Negative reviews might seem like the end of the world, but these six simple steps can help medical practices successfully manage their online relationships.
For many people, word-of-mouth referrals are a critical source of information when choosing new doctors. In recent years, this has extended to online reviews on platforms like Yelp or Google My Business, where patients can scroll through ratings and comments as they make their decision.
According to a 2014 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 59% of patients said these reviews were “somewhat” or “very” important when selecting a provider. In addition, 37% of those surveyed said they would altogether avoid a physician with bad ratings.
It’s no surprise that online feedback can have a major impact on medical practitioners. Negative comments and bad press can even overwhelm positive SEO efforts — as in the case of a Yale-New Haven Hospital doctor who was falsely accused of lying to a patient about a surgical error. However, there are steps that medical marketers can take to minimize the effects of negative comments. In fact, when handled correctly, a negative review can turn into a positive experience and an opportunity for improvement.
If your practice has received a negative review online, here are six things to keep in mind as you address the situation.
1. Respond! Don’t be afraid to address negative reviews.
Ignoring a negative comment is almost as bad as posting an angry response. If you don’t address negative feedback, it may look like your practice doesn’t care about patients’ experiences. Plus, the reviewer will likely feel justified because you’re not acknowledging the issue.
Instead, use your response as a chance to highlight the positive qualities of your practice, such as your history of service or commitment to positive patient outcomes. However, make sure that self-promotion doesn’t take away from empathizing with the reviewer and providing an honest answer to their concerns.
2. Apologize if you need to apologize.
More often than not, people who leave negative reviews just want to be heard. It’s generally best to apologize and show that you genuinely regret that the patient had a bad experience. By apologizing and engaging reasonably with the upset reviewer, you may even be able to change their mind. In fact, 33% of negative ratings on Yelp become positive when businesses take the time to respond and empathize with the reviewer.
3. Don’t get defensive or pulled into a lengthy battle.
Even if a negative review contains comments that are slanderous or untrue, resist the urge to respond with anger or post repeated comments. Some reviewers post in bad faith and engaging with them will only make the situation worse. Keep your response short, polite, and to the point. Correct false statements, but keep a neutral tone throughout.
4. Take it offline.
When responding to a negative review, offer to further discuss the matter over the phone or email if it seems appropriate. This shows the disgruntled reviewer — and other potential patients — that you take the issue seriously and are willing to address it.
5. Pay attention to your other assets.
Healthcare providers can combat negative online comments by offering quality care and then sharing or highlighting the opinions of other satisfied patients. You can also draw your viewers’ attention to your website, which should provide a positive, accurate perspective on your practice. In addressing negative comments, it’s important not to forget about other valuable avenues — such as blogs or social media — which can continue to bring in new patients.
6. Don’t let a negative review get under your skin.
Remember that at the end of the day, a couple negative reviews are unlikely to destroy your reputation. If you’re consistently providing high-quality service, word will spread.
However, the best medical practices use negative reviews to assess the state of their service. If your practice is receiving consistently negative reviews about a particular area — such as a long patient wait time — this may be an opportunity for improvement. By making a few small changes, you may be able to enhance the experiences of your patients, and therefore raise your online ratings.