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.

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