Hearing professional shakes patient's hand

Best Practices: Asking Your Patients for Online Reviews

The world of online reviews is a tricky one. Certain businesses, like restaurants and hotels, effortlessly receive dozens of reviews. Other businesses, however, can struggle to get even a few.
What’s worse is that businesses rarely receiving reviews are actually more likely to get one when a customer has a negative experience. Even if a business receives consistent applause from their customers in-office, if those positive reflections don’t make it to the online review platforms to balance out the occasional unhappy customer, a wide divide can quickly form between a business’s online and offline reputation. And frankly, your online reputation is currently more important.
The truth is, 97% of consumers report using online reviews to select a business. And the recent surveys show that consumers read an average of seven reviews before trusting a new business. So, despite the tricky nature of online reviews, it’s clear that getting more of them (especially from satisfied customers) is worth the effort involved.
Unfortunately, hearing practices tend to fall in the category of businesses that aren’t often reviewed. Many reasons account for this, but none of them are too challenging to overcome. Indeed, many hearing practices are already reaping the rewards (read: new patients) that having an active review management strategy can create.
You might be wondering what a “review management strategy” is exactly. Essentially, it’s a plan of action aimed at improving your online reputation. It typically involves a thorough strategy to increase the reviews your practice is getting (possibly using helpful review-generating tools like this one) along with a review monitoring  and response protocol. We’ve detailed the latter part of this strategy previously (here and here), since responding to negative reviews is equally as important as getting positive ones.
But what about that first part? How are you expected to get your patients to leave reviews when they never seem to do so on their own accord?
First, you must know that you’re not alone. For many business owners, online reviews are hard to get, the negative ones seem to come faster than the positive ones, and they quickly become the bain of their business. But it doesn’t have to be that way. With consistent application of a proven review-boosting method, online reviews could realistically provide your practice with free marketing.
So what’s this proven method?
It’s surprisingly simple: you must ask for reviews. Yep, asking your patients to share their experience consistently proves to be the most effective way that our clients boost their online reviews.
But we get it. This is often cringe-worthy advice. “Asking people to recommend me? Won’t it make me seem desperate? Or like I’m begging?”
The fact is, these days, it’s actually not uncommon to be asked to review a business. How many emails have you received after you made a purchase or received a service, asking for you to review your experience? Amazon.com does it for every purchase made. In fact, surveys show that 74% of consumers report having been directly asked for a review. And you know what? Nearly all of them (91%) did just that.
Like most potentially awkward things in life, it’s not so much about doing or not doing them, but instead about how you do them. The same is true for asking for reviews. You can’t get around it: you need to ask your patients to leave your practice a review if you want to improve your online reputation. But you can choose how you want to go about it.
Consider these tips below for a smooth and sensitive approach.
Help Others Find Help
The best way to avoid seeming like a desperate business owner eager for some more online reviews is to reframe the request entirely. Consider the difference between these two requests:

  • “I’m glad you had a nice experience with us. Would you mind leaving us a review online?”
  • “I’m glad you had a nice experience with us. It would be great if you shared your experience as an online review so more people could find out about our services.”

See what happened there? You were completely honest about the end result you’re aiming for. More reviews mean more patients. But the point you can focus on is that more patients really means more people hearing better. More people getting the care they need. And more people enjoying excellent service from your practice.

From the Top Down
It’s easy for practice owners to place the awkward task of asking for reviews on the plate of the front desk. After all, it’s where patients are checking out, paying, and likely sharing their thoughts about their appointment. But it’s a weak approach. Sure, anyone asking for a review is better than no one doing so, but the hearing professional making the most personal connection with the patient is truly the most effective person to be asking for a review.
Hearing care is an intimate exchange, where the professional gets to know the patient and his or her unique struggles. There is much opportunity for connection and warmth, all of which translate into a higher potential for a positive review from the patient. Consider finishing your appointments like this to encourage more reviews from new patients:

  • “Great job coming in today and taking care of your hearing health. Is there anything else I can help you with? … No? Okay then. Well, I hope we surpassed your expectations today. We want everyone to know how easy and painless it can be to enjoy better hearing. If you would, I’d very much appreciate if you left us a review online to share your experience and help us reach others in need of care.”

Notice how the focus remains on “getting the word out” and “helping more people.” All of this is true, and is a persuasive approach to encouraging reviews. Yes, new patients mean a more successful practice. And a more successful practice also means people are getting the care they need. Leverage this aspect of your profession as a legitimate review incentive.
Digital Follow-Up
You might have noticed that we’ve stayed focused on in-person interactions for requesting reviews. This is intentional. Asking for reviews face-to-face is consistently more effective for our clients than only asking them from an email. The only thing more effective than either of the two is to do both, in a specific order.
The best time to ask for a review is right after services are rendered. This makes sense, since the details of a patient’s experience are fresh and their satisfaction is current. But it’s not uncommon for people to forget to leave a review once they get home. Following-up on your in-person request with a simple email reminder becomes very helpful at this stage. Even better is to combine your review request reminder with a genuine check-in on the patient.
Asking how their new hearing aids are doing a few days after their appointment is fairly standard. You might as well help boost your reviews by throwing in a line at the end of the email saying, “By the way, if you have a couple minutes to leave us a review on Google, Facebook, or Heathgrades, we’d definitely appreciate you helping to spread the word about our services!” Just be sure to link those websites to your actual business page on each network, to make leaving a review a simple click away for your patients.
Avoid Yelp
Focus your review requests on websites like Facebook, Google, and Healthgrades. Although Yelp is a commonly used review site, they’ve recently updated their review policies and have explicitly banned requesting reviews from customers. Doing so, and getting caught, can cause your business to have a large and repelling banner on your profile explaining that your reviews are solicited and cannot be trusted.
No review is worth that kind of blatant deterrent on your profile, so we do not recommend that you encourage your patients to review you on Yelp.
 
Asking for help from your patients might seem like the last thing you want to do. Even the lure of more patient inquiries as a result of better online reviews may not be enough to sway you.
But what about all of those hesitant hearing loss sufferers? You know, the 28.8 million Americans who could benefit from hearing aids (with only 16% of them wearing any). Perhaps the effect that your practice’s positive reviews can have on those in need is enough to encourage you. After all, they can relate best to those patients who finally came in a got the care they needed.
So go on, ask your patients to spread the word. Sometimes, asking for help is the best way you can deliver help.
 

Person leaves a rating on tablet

Online Reviews: How to Let Patients Do Your Marketing for You

We’ve entered an era where everyone can voice an opinion online and have it reach literally anyone, anywhere—indefinitely. Everything from cat food to oncologists has been reviewed online and more people are reading those reviews than ever before. With recent studies revealing that 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business (yes, ninety percent), there’s no denying that these public ratings are a critical part of your business’s success.
As a hearing professional, your main focus is self-evident: to help people improve their hearing health. Providing excellent service in this regard is also the most important piece of an effective online review strategy. It’s the foundation of good business, period. But delivering great service is where online review management begins—not ends. The best efforts to take advantage of them for the success of your practice include a blend of proactive and retroactive actions. Consider the strategies detailed below to know if your practice is leveraging online reviews as a free marketing tool, driving new patients your way.
Claim Your Listing
Leaving your practice an online review should be as easy as possible, and ensuring that your business is listed on the most common review websites is an important first step. After all, your business must be found to be reviewed. By listing your business (or claiming your listing if it was automatically generated), you end up with more control over your business information posted on the site, and often have access tools for tracking reviews and responding directly to reviewers.
It’s also important for your practice to have a complete array of accurate business information (i.e. hours, address, phone, etc) on sites like Google, Bing, Yelp, Healthgrades, and social media sites. Include as much information as you can, including any welcoming photos of your staff and office. These listings are often your only chance to sway a potential patient in your direction. Some listings, like Google Business, require multi-step verification to be fully listed. It’s worth taking these steps, as having your business verified helps boost its visibility when searched for online.
Encourage Feedback
Online reviews are one of the few areas in life where quantity is equally as important as quality. Of course, the majority of the reviews you get (no matter how many or how few), need to be positive to reflect favorably on your overall rating, but having many reviews in itself is a boon for business. It silently communicates that there’s a reason so many people have sought your services.
The most effective way to get more online reviews is deceivingly simple: ask for them. This is best done right after an appointment, when your patient is still in your office (and, presumably, happy with his or her experience). Some offices even set up a review station with a tablet or laptop for patients to use before they leave. While offering incentives (like candy or a free pair of batteries, etc) is helpful, it’s important to note that pressuring patients to leave a positive review in exchange for anything is considered bad for business, and eventually comes out in user reviews.
One of the subtle benefits of proactively encouraging reviews onsite is that any patients who might feel disgruntled or unsatisfied after an appointment will have a direct opportunity to raise their concerns in-person, at the time of the event. Instead of trying to delicately respond to that patient’s negative review online, you end up with a chance to make things right before a review even gets published. Direct communication is always helpful when tackling patient satisfaction, and when handled with grace and understanding, even the most frustrated patient can become your practice’s biggest advocate.
Track Reviews
Once you’re present on the most popular directories and encouraging patients to leave you reviews, your next task is to keep track of them. Positive, negative, and neutral—every review you get is an opportunity. Successful online review management has proper review tracking at its core, so don’t overlook this step. Sure, a few unnoticed positive reviews may only present a missed opportunity (to bolster them with a response), but just one negative review slipping past your watch can instantly plummet the number of new patient inquiries you receive.
If tracking reviews manually sounds overwhelming, it’s because it is. Ideally, any review left for your business would get a response within a few days. Negative reviews should get an immediate response to minimize reputation damage. Making this part of your everyday agenda is often not practical, which is why several online tools have surfaced to help monitor your reviews for you (here’s a list of both paid and free options). No matter how you arrange to have your reviews monitored, make sure it’s a top priority for your digital marketing strategy.
Leave a Reply
Every review your practice gets deserves some kind of response, despite the common advice to only focus on responding to negative reviews. Look at this way: your patients are taking the time to leave you a compliment on a public forum, so why skip the opportunity to thank them in a public way? A simple note of appreciation not only communicates the friendly nature of your practice and staff, but also encourages others to leave you a review once they’ve experienced your services. Simply put: people like being appreciated.
That said, it is more important to respond to negative reviews. A negative review without a reply from the business owner can leave a strong impression on readers and directly affect your business. While each situation is different, there are some tried-and-true guidelines to remember when publicly dealing with negative reviews:

  • Make sure you’re in a calm and collected state of mind before replying.
  • Endeavor to make the reviewer felt heard and understood.
  • Focus on the facts, but avoid engaging in a direct debate (unless necessary… see below).
  • If appropriate, offer to “make things right” by giving the reviewer another opportunity to experience the level of service you take pride in, refunding them, or whatever else seems conciliatory.
  • Do confront, in a respectful tone, any abusive or blatantly false claims. Also report these to the review website itself, as they would likely be in violation of the site’s terms of service.
  • Above all, try to look at your response with fresh eyes before publishing it. Asking a friend or colleague to proof it can also be helpful. When dealing with negative reviews, it’s easy for defensiveness to sneak into our replies, undermining the effort to approach them with understanding and professionalism.

A Team Effort
Delivering top-notch service in today’s hearing market means providing warm and professional interactions every step of the way. For many practices, the front desk staff needs to be as committed to this goal as much as the practice owner for patients to receive the level of service they would write a review for.
To encourage your staff to consistently provide excellent patient support, consider offering incentives for receiving a certain number of reviews that mention the staff, or even a staff member by name. At the very least, remind your staff often of the main purpose of your business: to improve people’s lives through healthy hearing (served with a smile, of course).
Running your own practice is hard work, but receiving positive feedback about the difference you’re making in your patients’ lives can be all you need to remember why you do what you do. At AudiologyPlus, we like to encourage this kind of positive feedback through efficient website design. Our custom-built ReviewMe plugin makes leaving a review for your hearing practice a simple two-click process—straight from your website. This removes the confusion patients can face when trying to navigate different review sites online, and greatly increases the odds of them leaving you the 5-star review you deserve. Contact us to learn more.