When you put so much work into making your patients happy, it can be a shock to get an unfavorable online review. Having a plan to deal with negative feedback will help you maintain your reputation and avoid letting emotions take control in these situations.
With 90 percent of consumers using online reviews to inform their decisions about local businesses, reviews form a prominent part of your practice’s online presence. And now, as people are increasingly using their phones to search for a dentist, reviews have become even more important because they are integrated into navigation apps.
If it hasn’t happened quite yet, eventually your practice is going to receive a bad review—it’s just a fact of running a business. Perhaps there was a misunderstanding with a team member or a scheduling slip-up, and now you have an unhappy patient and a one-star review on Google or Yelp to deal with. Where do you begin?
If handled the right way, resolving criticisms can be an excellent opportunity to improve your practice, build your reputation and strengthen your relationship with a patient.
Follow these five guidelines for handling negative reviews of your practice:
- Calm Down and Assess the Situation
When you pour your heart and soul into making your practice the best it can be, a harsh review can feel like a personal attack. Before responding to anything online or asking team members what happened, take a few deep breaths and remember that listening is your greatest tool in situations like these.
Gather as much information as you can from team members about the patient’s experience at your practice and which of their expectations were not met. This will help you know how best you can meet this patient’s needs, and could also reveal a hitch in your system that might cause more problems in the future.
- Reach Out Quickly
Responsiveness is the key to all customer service efforts. The quicker you get in touch with a patient and resolve their complaint, the higher the likelihood of them leaving satisfied—possibly with an even higher opinion of your practice than before.
If the patient has left a review on a platform where you can respond with a comment (like Google, Facebook, or Yelp), do so promptly to let them know you’re eager to correct the problem.
- Apologize and Empathize
We know the old adage about “the customer always being right” isn’t applicable one hundred percent of the time. But what is always true is that people just want to know they’re being heard.
When responding to a negative review, let the patient know that you understand their frustration and that you’re on their side. Never take a tone that could be interpreted as argumentative or condescending. Have one or two team members take a look at your drafted response and tell you how they would feel in the patient’s situation.
- Make It Up to Them
How you make amends with an unsatisfied patient will largely only be between you and them. However, in the public reviews space, you can let other people know through your comment response that you’re a practice that wants to make things right.
You don’t need to go into detail, but you should propose a solution and invite the patient to get in touch with you as soon as possible. For example, “We deeply apologize that the whitening trays have not met your expectations. We would like to replace them or provide another whitening solution free of charge. Please call us as soon as you can at 555-5555.”
- Afterward, Ask for an Updated Review
After — and only after — you have fully addressed a patient’s complaint, thank them for giving you the opportunity to resolve the issue and ask if they would consider updating their review. If it’s a patient that has had multiple visits with you, chances are there are a lot of things they like about your practice, and there was just that one issue causing a rift between you.
By doing this, not only have you saved the relationship with that patient, you’ve also gained a positive review!
Managing your reviews is a more important part of your online presence than ever before—but this doesn’t mean you can ensure every review will be five stars. What you can do is treat every review, positive or negative, as an opportunity to learn, strengthen relationships with patients and improve your practice.
About the Author
Jackson Hadley is a marketing strategist with My Social Practice, which provides a complete social media marketing solution for dental, orthodontic and optometric practices. A public relations specialist, Jackson combines the advertising and trust-building aspects of social media to help businesses connect authentically with their communities.