By Nancy Rausman
Managing Editor, EyeCarePro
August 15, 2018
In my ROB article, “Top Ways to Generate More (Good) Online Reviews,” I discussed ways to generate positive online reviews for your practice. These strategies are great for your happy patients, but what about your not-so-happy patients? We all have disgruntled customers at some point, and unfortunately, they are often the ones who feel compelled to report on their experiences. How can you handle these inevitable negative reviews while mitigating damage to your practice reputation?
Step 1: Respond
The best way to deal with a negative response is to respond. A lack of response keeps the customer (your patient) fuming, may perpetuate further negative discussion, and may send the message that you don’t care. You have poured your heart and soul into building your practice, so you want to stay calm, professional and positive, put your best foot forward, and try not to get defensive. While it may take time for the emotional impact of the insult to subside, you want to respond fairly quickly.
The first, and often best, approach is to reach out to the reviewer directly offline, first by phone and then by e-mail or text. Forget about the internet for a moment – this is where you get to flex your customer service muscles, and try to smooth over the situation with your disgruntled patient. We have witnessed many cases of the patient just needing to be heard, and once the doctor was able to rectify the situation personally, the patient was happy, went back and changed the review, and sometimes even turned into an “evangelist” of the practice.
Now, be warned, this will not happen every time – you can’t win them all. In other cases, the patient’s attitude may not have changed, however you will have done what you could to rectify the situation, and hopefully, halt further negative discussion online. Even when you “agree to disagree” it is still worthwhile to relay to the patient that you appreciate that they took time to provide their feedback and that you wish things had turned out differently.
Even if the patient doesn’t change the review, you want to take your exceptional customer service to the screen and respond to the review directly on the site. This sends a message to the other visitors to the site that you care, and allows them to witness how you deal with the situation. This, however, can be tricky because of HIPAA, so you want to keep your response general, and make sure you don’t reference any personal health information…but this is a whole other topic.
Here are tips for generating a response that sends the right message and steers clear of any HIPAA violations:
RESPOND QUICKLY. Visitors to the review site will notice the timeliness of your response, and with a quick response time to address the complaint, fewer visitors will see the bad review in isolation. You don’t need to have a resolution sorted out when you respond. What’s important is to acknowledge the reviewer’s disappointment and guarantee to resolve the issue when you speak to them directly.
From a search engine optimization perspective, it’s best to respond to every review and to do so as they come in, or every few days, rather than waiting to respond to a bunch at once. This is because frequency of updates on Google My Business Page is a ranking factor, so the more often you are replying to reviews, the more active your page appears.
START WITH THE POSITIVE. First and foremost, be sure to thank the reviewer for taking the time to bring the issue to your attention, and let them know that their feedback is important and taken seriously. Also reference positive aspects of the review to reinforce them. For example, “I’m glad to hear that you like the frames you chose, yet, I am very sorry to hear that the delivery time was not up to the standards we try to maintain…” Be careful not to breach any HIPAA standards in the online communication.
BE GENERAL. You don’t want to get specific, or personal, in your response, both for the sake of professionalism and for HIPAA compliance. Use neutral language such as, “Our staff strives to do their best to provide exceptional service. Nevertheless, mistakes can, and do, happen and I look forward to resolving the issue you raise.”
DON’T DISCUSS COMPENSATION ONLINE. When appropriate, discuss this offline directly with the reviewer.
GET A SECOND OPINION. Before you post the response, ask a neutral third party to review it to see how it comes across to them. You may think you’re being friendly and non-confrontational, but that’s not necessarily the way it may sound to another person.
Here is an example of an EyeCarePro client who took the approach outlined above with wonderful results. A patient left a very negative, 1-star review for the Texas State Optometry Clinic. The practice reached out to the reviewer, apologized and resolved the issue. The reviewer not only went back and changed the rating to five stars, but wrote a glowing review about the service she received.
Another example is Milton Eye Care. Once again a patient left a poor review. The doctor apologized professionally on the page and offered to discuss the issue further. Clearly it was resolved, as the reviewer deleted the old review and left another 5-star review in its place!
Step 2: Get More Good Reviews
First off, a little perspective. While it can feel like a tremendous blow to get hit with a bad review, keep in mind that it’s not the end of the world. In fact, when mixed in with a lot of good reviews, a couple of not-so-great reviews can boost your reputation, as it adds validity to the scope of your review profile. When users come across a lone bad review here or there, they will likely chock it up to a mistake, or the reviewer being a difficult customer, or having a bad day.
So, the answer to this is to balance those negative reviews with even more good reviews. How? This brings us back to my last article about increasing your reviews, and here is yet another reason why this is so important. Whether you are trying to increase your online presence, or repair your reputation, reviews are a crucial part of your business success, especially when it comes to getting new patients. Don’t let this fall by the wayside. Make sure you have a system in place to stay on top of your online reviews – it could save your practice reputation.
Nancy Rausman is managing editor at EyeCarePro, which provides ECPs with educational content that helps them advance their practices through technology, management strategies and digital marketing. EyeCarePro is one of the leading providers of online marketing and practice improvement services in the industry. EyeCarePro serves both industry and practices and is the only company of its kind solely focused on the optometric space. To contact: firstname.lastname@example.org