Five Key Steps to Managing Negative Online Reviews for your Healthcare Clinic

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The Connect the Doc Team

1) Consult Review Website

The transparency of review sites can have both positive and negative effects on your healthcare clinic. For example, this type of online exposure makes it easier for competitors to post “reviews” about your service. This is quite common in very competitive industries, but if you, as a business owner, can prove that the reviews were made with malice from a competitor, then review sites such as Yelp, will remove the post. Standard practice dictates that Yelp will not advertise reviews posted by competitors. It is difficult to have a negative review removed without the proper evidence, so if your appeal is denied, there are alternative ways to manage the negative review.

2) Address the Negative Review Directly

There are always two sides of a story. If you believe the review has been unjustly posted then exercise your right to defend your practice and reputation, either publicly or privately. As always, it is important to maintain a professional image and should you choose to engage in a public conversation, do so with tact and strategy. One important note to remember is to never disclose any confidential information about your patient. This includes gender, time and date of appointment, or treatment details. In your follow-up, reference and reiterate practices that are common or public knowledge and display your practice in a positive light.

If the negative review posted is justified, the best response is apologetic and solution-oriented. With the appropriate methodology, you can effectively convert a patient’s negative experience into a positive one. For example, if a patient claims a product they were sold had harmful results, then as a clinic owner, take control by apologizing for their experience, and perhaps offer a complimentary service or product in return, for their distress. You will find that, the once vindictive patient will change their mindset, and possibly even recant their negative review. If you continue to receive these negative reviews, ask for feedback, and provide solutions; the online review community will see this, and respond positively.

3) Request Positive Reviews

A popular review website like Yelp implements complex algorithms, which are specifically designed to filter the legitimate and illegitimate posts. However, this algorithm is not always accurate, which means there is a possibility that many of your positive reviews may have been filtered to the bottom of your page or may not appear on your page at all. This can be upsetting, but think positively and be proactive, because one poor review in a pool of positive reviews could actually add validity to your practice. Additionally, you should not be afraid to request positive testimonials from your existing clients as a way of building your support network. Bring these positive comments to light and use these reviews as leverage to influence the mindsets of your prospective patients.

4) Prepare for Threats

The customer is always right. This has been repeated over the ages, and has stuck, because it still holds true even in the direst of situations. If your patient threatens to publicly humiliate you, unless you provide them with some form of recompense, it is best to simply yield. If the situation becomes more problematic than anticipated, it would be wise to appeal to the patient over the phone, as it is a more personal approach and could help protect you from any potential legal scrutiny.

Furthermore, take a proactive approach if you sense a disgruntled patient. This could include a personalized email or even a follow-up call after their appointment, which could help alleviate the tension, and potentially be the difference between a negative review and a positive review.

5) Educating yourself about Online Review Websites

As a healthcare clinic owner combating poor reviews online, it is important to understand the metrics supporting the propensity to share online reviews.

According to the Local Consumer Review Survey in 2012, results showed that 72% of the candidates surveyed stated that they trust personal recommendations as much as online reviews, and another 52% stated that positive reviews were key influencers in their decision-making process.  Furthermore, respondents who suffered from a poor service experience were more likely to share their interaction, than if they had a positive experience. In this study, the ratio was 45% of respondents sharing a poor experience vs 30% of respondents sharing a positive experience.

To add further insult to injury, the survey revealed that 86% of respondents reading these poor reviews stated that it directly influenced their conversion process. As you can see with these statistics, it is quite problematic for healthcare practitioners receiving these poor reviews.

Though you may not be successful in removing 100% of the problem, the preceding steps will certainly help to mitigate the damage of the inflictive reviews.

Closing Remarks

We recommend that clinic owners check their online reviews each day and immerse themselves in the online review culture. To understand how to manage negative online reviews, it is important to objectively understand the reasoning behind it, and supply yourself with the appropriate tools to combat the adversity. Applications such as Google Alert, and Social Mention are both excellent for monitoring your online presence, and thus online reviews. It is no secret that all your patients are effectively ambassadors of your service, so addressing the reviews of disgruntled patients tactfully and proactively will have an overall positive and lasting impression of your clinic.