Responding to reviews on Google, Yelp, and other sites can improve your online reputation.

Online reviews have truly become a part of our lives. They are a very powerful tool that many people use in making decisions on where to eat, where to travel, and what doctor or dentist to visit. You know you need them, and you have put the tools into place in order to get them!

Reading good online reviews for your business feels wonderful. Getting some thanks and accolades in a public forum justifies all the hard work you put into developing a great environment in your office and the effort that goes into providing excellent service. A fabulous review can give you an extra spring in your steps for days!

And then there is the dreaded….BAD ONLINE REVIEW.

Wait, what just happened? Who IS this person? Are they sure they are talking about the right business?

Let’s face it: It can be demoralizing to have someone speak poorly about your business online. This negative opinion is out there for all to see, and bottom line, it hurts. You may be tempted to fire off a response calling them out on any inaccuracies, and telling your side of the story. However, before responding, it’s good to take a minute and think things through. If you are in the medical or dental field, it is important to keep HIPAA laws in mind when responding to reviews as well. When handled correctly, even bad online reviews can turn into something positive.

Responding to reviews in the RIGHT way can strengthen your online reputation and build trust with potential patients. We have put together a few tips to help you respond to a bad online review, as well as some follow-up points to help spot potential issues that could lead to a bad online review and prevent them.

First, how to respond:

It is important to mention that in very rare cases, a bad review can be removed. If it uses profanity or inappropriate language, or if it is an attack on a person instead of a report about actual services received, you can file with the directory to have it removed. These cases are few and far between.

For all other reviews, before doing anything, take a moment to reflect on the situation being presented. What should your end goal be in responding? How can you stay within the HIPAA guidelines while maintaining your business’ reputation?

Respond to the bad review in a general way:

Example bad review: “I had to wait two hours to be seen, and when I finally got into the examination room, Dr. X was rude and impatient.”

Example response following HIPAA guidelines: “When scheduling patients, it’s our policy to adjust the time with the doctor as necessary for each patient’s needs to keep our schedule on track. As a result of emergency situations, it is possible for us to be behind schedule from time to time.”

Learning opportunity: While there may have been some inaccuracies in the review, it is an opportunity for your team to review your procedures. When appointments are running late (or whatever issue is brought up in the review), do they keep the person who is waiting up to date on when they will be seen? Are any accommodations made for those who are waiting? Were they notified before coming in that the doctor was running behind? By being proactive, your office can help avoid the frustrations that could leave some to write a bad online review.

Responding to reviews offline:

Most directories allow you to send a private response. You can also contact the patient directly. A doctor can acknowledge they saw the negative review when speaking or writing to an individual privately and ask what can be done to rectify the situation. With the best outcome, a bad review can turn into a positive. When you chose to respond directly to the patient, you can respond publicly with a simple “We have reached out to you directly to help resolve this issue.”

Learning opportunity: Speak with your team regarding a bad review. Were there any indications while the patient was in the office or on the phone that they were upset? If so, can communications be improved so the issue can be addressed and resolved before the patient takes his or her complaints online?

Use the bad review to educate the public.

When a patient disagrees with your treatment plan and posts about it online, take the opportunity to use it as a teaching moment for the public. Explain why you recommend a certain line of treatment in specific situations without directly referring to the specifics of this patient’s situation.

Learning opportunity: Is there anything more that can be done from a communications standpoint that would allow patients to understand recommendations being made for them before they leave the office? This is also a great opportunity to create educational blogs on your site for your patients so you can quickly refer them there when recommending certain treatments.

Thank the people who share GOOD online reviews.

Take time to respond to people who leave positive reviews, telling them you are glad they had a good experience and thanking them for taking the time to share it.

Continue to LEARN from them!

Last but not least, learn from the situations that generate BAD online reviews but also from the GOOD ones. WHAT did they love? How can you and your team make sure that each and every patient has the same experience?

Be positive and proactive when responding to reviews.

Be positive and proactive when responding to reviews!

Is a bad review about your business the end of the world? The short answer is NO. Bad reviews can happen to the best businesses. Continuing to provide great service and learning and moving forward from any bad experience will ensure your business has more GOOD online reviews than bad.

It may never be possible to make everyone happy. By being positive and proactive even when problems arise, you and your team can not only keep bad online reviews at bay but also use them to strengthen your reputation when they do come up. Using the suggestions above when responding to reviews and keeping communications open with your team can simplify the process and will allow you to focus on what you do best: Provide the best service possible for your patients!

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