The online world has a lot of advantages for marketing small businesses like a doctor’s office. But there are downsides. One of them is negative reviews that show up in prominent directories like Yelp. Learning how to respond to negative reviews will have to be a critical part of your practice’s digital strategy.
Every business gets bad reviews, but that doesn’t mean you can ignore them. Studies show that 72 percent of people who see a bad review can be dissuaded from seeing a particular physician. That’s not something that can be ignored.
As a medical facility, you start out with an inherent disadvantage in responding to patient reviews. The disadvantage is HIPAA and privacy laws. Your response(s) cannot contain anything that would disclose a patient’s treatment or billing. If they wrote their review under a pseudonym, you can’t say anything that would identify them.
So even if the information might vindicate you in an important public square, you can’t use it. It’s like having one hand tied behind your back in a fight. Not to worry: there are plenty of steps you can take.
Every negative review can be seen as an opportunity for how to demonstrate your know-how. Perhaps citing your academic and professional credentials might build credibility with readers of the review. You can also discuss treatment of the medical issue in general, without revealing identifying information. This further demonstrates to those who will read the review that you know what you’re talking about.
Deal with the person who actually wrote the review at the very end of your response. Invite them to take the conversation offline with a phone call to your office. Or if you’ve already identified the person who wrote the review, then proactively give them a call. There’s a good chance that miscommunication caused the problem.
Negative comments on the Internet are often a desperate desire to be heard. Give the patient that chance to air their side of the story and you may well be able to work something out.
Approaching the review process this way sounds easy, but it requires following some important steps.
- Make sure you stay off the defensive. That starts before you even write the review. Just take a deep breath, try and see things from the patient’s point of view and then calmly respond.
- Respond at the best possible time for you. Don’t rush out a response in between patients. Don’t type out a response when you’re barely awake. Again, take that deep breath, get a coffee and respond.
- Make sure you don’t apologize. Even if it’s just a casual apology done for the sake of mundane civility, it can come back to bite in a court of law.
- Your response has to be timely. If you’re responding to a review written 6 months ago, then you’ve already lost. The time lag will look terrible to readers of the review and eliminate any chance of calmly working things out with the reviewer in private.