Social Media

Manage Negative Online Reviews to Win Over Patients

By Nathan Bonilla-Warford, OD

Critical reviews of your practice on blogs or medical ratings sites provide an opportunity for you to win back unhappy patients, and gain new patients.

Negative Review
Dos and Don’ts

Henry Kikunaga, OD,of Choice Vision Optometry, in Chula Vista, Calif., offered me the followingadvice for optometrists facing negative reviews.

DO directly contact thereviewer and defend your actions if needed, but always apologize that they left your practice unhappy.Always be civil with the patient.

DO, if possible–as on Yelp–reply to the review as a business owner. Remember, you always have to be carefulwhat you saybecause review sites are public forums.

DON’T get provoked into writing something that would hurt the practice or yourself. Remember, a message online can be taken in the wrong context, no matter how direct and explanatory you are.

DON’T have a “cut & paste” reply to a bad situation or a bad review. That will only further enrage the reviewer. Be personable and show you care.

DO, depending on the situation, offer some kind of good-faith incentive for them to stay with the practice.

Confront Your Negative Reviews
One of the great fears optometrists have about social media is that it will provide a platform for every dissatisfied, upset patient to speak ill ofthem andtheir practice. This is a reality. Review web sites like Google Places, Yelp, and a variety of online directories, give patients–happy and unhappy–places to express their feelings abouttheir eye doctor. For this reason, some optometrists refuse be a part of these sites. This is a mistake. These online reviews–good and bad–exist, and they are not going away. Fortunately, you can use them to your advantage.

All optometrists love to get rave reviews about themselves, their staff and their practice. But what about the bad reviews? While these may sting at first, it is essential to understand that these bad reviews, while rare, are normal. Use these as an opportunity to excel at customer service and show you care. A recent report shows that, if responded to appropriately, a negative review will be deleted by manycustomers (or patients)who then write a new, positive review, and become more loyal to the business.

Get Started: Claim Your Site
To get started, you will need to “claim” your review site.Many sites will already have a “placeholder” listing for the office.After you claim the listing then you can add all of the additional information.There is usually a button that says, “Are you the owner of this listing?” or “Claim this listing” that you can press. You can read more about this process in the related ROB article,Optimize Free Online Listings: No-Cost Revenue Booster.

Think About the Potential Upsides of Negative Reviews
Constructive criticism: Every practice has elements that can be improved such as patient communication, patient flow, staff error or product selection.

Demonstrate credibility:For a prospective patient reading your reviews, a handful of neutral or negativereviews will indicate that the reviews are real. Businesses that write multiple glowing reviews about themselves, or sites that delete all negative reviews, are not considered valid by patients. Sites that have a handful of negative reviews that are appropriately dealt with are considered useful. Patients want to see what people like them think and how they are treated.

Show you care:When you get a negative review and handle it in an efficient, respectful, professional way, it demonstrates how concerned you are for your patients. Even if it is too late to solve the initial issue, other patients will see that you tried.

Be a hero:In some cases, the negative review may have resulted from a miscommunication or easily fixable situation. If you can solve the problem immediately, the reviewermay edit the review to be positive and become more loyal than before.

Formulate a Strategy to Manage Negative Reviews
What is more important than the bad review is how you deal with it. If you are not monitoring your review sites, then you will not respond at all. This will be taken by patientsto meanyou either don’t know how, or don’t care to, respond. Neither is good for business. When you do respond, do not be emotional or defensive. This will only cause you to make the situation worse. Ruth Villeneuve of Social Visionaries agrees: “In dealing with a negative comment, the most important thing is to take a step back and try to evaluate the situation with as little emotion as possible.”

1. Research the situation. Try to identify the patient andwhether the practice was in error.

2. Respond to the review privately from the business review account, not from a personal account. After claiming the review site, take some time to learn what response options you have. Then, acknowledge their concerns and admit mistakes if they were made. Try to resolve the situation and make the patient feel like you understand why they were upset.

3. Respond publically. You have to be very careful because HIPAA applies. The only thing you can really do is show your concern and willingness to address the situation.

4. Use this as an opportunity for your staff to see things from the patients’ perspective and try to improve their customer service skills.
Related ROB Articles

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Dr. Nathan Bonilla-Warfordof Bright Eyes Family Vision Care in Tampa, Fla., is a graduate of Illinois College of Optometry.He isa member of the American Optometric Association, and is currently immediate past president of the Hillsborough Society of Optometry, as well as chair of the Children’s Vision Committee of the Florida Optometric Association. To contact him:

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