If their complaint is legitimate, you might even offer some form of consolation (a future discount, coupon, etc) if appropriate. In cases where the review is distorted, unfair, or exaggerated, it’s completely fine to state your case in the comment below—just be sure it’s done in a courteous and professional tone. Future patients will appreciate your direct communication and respect your approach to criticism.
At AudiologyPlus, we’ve worked with countless hearing practices to optimize their online review strategy. Over the years, we’ve found that the keys to a successful plan involve two critical elements: convenience and efficiency. Patients are almost always willing to leave a positive review when prompted to in a quick and easy-to-follow way. We built our proprietary website plugin, ReviewMe, with just that in mind. It offers patients a chance to quickly select the number of stars they feel their experience deserves—right from the hearing practice’s website—and then with a few simple clicks they can publish their review on the various review websites of their choosing.
And what about those occasional negative reviews? ReviewMe automatically notifies the practice owner of every review—positive or negative— that gets published. We know how important it is for you to have a chance to proactively respond to disgruntled reviewers, and we designed this software to make it easier than ever to maintain an excellent (and popular) reputation online.
If your practice could benefit from reaching a wider local audience on the Internet, then optimizing your online review strategy should be at the top of your task list. If you want to tackle this with leading-edge tools and professional expertise, be sure to contact us to learn how we can help.
 

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