How Should Dentists Respond to Negative Reviews Online?

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The Connect the Doc Team

When speaking with dentists and doctors that want to improve their reputation online, I kept hearing the same question: “How do I respond to the negative reviews?”

Now before sharing some scenarios and possible responses, you should know that it’s pretty much impossible to please everybody. The practice will eventually get a negative review. If you run a tight ship, most often, this will be out of the practice’s control and completely unrelated to the quality of care and attention the patient received. I’ve seen reviews from a patient that dished out a one-star review because they couldn’t find free street parking. It happens all the time and regardless of the scenario it’s important to stay on top of it. Normally, the advice given to healthcare professionals is to NOT respond to the review. Recently however, Google has changed their search algorithm and rumour has it that they place a high value on responding to reviews.

To combat negative reviews, here are my 2 suggestions for best practices:

  1. Respond in a professional manner, without getting emotional
  2. Drown out negative reviews with positive reviews

Number 2 is easy – provide your patients with exceptional service, ask your patients for to help you out by writing a Google / Yelp review, and new reviews should pour in. For dentists, an easy way to measure the happiness of patients is simply to see if a patient re-books their next hygiene appointment before leaving. Ask these patients for a review, I mean, they wouldn’t have booked their next appointment if they didn’t have a great visit! If you are too busy to ask or it’s just plain awkward, we can integrate directly with your practice management software and automate the process of getting reviews with Connect the Doc. You can also check out page 29 of our free eBook to see an email templates on the best languaging to ask your patients for reviews in a professional way.

As for responding to negative reviews, not getting emotional is the key here. It’s easy to read CAPS LOCK SENTENCES and to have your blood start to boil – do not get bothered with a petty online argument – feeding the trolls never helps. Instead, try to put yourself in the shoes of your patient. Even when the client is wrong, there is something valuable in their feedback and the opportunity it creates to provide information about your practice as a level-headed party. This also shows the people scrolling through these reviews that you are rational, calm and competent.

When the time comes to respond to a negative review remember the acronym “PAT”; professional and transparent. Put your best foot forward, with appropriate language and helpful information about how to contact you and how your practice is run. Explain to them how your practice normally deals with certain situations. Keep in mind, for HIPAA compliance, you want to make sure that you are not specifically mentioning their name or acknowledging that they are a patient. It’s a general response that should apply to all of your patients. Your response is both a pitch to anyone that is reading the negative review online as well as a an opportunity for a second chance.

Here are 2 different scenarios and examples of negative reviews you might encounter and great responses you can put forward. Feel free to make use of these response, however, it’s important that you address the individual concerns outlined in the reviews you receive – something that you’d need to do on a case-by-case basis. You want the response to be genuine, authentic, and have the same tone that you have at the practice.

Scenario 1:

Your practice receives a negative review from a patient who is unhappy with their treatment and feels like they have been overcharged or ripped off. In this scenario, the patient will have often gone to another dentist for a second opinion or done some research online, which would suggest that the treatment plan you suggested was not necessary.

Response to Scenario 1:

Thank you for taking the time to write us a review, . At [Insert Practice Name], we truly do our best to make sure that every patient receives the highest level of care. As you know, every patient is different, so we provide a comprehensive exam and treatment plat for all of our new patients, which varies substantially for each patient. As a practice, we do our best to meet the needs of all of our patients and we’d love the opportunity to make this right. When you have a moment, please call the practice to speak with [Insert Treatment Coordinator Name]. I’ll personally notify her of the situation so she can resolve it for you as quickly as possible.

Scenario 2:

Your practice receives a review from someone who is not in your records. Generally, this is for 1 of 2 reasons. First, your competitors (or the people that handle their marketing) are trying to hurt your reputation online by writing fake negative reviews about your practice. Second, your patient was referred or has been a long-time patient and wants to protect their identity.

Response to Scenario 2:

Thank you for taking the time to post your feedback online, I’m sorry you’ve had such a negative experience with your dentist. I checked with our practice coordinator and we could not find anyone with your name that is associated with our practice in the last 5 years. We’ve been in business for over 25 years and pride ourselves on providing the highest quality of care for our patients. Please contact [Insert Treatment Coordinator Name] at our office so that we can discuss this with you further and see if there is anyway that we can help in the future.

With both responses, you are acknowledging the patient’s experience and helping them understand your side of the story in a professional way. You’ll also notice that you have not acknowledged that the reviewer is an active patient at the practice, which protects you from any HIPAA compliance issues. To me, this is a bit ridiculous in the first place considering they have logged onto a public site and volunteered their identity and experience at your practice.

Anyways, I hope this post was helpful and gives you the ammo you need to respond to negative reviews. Keep in mind that you shouldn’t just respond to negative reviews. Responding to positive reviews is also a great way to show that you truly care about your patients and you are happy to have earned their business.

At Connect the Doc, we’ve added reputation management and review generation as an add-on to our referral automation platform. Reason being is that even when a patient is referred by friends or family, they take the time to do their due diligence and read reviews on Google, Yelp, RateMDs, and other popular review sites. Here’s how we help you only get 5 star reviews!

With Connect the Doc, your practice can:

  • Pull reviews from all popular review sites online
  • Feature reviews on your website / facebook page
  • Auto-post reviews on Google+, Facebook, and Twitter
  • Automate the process of asking for reviews
  • Curate reviews from across the web in one spot
  • Respond to all negative reviews from one dashboard

For more information about our review platform or referral platform, please feel free to email me at