Pretty harsh, isn’t it? Although this review isn’t referring to any of our medical clients, it illustrates the daily challenges healthcare providers face in the digital space.
Online patient reviews can either make or break a dermatology clinic’s reputation and practice. According to the Pew Research Center, 77 percent of consumers say they use online reviews as the first step in finding a new physician. During that search, studies found that only 14 percent of consumers would consider using a business with a one- or two-star rating.
In other words, online reviews are a big deal. A study by Dimensional Research found that 90 percent of people who read online reviews admitted their buying decisions are influenced by positive reviews. And 86 percent said their decisions are impacted by negative online reviews.
How does that affect a business, lab, or dermatology clinic? A Moz study found that a business will lose about 22 percent of potential customers from one negative online review that appears in an online search. Two negative search results can double the loss of potential customers. “Have four or more negative articles about your company or product appearing in Google search results? You’re likely to lose 70% of potential customers,” says Dan Hinckley at Moz.
Be proactive in protecting your brand. When negative reviews appear online, don’t ignore them. Instead, take it as an opportunity to show you care about your patients. Here are four ways to do so.
1. Invest in reputation management.
Most doctors don’t invest much time in reputation management or tracking online reviews or searches, but they should. Here’s why:
Improved SEO. Search engines prioritize sites that have frequently updated, relevant, and uniquely worded content. This means your online reviews (both good and bad), engagement, and comments can also improve search results. So encourage your patients to share their experience online and be engaged with a response.
Credibility. We want to project a positive image, and tracking online reviews is a great way to ensure you are connecting with your patients. But a smattering of negative reviews—and how you respond to them—can actually help build credibility in your practice. Studies show that 85 percent of users trust online reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations. By welcoming feedback and creating an online “community” through comments, you are building a trustworthy and credible brand.
“Online reviews matter,” explains Inc.com contributor Craig Bloem. “And that’s why you need to create and maintain a process that encourages your customers to leave reviews, monitors the reviews they leave, and improves any negative reviews you might receive.”
2. Determine if the response should be public or private.
As shown in the above example, a patient will use an online platform to vent frustrations for a variety of reasons. The important thing is to offer a public apology. “Remember, while you are exchanging messages with the reviewer, other people are reading your comments and wondering whether or not to visit your practice,” explain the staff at My Practice Reputation.
Your medical practice can fall victim to any number of criticisms: “The parking was bad.” “Your office was hard to find.” “The waiting room was too noisy.” In those cases, a public apology and a reassurance that your patients’ experience at your office is a priority can be handled online. But if the reviewer is referring to the care he or she received—regardless of whether or not you feel the complaints are legitimate—you’ll want to be more discrete. Extend a public apology, reiterate how important it is for your team to deliver excellent patient care and that you welcome feedback, and invite the reviewer to reach out to your office to discuss what happened.
3. Keep the conversation solution-oriented.
If the patient contacts your office, quickly pull the file and review what happened from the patient’s perspective. Then put your office to the test: How was the patient greeted? Did the office staff use discretion when verifying personal information? How was the exchange between the doctor and patient? Why did the patient leave feeling frustrated? If possible, encourage the patient to describe his or her experience to uncover the breakdown in the situation. Then ask the patient what you and your staff could have done better.
“Most patients who leave negative reviews just want to feel heard,” says Erin Kitchen at Medical Economics. “You can even gain real insight and grow from their feedback!” For example, use feedback to improve office processes. Or allow more time between appointments to ensure patients have plenty of time to ask questions.
Don’t ask the patient to remove the negative review. In some cases, the patient will volunteer to remove the negative review or add a follow-up post that the situation was resolved.
4. Consider legal help for extreme cases.
Fake reviews happen. That’s why safeguarding your online reputation is essential. If you discover the online review was posted by an aggressive competitor, for example, or by people who aren’t verifiable patients but post defamatory comments or reviews, you can demand the reviewer remove the post.
Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, some situations can’t be resolved without involving legal support. In those cases when an online reviewer refuses to take down a false review post, legal experts suggest taking the information you have about the online reviewer and consulting with an attorney. The attorney will send a letter alerting the reviewer of legal action should he or she refuse to take down the posted review. As a final resort, your attorney can notify the website, website host, owner, and internet service provider.
Keep in mind that the process of working with a legal team or the online platform can be slow. For quicker results, continue encouraging patients to share positive (and recent) reviews about your patient care and leverage that positive feedback.
Online patient reviews can literally change the way customers view your dermatology practice. By figuring reputation management into your marketing efforts and treating a negative review as a marketing opportunity, you can tap into valuable insights on ways to better connect with potential customers and offer the best patient care possible.