Bad Reviews: Dos and Don’ts for Dentists
Bad reviews happen. Even if you’re providing quality treatment absolutely free, someone at some point will complain that they had to wait too long, that they didn’t want x-rays, or that there was too much paperwork. It’s the nature of working with the public. Sometimes people will share valid concerns too. That’s ok. Nobody is perfect.
In today’s connected world, however, these concerns aren’t necessarily just shared with the practice manager or even with friends and family. Unhappy patients take to the net and pen bad reviews, leaving a very public blemish on your reputation.
That’s a concern because nearly nine in ten prospective patients read your online reviews before booking according to Bright Local. They move on to the next dentist when they don’t like what they see. Equally, a strong presence on review sites can positively impact your search engine optimization (SEO). That means your practice will appear in more online searches and show up closer to the top of the list when prospective patients look for a new dentist. Each additional star your practice receives is worth a five to nine percent revenue jump per Harvard researchers too.
Clearly, online reviews can impact your production and revenue in a big way. But, how do you preserve a good reputation online? And what can you do when people leave bad reviews? Below, we’ll go over some dos and don’ts that will help you avoid bad reviews and deal with it effectively if you do get a bad review anyway.
Don’ts of Bad Reviews
You may be tempted to jump right into how to deal with a bad review, but sometimes what you don’t do is just as important. Let’s take a quick look at some things NOT to do first.
1. Ban Bad Reviews of Your Practice
Some dental practices try to preempt bad reviews by having patients sign a waiver in their intake paperwork. While this tactic can, in fact, make people think twice before leaving a bad review, it also doesn’t sit well with the general public. If your contract is shared or word gets out that you’re doing this, it can make people think that you’re hiding something and cost you new patients. Some sites, like Yelp, will also post a notice warning review readers that you have this rule. It paints your practice in a bad light and may negate any positive reviews you’re receiving even if all your patients truly are happy.
2. Bribe or Threaten Patients
Sometimes practices will incentivize the removal of a bad review too. For example, they may offer a patient a cash reward or free treatment for removing a review. Others will threaten litigation or removal from the practice. The latter can potentially cause legal trouble. The former can create an issue similar to banning bad reviews. If word gets out, the credibility of your reviews is shot.
3. Create or Solicit Fake Reviews
Another tactic is to bury the bad review or boost star ratings with a flood of fake reviews. Again, this can damage the credibility of all your reviews. People pick up on similar language used across reviews and can often tell when something is off. Many review sites use sophisticated vetting software as well. Yelp is another good example here. Their proprietary algorithm looks for a variety of signals that goes way beyond IP addresses to identify fake accounts and false reviews. Anything that’s determined to be false goes into a separate section and does not count toward your ratings. They flag companies trying to scam the review process too.
4. Fail to Take Ownership
If you made a mistake, and acknowledging the mistake isn’t going to cause legal trouble, own up to it. Failure to accept responsibility for poor experiences will make any other action you take seem inauthentic.
5. Ignore Reviews
Both good and bad reviews deserve a response. On the one hand, a happy reviewer deserves at least a “thank you” for taking time out of their day to help your practice. Your response shows readers you’re engaged too. On the other hand, ignoring a bad review shows readers you don’t care. Some studies have even shown that people view a business more favorably if the company got a bad review and responded than they do if the business didn’t get the bad review at all.
Dos of Bad Reviews
Now that we’ve covered what not to do, let’s take a look at what you can and should be doing to ensure review sites continue sending you a steady stream of new patients.
1. Prevent Bad Reviews
Know what makes your patients tick and deliver on their expectations. Some of the most common patient complaints surround:
- Money and Billing
- Lack of Patient Education
If you know there are hiccups in your practice workflows that result in patient complaints, address them before they become a problem.
2. Monitor Your Reputation
You can purchase specialized software to monitor your online reputation. If you use ThriveCloud, an online reviews feature is already included at no additional charge. It lets you see all your recent reviews in one place (Huddle) within the software. You can also use a free tool like Google Alerts to monitor the net for mentions of the doctor or your practice.
3. Report False Reviews
Sometimes people mistakenly leave a review for a practice they haven’t visited when the practice name or doctor’s name is similar to the one they visited. You might also receive a fake review from a competing practice or someone with a vendetta. Most review sites have reporting features for these situations. It’s best practice to report the review and leave a short reply. Something along the lines of, “We’re unable to locate a record of your visit, but we’d like to discuss this. Please call our practice.”
It’s worth noting that this scenario is different than an inaccurate review or one in which you and the reviewer have a difference of opinion on what happened. Most review sites will not remove a review if you disagree on what happened, but they will typically remove a review if the person never visited your practice.
4. Plan Ahead
Create written documentation on how reviews should be handled by your practice. Include:
- Pre-approved phrases that the office-appointed responder can use to diffuse a situation.
- At what point the dentist should be notified of a situation.
- What power your office responder has to correct issues, such as providing bill credits or offering retreatment at no charge.
- At what point the dentist’s attorney should be looped in. This will generally not be needed, but it’s worth discussing in advance in the event malpractice claims or similar are ever made online.
5. Keep Your Cool
Even if you’re very mindful of your words, emotion can still seep into your responses. If you’re feeling upset or hurt by a review, allow some time to clear your mind before responding.
6. Respond Appropriately
Your response should reflect your practice and the way you operate while following a formula that helps diffuse the situation and show both the reviewer and readers that you care.
- Reply on the day the review is left. One in five patients expects a response within 24 hours per Social Media Today.
- Don’t disclose any protected health information (PHI). Even if a patient brings up their conditions or treatments, discussing them in an open forum is a HIPAA violation. Many practices won’t even use language that suggests someone is a patient out of an abundance of caution.
- Be authentic, empathetic, thankful, and original. While you can use canned/ pre-approved phrases to diffuse a situation, always reply in a way that signifies you’re not robotic and genuinely care about the person you’re responding to.
- Move the conversation. When it comes to bad reviews, your goal should always be to diffuse and move the conversation offline as quickly as possible. The less you converse about the issue online, the less likely it is to become a debate or be seen as one. Give a short response that indicates you care and either leave your contact information to encourage them to reach out to you or let them know you’ll be in touch with them.
7. Correct the Root of the Problem
Busy practices often solve the immediate concern but forget to investigate why the problem occurred in the first place. Examine your internal processes to see if there are ways to avoid recurrence. If you’re changing something up, consider letting the patient know. It’ll show them that you took their concern seriously and help build trust with them and prospective patients.
8. Get More Positive Reviews
Around half of all patients look at the recency of a review per Bright Local research. You’ll need a steady supply of fresh reviews because of this. Naturally, positive reviews also boost your overall rating, so the more you get, the better you’ll look online. While you can request reviews from patients at checkout or drop a note in their preventative visit goodie bag, automating review requests is easier and typically gets better results. You can purchase specialized software for this or, if you use ThriveCloud, the software can request reviews for you.
Strengthen Your Online Reputation with ThriveCloud
ThriveCloud is a truly all-in-one cloud-based dental software. It comes with a variety of tools, including online reviews, that are typically sold as add-on services or purchased through third-party companies. Best of all, it costs less than most stand-alone/ stripped-down practice management systems. If you’d like to see how ThriveCloud’s online reviews work, request a demo and we’ll give you a free tour.