March 1, 2016
by Dr. Janice Goodman
Online reputation from testimonials are said to be more important now than the old gold standard, word of mouth. Affinity, authenticity, relevance, video leverage, testimonial triggers are some of the new lingo. My email inbox is inundated with marketers trying to profit off me, by helping me achieve “quality” patient testimonials. The Royal College of Dental Surgeons of Ontario does not want dentists to have testimonials on their web sites. This stuff has me a little flustered at best.
Here are some facts. By the time you are reading this, they will be outdated. There are 225 million people per year looking online to find a doctor, and 20 plus million of those folks are specifically searching for a dentist. Big numbers.
Of those 20 million who are looking online for a dentist, 54 percent will schedule an appointment and 38 percent will schedule an appointment on the same day. A large number will also check online reviews four to five times over several months before they decide to make an appointment – keeping a short list of sorts. Seventy-two percent of the people looking for a dentist are female, and the ladies are the ones most likely to actually call and book.
Although there are some 40 to 50 online sites that include doctor reviews, the biggest players in Canada are Yelp, RateMDs and Google plus. As of today, there are 142 million monthly visitors to Yelp and greater than 50 million people will end up downloading Google Maps or checking out your local reviews. They likely will only check you out if your reviews have an average of at least four out of five stars. You cannot elect to be on it or not. They get the lists of new graduates and voila.
Yes, good reviews can be a nice pat on the back, but you always feel like you have a target on your back too. You are always looking over your shoulder for a one star dart heading to your sites. Reviews can and have been used for extortion – one day you might get a call demanding money to remove a false review on your site. Don’t expect the police or the Internet Site to help you with that one. Competitors can target you. YOU would never do that. YOU know that YOU can get caught.
If you do get a malicious review, don’t jump to the conclusion that it wasn’t a patient. There are legal routes to find out. A subpoena and some legal advice might get you a name and IP address. Nothing is more important than your reputation, especially your Internet reputation, and you should do what it takes to protect it. If all else fails, the best way to hide a bad review is by burying it with better reviews which might include paying money to some of the websites for the privilege of manipulating and/or hiding reviews. There is a retired chiropractor that advertises on Google that he will post a good review on the site of your choice, for only five dollars!
There’s the disgruntled patient. They leave the office, cell phone in hand, and have posted a career destroying review, before they hit the sidewalk. This is the patient who thought that you overcharged, or didn’t spend enough time with them. These things happen and unhappy patients are most likely to text a post of something negative while they are still hot under the collar.
One way to avoid or reduce the above scenario, build your online reputation, and get more “quality” reviews is to subscribe to a good texting service specifically built for dentists. There are several, I use HappyPatient.co because it is only $50 a month and has been tailored to meet my particular needs and what I consider is professionally acceptable.
With HappyPatient.co, when a patient leaves my office, at her discretion, my receptionist will mention that we will send them a text, particularly, if they are not happy about something, or the contrary. Fifteen minutes later, they receive the text on their smart phone and it thanks them for coming to our office that day, and that we appreciate their trust in us. Then it asks if there is any feedback that they would like to share with us. This is a venting opportunity and might prevent them from rushing off and posting something nasty elsewhere. Even more important, it gives us an opportunity to make things right for them and learn from the issue at hand. If they push a button that they were completely happy with their appointment, then they are offered a link to a rating site of my choice, so that this happy patient can be offered the opportunity to leave a patient testimonial. So far this has benefitted the office and appears to be win-win.
The patient will now also have a texting link to my office, which is a bonus with HappyPatient.co, so that communication does not have to be by phone or email. Most of the communication tools use emails over text right now- it’s significant. I am able to offer this texting option and I am surprised by how many patients elect to use it. My staff seems to like it too.
Why is having this kind of texting link a big deal these days? Besides saving money and receptionist time, 91 percent of us own smart phones and keep them within reach 24/7. 61% of cell phone users will leave your site if it’s not responsive or mobile ready. There are 400 million iMessage accounts, 800 million users of WhatsApp and over 1 billion on Facebook Messenger. Messages sent by text are picked up and responded to much quicker than email. Americans send 5 times as many texts now than emails and seventy-three percent prefer texting than speaking to someone on the phone. The typical young person will now exchange 109.5 messages on an average day. That’s 3,200 texts per month. Texting is supplanting both the telephone and email.
Clearly, life is becoming more impersonal all the time with the mobile smart phone becoming a personal appendage, but at the same time, the office will become more efficient and streamlined. Texts will be the most frequent source of testimonials. Patient testimonials and reviews are both building or attacking your most valuable asset as a dental professional – your reputation. Take notice. OH
Disclaimer: Dr. Goodman has no financial interest with any company mentioned in the editorial and is an unpaid advisor for HappyPatient.com.
Janice Goodman is the General Dentistry member of the Oral Health editorial board. She recently completed a Masters of Science in Oral Medicine and Orofacial Pain at USC and practices in downtown Toronto.