By Charles Turner, OD
Solicit and manage patient feedback online to build your practice’s brand in your community.
SOLICIT: Ask present patients to write reviews.
MANAGE: Take an active hand in your reviews.
RESPOND: Make service recovery calls.
Online reviews are too often something that happens to an OD rather than a tool ODs proactively use to better their relationship with patients and the community. In my practice, we are very aware of the power of online reviews on sites like Yelp, and the need to not only respond once a review has been posted, but to solicit positive reviews and feedback from patients. In fact, we even have our own review page on our practice web site where patients can post comments about their experience with us. Taking the lead by soliciting feedback, and then providing a platform on your own site for reviews, allows you greater power in shaping your practice image and in connecting with patients. Here is how we make the most of the opportunities enabled by online reviews.
A positive review is your marketing campaign! If patients comment on your low-wait times, market your low-wait times! Not only does this tell the office what patients are looking for; it also provides positive feedback that reflects well on your practice. Positive patient reviews have contributed to changing the emphasis of our office in certain areas. By working with products that take into account the patient experience, we encourage positive patient reviews.
Reviews are currently a popular trend. Customers and patients are used to reading them and gathering information. Most optometrists are great at what they do, so why not let your patients brag about you and your office? Allow your patients to be your office sales reps and the voice of your practice.
Actively Solicit Reviews–and Post Them Right On Your Practice Web Site
Actively pursuing patient reviews has been a priority for our office since 2009. In a competitive market, our office felt like we wanted to differentiate ourselves in any way that we could. By encouraging the review process, we not only allow our patients to give us valuable feedback, but we also allow our patients to provide insight into the experience they receive. The platforms we have chosen to work with to reach out to patients for feedback are Facebook, digital newsletters, and a review encouragement software from DemandForce that engages every patient after their exam.
We currently use DemandForce as our software to encourage the review process. For $300 per month, this software’s main functionsare facilitating reviews and assisting with patient communication and recall. A simple conversation with my IT professional to let him know that we wanted these reviews to appear on our site is all it took to push these to our web site. We find that patients often check our office’s web site prior to making an appointment. By encouraging the review process on our site, it has greatly increased the traffic.
Ask Patients Who Have a Positive Experience
If a patient mentions a positive experience to me or any of my staff, we encourage them to share their experience; whether that be word of mouth, or digitally. While we don’t offer an incentive for posting a review, we do have a popular referral program at our office.
Set Up System for Managing Reviews
We follow the reviews from our practice every Friday afternoon. We have dedicated 15 minutes a week of staff time to this. I have an assigned staff member who scans the reviews that we receive. She e-mails out every positive review that she receives to the whole staff; you can never have too much positive reinforcement! Also, we compile the reviews to track what our patients like about the experience in our office. This allows us to have an effective marketing campaign by using patient feedback. We also print some of our favorite positive reviews and have them displayed in the office.
When we receive a less than five-star review, my office manager and I review them specifically, and decide on a proper service recovery. A simple phone call usually resolves any negative feedback, and allows patients to have their voice heard. No matter what your service recovery process is, the rule of thumb is to address them promptly and over the phone. While we don’t make many service recovery phone calls, they are a high priority as to limit any negative word of mouth that may occur from an unresolved patient encounter.
Doctor Makes Service Recovery Calls
As doctor and practice leader, I usually make the service recovery phone calls. Our office feels the patient has their needs met best by hearing from the doctor. If a phone call needs to be made concerning billing or insurance, that call would be made by the office manager.
While negative reviews don’t happen often, having a simple process for response is important. My office manager and I review each one, and decide on a proper response. Normally, the response comes from me via a phone call. The rule of thumb on these calls is to listen, empathize and provide the service recovery. By following this process, we feel strongly that we limit negative word of mouth, which is the goal of a service recovery. Sometimes you keep the patient, sometimes you don’t. However, by making the call, you can limit the “negative referral” or anti-referral.
Positive Reviews Best Defense Against the Negative Reviews
What’s the best way to combat a negative review? By having ten-fold positive reviews. If you smother a negative review with 10 positive reviews on either side of it, most patients will realize 100 percent satisfaction is not attainable, and will discard the lone wolf. It can be difficult to read negative reviews, but they are a part of the digital world we live in. Encouraging the review process will not only neutralize negative reviews; they will make you stand out among your competition.
Managing Online Reviews: Making It Happen
Encourage patients: Kickoff with an e-mail campaign to ask for feedback, and show positive patient reviews in your e-newsletters. We send a quarterly digital newsletter that includes patient reviews to our patient base. As you receive positive remarks from your patients, encourage them to share their opinions with others.
Set a goal: Set a goal for the office to achieve 100 reviews in a period of time such as three months. This shows your staff that it’s a priority. Use positive reviews in all staff meetings, and quick weekly e-mails.
Market positive reviews. You can do this by using a system such as DemandForce to not only encourage reviews, but also have the reviews posted right to your practice web site.
Establish a service recovery process for negative reviews. For example, this system can include support staff monitoring reviews daily and the doctor calling patients him or herself to resolve serious issues such as those connected with a service failure.
Discuss positive reviews at staff meetings. Positive reviews can reinforce good staff performance and can show employees that their hard work has been recognized by patients and their practice leader.
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