Frustrated woman looks at computer

Can You Pay to Remove Negative Online Reviews?

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.

Woman is buying OTC hearing aids

Marketing Your Practice in a Post-OTC Hearing Aids World

Long before the Over-the-Counter (OTC) Hearing Aid Act was signed into law last August, hearing professionals across America were hotly debating its consequences. The legislation drew support from both sides of the aisle and gained notable coverage by the media, raising awareness of both the need for hearing treatment and the potential for more affordable options.
The Act requires the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) to create a new class of OTC hearing aids for adults aged 18 and over with mild to moderate loss. While the FDA has at least 3 years to implement this requirement, public and private pressures may very well accelerate their timeline for compliance.
As a practice owner and hearing healthcare professional, the OTC Act poses several new questions for your business. The main consideration is whether you’ll choose to offer OTC hearing aids as part of your product portfolio. Several factors should play into this decision, including a thorough analysis of your local market, your competitor’s offerings, and the overall priorities of your practice.
No matter what you choose, your marketing strategy will need to be tailored to your decision. If your product offerings expand, you’ll want to spread the news. If you decide to target those unaffected by the Act, such as minors and those with severe to profound hearing loss, you’ll need to adjust your ad content and placements. As you evaluate your options for practicing in a post-OTC Act world, consider the following tactics for maintaining a strong marketing strategy.
Be Prepared
Nobody really knows how fast OTC hearing aids will hit the market once the FDA finishes its preparations for this new class of instruments. Large hearing aid companies have already begun to seek partnerships with smaller manufacturers of newer hearing devices, such as hearables, and are aware of the demand awaiting the release of OTC models.
Hearing aid manufacturers are very familiar with the benefits of being “first to market” with any new technology, and value-oriented hearing aids are no exception. Similarly, hearing professionals who proactively position themselves for this shift in the hearing industry will gain as well.
Whether you include OTC hearing aids in your product portfolio or not, you should prepare your marketing strategy well before you need to implement it. If you’re deciding to focus your practice on non-OTC patients, you could even begin that targeting before OTC’s are released. The goal is to catch the wave of patients seeking something specific as soon as they begin to flood the market. Trying to catch up with the tide can be a disappointing struggle.
Service Oriented
Despite the appeal of more affordable and readily accessible OTC hearing aids, consumers have made it clear that they do prefer hands-on service. In fact, a recent study by Indiana University found that patients who received audiologist services along with their new hearing aid were nearly twice as likely to want to keep their hearing aids than those who simply bought preprogrammed OTC devices without any services. Having the help of a professional to reassure, readjust, and respond to questions is a valuable offering that every practice should be highlighting.
Even if you decide to include OTC hearing aids (and especially if you don’t), be sure to tailor your marketing content and website copy to reflect the personalized care you offer. Draw attention to your follow-up support and commitment to patient satisfaction. At the end of the day, OTC hearing aids will never be able to compete with hands-on, patient-centered care.
Get Your Target Right
This might seem overly obvious, but it’s worth calling out: you need to accurately target your market. In fact, your marketing will only ever be as strong as your targeting is. As you endeavor to adjust your marketing to reflect your practice with or without OTC hearing aids, your targeting should shift accordingly.
Maybe you want to just focus on higher-end instruments, thus causing you to target those who can afford them. If you plan to bring OTC hearing aids into your practice, you can cast a wider net with your ad content and placements, but eventually, you should narrow down who tend to be the most responsive to your OTC offerings and target them specifically.
Keep in mind: market targeting is rarely a quick process. For the best results, marketers test ad placements time and time again until they begin to see strong conversion rates. In order to continuously improve your targeting efforts, you need to know where inquiring patients first heard about your services. Was it a Google search? A print ad? Seeing your listing on Yelp, perhaps? Sure, you can conjure up some educated guesses of where your market is most accessible, but that will remain a guess until you can confirm it otherwise.
Reviews Matter
It’s true, we bring this topic up often (see here, here and here). But the truth is, in a post-OTC world, online reviews are more important than ever. More patients will be coming to see you because of the care you provide — not just the products you can get them. And where do people find out about the quality of your care? Yep, online reviews.
The classic approach to getting great reviews by simply giving great service will always remain true. It’s the bedrock of any review management strategy. But with online reviews, there are other important elements (and data) to consider. Did you know that 70% of people are more likely to leave you a review if you simply ask them to? Many business owners fail to take this incredibly simple step to improve their online review status.
Another key element of a successful review strategy is to make leaving you a review efficient and simple. In fact, it’s why we developed this handy tool to make leaving your practice a review a quick 2-click process — directly from your website. Delivering excellent care, asking for patients to share their experience, and then giving them the easiest route to do so is a winning combination for a steady stream of glowing reviews.
As you begin evaluating whether your practice wants to include OTC hearing aids in your offerings or not, consider how your local market would respond to a shift in your marketing approach. For deeper analysis, you could even do a soft test on how they would react to you including some more affordable options (such as PSAPs or custom earbuds) in your lineup. Your goal with any marketing campaign is to track, adjust, and repeat.
OTC hearing aids present both opportunities and challenges for hearing practices, but with the right marketing approach, you can absolutely leverage their availability to benefit your practice and the patients you serve.
 

Woman is frustrated while looking at her computer

How to Avoid Yelp’s “Not Recommended” Abyss

Consumer reviews are hard to ignore these days, covering everything from local pizza joints to orthopedic surgeons. With just a few taps on our phones or computers, we can quickly read up on what others have to say about any given product or service provider.
In fact, a whopping 97% of consumers reported going online last year to do just that. Even more interesting are the 85% of consumers who reported that they trust an online review just as much as personal recommendations from people they know.
Despite the deeper implications, patient reviews in the world of healthcare are no different. Love them or hate them, online reviews are here to stay. The most popular review sites tend to be Yelp, Google, and Facebook, but recent surveys have found that, for patients looking for a healthcare provider, Yelp is the most used review site while Healthgrades is the most trusted.
With an average of 145 million visitors monthly, it’s no surprise that Yelp remains the most popular review site online. From a consumer perspective, it’s easy to see why: more visitors translates into more reviews, and more reviews offer the most information on any given business or service.
Business owners, however, might find some aspects of Yelp’s review management less appealing. Namely, their infamous “not recommended” reviews, which are buried at the far bottom of the page underneath a grayed out title  “reviews that are not recommended.” This is where reviews that have been filtered out by Yelp’s algorithm are shown.
Yelp is upfront about their filtering of reviews, and explain that while their software’s algorithm for deciphering potentially inauthentic reviews isn’t perfect, it’s designed to target reviews that aren’t helpful. In a sense, this can be great for small businesses. If a disgruntled competitor decides to leave a fake review on your business’s Yelp page, the system should be able to detect it and bury it beneath the “not recommended” filter. Unfortunately, though, the reverse is sometimes true: Yelp’s filtering algorithm is known for burying legitimate, positive reviews as well.
Let’s face it—you work hard for every positive review you receive. Despite the large number of people reading and relying on reviews to make decisions, only a small fraction of review site visitors take the time to leave reviews for businesses. To finally receive a glowing review and then watch it get hidden in the “not recommended” section of Yelp is just plain frustrating. Especially when Yelp is known for a lack of responsiveness to complaints about its review filtering.
Fortunately, there are some measures you can take as a business owner to help improve the odds of keeping your reviews where other people can easily see them. Yelp’s filtering algorithm has never been fully transparent, leaving review experts and business owners alike trying to decipher best practices for staying on its good side.
Ultimately, collective experience has shown that the stronger the reviewer’s presence is on Yelp, the better their reviews will be received by its algorithm. Below are a few elements of what a “strong presence” entails.
Have more than one review.
If you click to see the “reviews not currently recommended,” you’ll likely notice that many of the reviews in that section are from Yelp users with only one or two reviews on their profile. The algorithm is looking at many factors to determine the degree of review authenticity, and it appears that the total number of reviews left by the reviewer in question is a large factor. This is understandable, considering that a review from someone who just signed up to leave it is more likely to have been requested, incentivized, or even intended to detract from a competitor—motives that Yelp wants to identify and discourage.
If a patient mentions wanting to leave you a review on Yelp, it can be helpful to let them know that they should leave a few different reviews for other businesses as well if they want their reviews to remain seen. It’s also important to avoid offering any incentive or reward for leaving a review (even if there’s no requirement that it’s a positive one), as this can have long-lasting consequences on your Yelp listing if discovered (i.e. a reviewer casually mentions it in their review, etc). Unlike other review sites, like Google and Facebook, Yelp explicitly requires that businesses avoid asking for reviews at all. They want reviews to arise organically, the way they would in a conversation with friends.
Bring on the photos.
Yelp profiles with a profile picture and other uploaded images also tend to fair better with their reviews. Experts agree that having a complete profile on Yelp, with all areas filled out and the addition of images from various experiences with local businesses, can strongly boost your appeal to the system’s algorithm. Similar to leaving more than just one review, having a complete profile bolsters your legitimacy as an authentic reviewer on Yelp.
Again, just mentioning that having a profile that’s been filled out entirely, including a profile picture and a few other photos, will help a patient’s reviews from being hidden can be enough to encourage them to do so. While it might seem cumbersome for them, or too much to ask, it’s actually easy for Yelp users to meet this suggestion within just a few minutes.
Make friends.
It’s easy to forget that Yelp is a social networking site. Very active Yelpers have thousands of friends on Yelp, lending significant credibility to their account. Luckily, reviewers don’t actually need thousands of friends for their reviews to remain unfiltered, but having a few can go a long way.
The best way to encourage your own potential reviewers to gain friends on Yelp is to suggest they sign up through Facebook if they don’t yet have a Yelp profile. This is a simple option when they’re on the Yelp sign-up page, and will automatically propagate a profile picture for them and suggest friends to add from their Facebook friends list. It makes creating a more legitimate account fast and easy.
 
You might be wondering how you’re supposed to make these suggestions while also avoiding asking for reviews on Yelp in the first place. The best way to encourage patients to review you on Yelp is to place their logo where your patients will see it: on your website and at your front desk. It’s one of the reasons we built a custom review application to make it as easy as possible for your patients to review your services directly from your website.
You can also encourage your patients to “review your business online,” without specifically mentioning Yelp. If they ask where to do so, you can simply mention all of the review sites that are helpful for your business—namely, the most popular ones: Google, Yelp, Facebook, and Healthgrades.
The truth is, when you’re busy delivering exceptional services to your patients, getting reviews from them will come naturally. Patients who have been surprised by your level of care and attention are inclined to express their gratitude, and these days, leaving a glowing review online is akin to a thank you card from years past.
If online reviews aren’t a part of your digital marketing strategy yet, they should be. By using proactive technology and strategy, you can harness the power and popularity of online reviews for your own business.

Person evaluating their marketing data

How to Prepare for Your Best Year Yet

The strength of a business can be measured by its capacity to adapt and rapidly respond to the shifting needs of its market. We see this across every sector, in every era of marketplace history. And it’s no surprise—people choose what they like, and their likes change. These days, in the Digital Age, it seems like consumer preferences change more rapidly than ever.
Fortunately, as a hearing healthcare practice, your services will never be unnecessary. With a record number of people with unmet hearing care needs, you certainly don’t need to worry about your “target market” disappearing anytime soon. But you do need to consider if this large population of potential patients is discovering what you offer—and if they’re being enticed to inquire further. Your practice thrives on a specific threshold of new patients each month, so your main task is to ensure you’re getting in front of fresh eyes on a regular basis.
Yes, this is Marketing 101, and surely comes as no surprise. What is surprising, though, is how few practice owners take the time to thoroughly review their marketing strategies. In fact, many have yet to put a thorough marketing plan together at all. If you fall into either of these camps, but only because your practice is too busy with new patients to afford you the time for such luxuries—well then, you’re doing just fine. For now, that is… as the vast majority of hearing healthcare professionals will attest to the famed “patient plateau” that occurs eventually in most hearing practices. Having a successful marketing strategy in place before that plateau hits means you likely won’t ever see it in your practice.
So what does an effective review of your marketing plan even look like? Perhaps you have already set up specific metrics for tracking the success of various marketing campaigns or tactics you’ve used this past year. If not, there are several simple ways to analyze whether your current strategy is working for you or not. At the end of the day (and certainly by the end of the year) any time, effort, and money you put into spreading the word about your services should be getting paid back to you—in surplus—by the new patients you’re acquiring as a result.
The Past 12 Months
To begin this review, you need to select the time period you want to analyze the strategies you’ve used so far. As the end of the year (and the financial quarter) approaches, this is an excellent time to review the past 12 months. Didn’t have any marketing strategies or plans in place this year? Or maybe you only had them active for part of the year? Lucky for you this 12-month review is useful in either case.
If you haven’t implemented any targeted or intentional marketing tactics (i.e. postcards, special offerings, digital ads, online review management, search engine optimization/SEO for your website, etc), then you will make this review your baseline to compare all future years against. It will provide you with valuable data about what was happening organically in your practice—that is, without any concentrated marketing efforts on your part—to what happens when you do concentrate your attention on marketing your services.
If you’ve only applied marketing strategies for part of the last year, this review is useful because it has you review your patient data month by month. It gives you a chance to begin the comparison process by looking at your data from months without marketing efforts in place and watching for any changes in that data as you applied different strategies or campaigns.
Key Patient Data
While you can get as granular and detailed as you want with analyzing new patient data (depending on how much information you collect from each patient), the most important details you want to gather for each of the past 12 months are:

  1. The number of patient inquiries (by phone, email, or in person) you received
  2. The number of new patients you began seeing

Another very helpful piece of information is how patients (inquiring or new) found your practice in the first place, but not every practice asks this on their intake forms or in their communications. If you have this data, definitely track it. If you don’t, consider making it a standard question for all new patient forms, or emails and calls responding to inquiries. This single metric is the best way for you to track the effectiveness of your outreach efforts.
Lay it All Out
Your approach to laying out your month by month comparison will be largely determined by your own preferences. You can get as fancy and graph or chart oriented as you’d like, but the basic approach is to create a grid (or a spreadsheet). Title each column as a month from the previous year and label the rows below that header with the data categories your practice has been tracking (i.e. New Patients, Patient Inquiries, How They Found Us). Next, simply add the numbers you’ve collected. If you want to look at your conversion trends (the percentage of inquiries converted into new patients), simply divide the number of new patients by the number of inquiries. When finished, your grid will look something like this:
Compare Marketing Streams
Once you have this base data in your grid, you can add information to each month for any marketing efforts you had actively in place. If you sent mailers out in February, you’d mention that in the February column. If you invested in proper SEO for your website in March, you’d place that effort in March and every month thereafter (since it will only continue to increase traffic to your website). Word of mouth (WOM) should always be an organic source of new patients, but if your practice created a referral incentive at some point, you’d definitely want to note that in the month it began, and all months thereafter.
By having your marketing efforts listed alongside your new patient and inquiry data, you’ll get a quick and clear picture of the overall effectiveness of your strategies. You would need information from new and inquiring patients about how they learned about your practice to be able to compare the effectiveness of each marketing avenue independently, so it’s worth collecting that information sooner than later.
Taking the time to clearly lay out your practice’s history of attracting new patients offers a clear picture of the direction your business is heading in. Perhaps your numbers show that a more comprehensive marketing plan would be beneficial. Or maybe this process will encourage you to collect more data for the year ahead. No matter where you’re at right now, having this information gives your practice a launchpad to leap from. The Internet has made reaching a large audience easier (and more cost-effective) than ever. Never before has marketing been so accessible. Why not take advantage of all it has to offer?
 

Women talking in a group

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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Online Reviews & Their Role in Your Practice

Shopping online has become a popular practice, with everything from groceries to furniture being available for online purchase and next-day delivery. The rapid rise of online purchases even has some experts warning of the complete extinction of brick and mortar stores in the not-too-distant future.
Dire predictions aside, it’s hard to deny the usefulness of making purchases online: they’re fast, easy, can be done in your pajamas, and offer you a quick comparison of similar items. Perhaps the most useful of all, however, is the ability to peruse online reviews of the products you’re considering. And you better believe those online reviews are there—they’re everywhere.
Online reviews have been increasingly reshaping the consumer’s relationship with product manufacturers and service providers alike. And it’s showing no sign of slowing down. A BrightLocal survey found that 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation—despite the fact that these reviews are coming from complete strangers.
It’s not even uncommon these days to see people looking up online reviews of products that they are physically shopping for in a local store. Crowdsourcing information on products and services has become the norm because nobody wants to be in the dark about a helpful warning or tip on a given item or provider.
As a healthcare practice, online reviews can present a unique set of challenges. It can often be frustrating to read a negative review from a patient who was given legitimately good service, but didn’t hear the result he or she had hoped for. A lack of appreciation for the technical background and professional obligations a provider has is common, and these are difficult details to communicate once a stone has already been thrown. Indeed, critics have often likened popular review websites, like Yelp and Healthgrades, to the bathroom walls. Anonymity can easily breed exaggeration.
Despite these challenges, it’s clear that online reviews are on the rise and consumer reliance on them is increasing as well. And the good news is that there are real benefits to be had. First off, service providers who acknowledge and work with the power of online reviews notice their search rankings in search result pages soar rapidly as more people leave them reviews on different websites. Additionally, even though negative reviews can be frustrating and difficult to accept, they at least offer a chance for the provider to give a professional reply—often giving the provider the last word. All in all, the increasing use of online reviews means more marketing happening on your behalf, and at no additional cost.
The most important thing to remember about online reviews is that they begin with that first handshake and end with your last keystroke. Of course you want to always offer services that leave patients satisfied and engaged, but even more, you want to reply to the reviews you do end up getting—both the good and the bad (especially the bad).
Your responsiveness on the most popular review websites, like Yelp, Healthgrades, Google, and Facebook, says a lot about your practice to prospective patients. It’s their little window into the type of person you are and the professionalism you practice. It’s also a free and easy way to give yourself an indirect introduction to literally thousands of potential patients who peruse those pages.

At this point, you might be thinking about time. As in, who has the time to monitor their online reviews like this? The answer to this varies, but for busy professionals who don’t want to let their online reviews lay fallow or, even worse, work against them, online services often become the next best option. There are numerous services that claim to not only manage your online reviews, but to even increase them, and our sound advice is always: buyer beware.
It’s important not to take for granted how sophisticated online shoppers are these days. Fake reviews often stand out as an awkward attempt at self-promotion and can quickly have a negative effect. It’s also important that the response you make to a critical review is well-written, understanding, and professional. In other words, it needs to be in your voice. If considering an online review-management service, select one that ensures you will be notified when your direct response is needed. Your future patients will appreciate it.
Approach this new landscape of search-before-you-choose healthcare with the sense of opportunity it provides. Never before have local providers been able to reach such a wide range of interested patients so easily. Never before has a provider with one angry patient been able to reply to his or her negative experience. And never before has the internet paved a way for healthcare practices to soar above the rest with a long tail of glowing reviews. You too can launch your practice to new heights with proper online review management.