If we had mentioned “online consumer reviews” 10 years ago, you probably would have thought of sites like Amazon, Yelp and Trip Advisor — sites where consumers get to read about products, restaurants and hotels.

Fast forward to today. Consumers can leave reviews for more than just hotels and restaurants. Now they can also leave a review for your practice.

If your first reaction was to moan and roll your eyes, we understand. Dealing with patient feedback — not all of it accurate or fair — that’s posted for the whole world to see can be incredibly frustrating. But don’t worry. There are things you can do to manage your online reviews.

Why online reviews are so popular

To get started, let’s look at why online reviews are so popular. According to Nielsen, 92% of consumers believe recommendations from friends and family over all forms of advertising.

Consumers want reviews. Research shows that consumers value authentic, natural language reviews that represent diverse points of view from real people. Your patients will trust you more if you have them — even if not all of them are positive!

Prospective patients want to see through the words of others that you have real, credible and knowledgeable professionals. The key words being: through others. Online reviews are 12 times more trusted than what you say about yourself online (eMarketer).

We know online reviews are here to stay. Let’s look at how to manage them.

Responding to positive reviews

Replying to positive reviews is easy and quick. Using some emotion in your reply is fine. Just make sure to stay humble and keep the focus on the patient. (“It was so kind of you to take the time to post this wonderful review. Thank you!”)

As much as possible, make sure each reply is unique. Remember that most potential patients will scan through reviews — so they’ll quickly notice if you’re copying and pasting the same “thank you” message each time.

Another way to get more mileage out of positive reviews is to share them on social media. Just make sure not to include the reviewer’s name or any other identifying information due to privacy laws.

Responding to negative reviews

Dealing with negative reviews can be tricky (but not impossible). Keep these tips in mind.

  • Respond quickly. More than 75% of consumers say that seeing management respond to online reviews makes them believe that the business cares more about them (ReviewTrackers).
  • Don’t get emotional. Negative reviews can feel like personal attacks. But if you let your emotions take charge and respond to the review in an angry or frustrated tone, it can get real ugly real fast. You definitely don’t want to go viral on social media because of a response you had to a negative review.
  • Try to take the conversation offline. Ask the reviewer to get in touch with someone at your practice — and give that person a heads-up in advance. This will help you find out what really happened while also avoiding any online arguments with the patient. Keep your response brief, empathetic and professional. (“Thank you for sharing this. We’d like to learn more about what happened so we can make this right. Would you mind contacting our practice manager, <name>, at <number>? She’s expecting your call.”)
  • Take the high road. If the patient seems to want to argue online, reiterate that you’d appreciate the opportunity to discuss this over the phone. Don’t engage in arguing about the situation, as it will likely only end up making the practice look defensive. Take the high road, and others will notice your professionalism.

Monitoring reviews

Of course, you can’t respond to a review — positive or negative — if you don’t see it. Take control of social sites and third-party sites by creating accounts/profiles. This allows you to reply as the practice.

Monitor the sites as often as you can. In some cases, you can enter an email address to be notified of reviews. Plus, by claiming your profile on these sites and updating your bio information, your practice will start to show up more often in search results. (Make sure you include a link back to your website in your profile. This also helps with search results.)

Bringing in more positive reviews

Unfortunately, unless you can show that the review isn’t legitimate (such as if it’s left using a fake profile), review sites won’t delete negative reviews. So your best option is to “bury” the bad reviews with good ones.

If you’re looking for ways to increase the number of positive reviews, make sure you follow the website rules. Many of them watch to see if you’re trying to game the system by offering rewards for positive reviews. An example would be posting on Facebook, “Free gift for anyone who leaves a positive review!” This will ensure you get in trouble.

Instead, we recommend asking happy patients to leave reviews. Creating a small card that providers can hand out to patients is a great way to do that. You can also post small signs at the check-out desk. If you’re really struggling to bring in positive reviews, there are services that make it easy to email or text patients and request reviews.

This is your chance to join the conversation

Taking an active role in your practice’s online reviews is important in a lot of ways. It shows reviewers — and others — that you’re on the ball and that you care about the patient experience. It can also be a valuable tool for improving your practice and giving constructive feedback to providers and staff.

If you need a little help managing your reviews, we can help. Just contact us to set up a time to chat.