Why Your Dental Practice Should Avoid Review Gating

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The Connect the Doc Team
June 14, 2023
min. read

Review gating could tarnish your dental practice’s online reputation and cost you time, money and patient leads

Patients expect your dental practice’s online reviews to be consistent with their experience when they visit your practice. This expectation is a basic human reaction. If someone recommends products or services to you, you would typically expect those products to be just as described. If they aren’t, you lose trust in the source of that recommendation. Likewise, when dental practices engage in review gating, they run the risk of tarnishing their online reputation and destroying their patients’ trust in them. 

In this article, we will define review gating and discuss the repercussions of gating your dental practice’s online reviews. We will also highlight Connect the Doc’s stance on review gating and why we do not recommend it for our clients. 

What is Review Gating?

Review gating is the process of filtering patients’ reviews to funnel only positive reviews for publication on dental review sites. This selective approach to gathering reviews allows only satisfied patients to share their reviews publicly. It filters patients with negative experiences as an attempt to increase the ratings of the dental practice. As such, review gating misleads prospective patients by giving them a false impression of the dental practice. 

Review gating typically occurs through manual or automated review collection processes that assess patients’ level of satisfaction with the service offered and only ask those patients, who are satisfied, to leave reviews. Satisfied patients’ reviews are published while unsatisfied patients may or may not be asked to leave feedback for internal analysis. 

Several dentists gate reviews because they think it is a sure-fire approach to increase their dental practice’s online reputation. However, the opposite is the case. Review gating can negatively impact your dental practice’s online reputation and marketing outcomes considerably. It might seem like a quick and harmless way to boost your dental practice’s chances of attracting more patients but in the long run, it could completely tarnish your reputation with patients and limit your access to review sites. 

How Does Review Gating Work?

1. Direct Select Patients To Review Sites 

Reviews are gated, verbally or digitally, when the dental practice prefaces its review request with a question that assesses the patient’s level of service satisfaction and only directs satisfied patients on how to leave reviews publicly. Usually, when reviews are gated verbally, the patients with negative experiences are either talked out of it or ignored. On the other hand, digital review gating may involve asking patients to leave feedback instead of publicly sharing their reviews. The dental practice may use the feedback to gain insights on the quality of its services.

Regardless of how it’s done—verbally or digitally—review gating allows for the selective publication of positive reviews. Such skewed public reviews may not reflect the experience of the average patient. This goes against the essence of online reviews and affects prospective patients’ decision-making process. More so, it makes it easy for dental practices to ignore the patients’ feedback and miss out on growth opportunities. 

2. Ask Only Preferred Patients For Reviews

With each appointment, dentists have a better understanding and knowledge of the patients who truly enjoy their dental care service and those who, frankly, do not. Although it may seem intuitive to ask preferred patients to leave reviews for your dental practice, it is malicious to only ask some patients and not others. As they complete their appointment, every patient should be encouraged to share their reviews. This shouldn’t depend on their relationship with the dentist or the team at the dental practice. Even disgruntled patients should be encouraged to share their reviews. 

When patients are encouraged to share their thoughts, feedback and reviews, they feel like they are a part of your dental family. It signals to them that you are focused on and care about your patients. If you gate your reviews by only asking preferred patients for their reviews, you’ll miss out on opportunities to improve your overall patient experience. 

3. Give Incentive For Only Positive Reviews

As part of their online reputation management strategy, some dental practices incentivize their patients to leave reviews. Incentives could be in the form of promotional discounts or free dental care services. While non-monetary incentives in exchange for reviews aren’t typically frowned upon, incentives that are purposely offered in exchange for only positive reviews are wrong and pose a threat to your dental practice’s growth. If you give incentives in exchange for positive reviews, it won’t be long before your patients begin to spread the word about this malicious act amongst other patients. Patients will eventually lose trust in your expertise and reputation.  

Why Your Dental Practice Should Avoid Review Gating?

1. Patients May Lose Trust In Your Dental Practice 

Trust is fundamental to every dentist-patient relationship. Patients need to know that they are in good care and safe hands when they visit a dentist’s office. To improve patient experience, dentists need to prove their expertise and trustworthiness to patients. The lesser your patients’ trust and confidence in you and your dental practice, the higher your patient attrition rate. In other words, as patients begin to lose trust in your expertise, care or quality of service, they start considering other options and eventually they won’t be repeat customers. 

With 8 out of 10 patients reading online reviews, patients rely on the words, opinions and recommendations of fellow patients to form an opinion about you and your practice. This is usually the first phase of the process of building trust between patients and dentists. Reviews lay the foundation of your patients’ trust in you. When patients’ expectations—based on the reviews they have read—aren’t met, they lose trust and confidence in you.

2. Negative Reviews Can Increase Your Lead Conversion Rate

Positive reviews don't automatically increase your patient lead generation or conversion rate. Although, positive reviews are a sign of good patient experience and satisfaction with your dental practice. Too many positive reviews could discourage prospective patients from patronizing your practice. 95% of your prospective patients will suspect that your reviews are fake or censored if your dental practice doesn’t have a good mix of positive and negative reviews. 

Negative reviews make your dental practice seem more authentic and realistic. Better yet, the way you reply to negative reviews on review sites could convince your prospective patients to schedule an appointment with you. If you already have lots of negative reviews and you are trying to skew your online reviews to be more positive, review gating will not help you filter out your negative reviews. Instead, you should report fake reviews on review sites to have them taken down. 

3. You Lose Valuable Insights About Your Dental Practice

Review gating robs you of opportunities to gather patient feedback and take action on them. If you verbally gate your reviews, chances are you are not gathering patient feedback. On the other hand, if you digitally gate your reviews, you may be gathering patient feedback. However, you may not be motivated to act on them because they may not have any direct impact on your dental practice. 

Reviews are your opportunity to gather patient feedback, learn more about your dental practice and use the insights you’ve gained to improve your patient experience and the quality of your service. When you ignore patient feedback, you run the risk of stunting your dental practice’s growth. More so, since you’re ignoring their concerns, your patients will not feel heard or appreciated. This could lead to an increase in your patient attrition rate. Negative reviews and patient feedback are essential to the continued growth of your dental practice. Don’t gate, avoid or ignore them. 

4. Your Dental Practice Could Face Legal Action

In 2015, Amazon sued over 1000 vendors on its site for review abuse as part of its attempt to discourage businesses from review gating and generating inauthentic reviews. Google’s content policies clearly state that businesses should not “prohibit negative reviews or selectively solicit positive reviews from customers.” Violators could be banned from Google’s business services and removed from platforms such as Google My Business and Google Maps

Similarly, review sites like Yelp have policies that discourage review gating. They punish violators by warning prospective patients of the dental practice’s history of review abuse or removing the dental practice’s profile from their websites. The potential repercussions of review gating are simply not worth the risk—or reward. A lawsuit could damage your dental practice’s reputation. If your dental practice is removed from essential dental review sites or banned from Google business services, your practice’s online visibility will decrease and you will lose potential patient leads. If nothing else discourages you from review gating, this should. 

Review Gating Does More Harm Than Good

Review gating does more harm than good for your dental practice. It may lead to a spike in positive reviews in the short term but over time, it could cost you patients, money, time and reputation. Your online reviews should be an accurate and authentic representation of your quality of service and patient experience.

As a company, Connect the Doc is against all forms of review gating, review abuse or fake reviews. We pride ourselves in working with dentists across North America to generate authentic reviews from their patients and automatically share them on top dental review sites. Through a holistic approach to dental marketing, our goal is to turn your patients into ambassadors, build your patients’ trust in your dental practice, boost your online reputation and help you generate more patient leads. 

Connect the Doc provides dental marketing solutions and tools that will help you gather reviews, increase patient referrals, improve your dental SEO, convert more leads through your dental website, stay connected with patients using Live Chat and reach more prospective patients through paid ads. Contact a Connect the Doc specialist today to learn more about review gating and the dental marketing tools you need to meet your business goals. 

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