Keeping patients satisfied and loyal is critical to the operation of any practice and should be at the center of your dental marketing strategy. It’s just common sense: A satisfied patient is more likely to consistently return for care and, in turn, enjoy good oral health for years to come. As expected, however, every dental office has a dissatisfied patient now and again, unhappy customers who’ll share their opinions in the form of an online patient review.
With recent data showing that 76 percent of dental patients consider reviews very important, you can’t risk ignoring negative feedback and having it chip away at your reputation. Although negative reviews are usually few and far between, 62 per cent of healthcare providers say they’ve received a bad review from a patient.
The solution? Always respond to a dissatisfied patient’s feedback or negative review. Whether they’ve shared their experience privately with you, on your website, or along any number of sites like Google, Facebook, Healthgrades, or WebMD, addressing a patient’s concerns is a mandate for your business — and it’s sound customer service.
Fortunately, there is an organized and constructive way to address a patient’s concerns that can keep you looking good in the eyes of prospective patients. Follow these tactics to salvage a potentially bad relationship and even improve your online reputation.
1. Respond within 24-36 hours
Seventy-two per cent of patients begin their search for a healthcare provider by reading patient reviews. Even those who receive a personal or professional referral often head straight to business and healthcare review sites to check on a dentist’s reputation before booking an appointment. That’s why the longer you let a negative review linger online, the greater chance it could affect your opportunity to acquire new patients.
To properly manage potentially damaging reviews, keep an eye on all your review site listings. Add regular monitoring into your staff’s daily operation, checking to ensure that no disgruntled patients have taken their concerns to the web (and enjoy the newly added positive reviews, of course). If this cuts into your practice’s busy schedule, reputation management software options can help, alerting you when a review pops up online.
While it may be tempting to ignore online criticism, respond to the patient as soon as possible. Do so directly within the same forum to show others that you care, and are quickly addressing whatever the issue may be. The key is to act quickly.
2. Keep it short — and then take it offline
When responding, explicitly assure the patient their complaint has been heard. Remember that this person is upset, and has resorted to blowing off steam online. Prove to them, and any prospective patient reading your reply, that their concerns and feedback matter. It could be a simple, polite sentence such as “Thank you for letting me know about your experience at our practice. I understand your frustration.”
From there, be concise — a long reply can appear defensive and lead to oversharing — and speak professionally, and from the heart. Avoid canned or stock responses, and show that solving this issue is a top priority. Take time to craft a personal, unique response.
As part of your brief reply, offer to connect with the patient directly and invite them to call you to discuss resolving the issue. Hopefully, you’ll hear from the patient; even if you don’t, others will note your dedication to finding a resolution, and that matters.
Finally, make sure you thank the unhappy reviewer for their feedback. This might seem counterintuitive, but the patient has provided you with free, valuable information about how your dental practice can improve.
In your attempts to win back an unhappy patient, be assured that reaching out works. A recent PatientPop survey reveals that improvement in the satisfaction level among unhappy patients doubled when they were contacted by the practice to address their concerns.
3. Respond carefully and keep HIPAA in mind
However tempting it may be to apologize to an upset patient, in general, don’t. It’s okay if your practice ran behind schedule on a particular day, but you should absolutely refrain from admitting fault for anything related to care, diagnosis, or treatment, as any of these could be construed as malpractice.
It’s also imperative — both ethically and financially — to keep HIPAA rules in mind as you offer your reply. Even if you’re thoroughly familiar with HIPAA guidelines, it can be easy to forget some of the finer points that may present themselves in an online review.
For instance, if a patient divulges any aspect of their medical history as part of their online review, you cannot do the same in your reply — even though the patient already has. The consequences for doing so can include immense fines, depending on the situation.
Receiving negative feedback from patients can feel disheartening. But responding is a challenge that can be easily managed and is imperative to your business and your good will with patients. If you’re agitated by feedback, take a breath. Prepare a short response, read through it carefully, and post it with the knowledge that your efforts can help keep that patient — and attract more patients to your dental practice.
About the Author
Jared Jost is Vice President of Marketing, PatientPop, the market leader in healthcare practice growth technology. He has deep expertise and experience implementing integrated marketing campaigns, and helping businesses achieve their revenue goals.