Online Reviews – Aaaaaagh!

by Sam D Meisler DVM

Online reviews are here to stay and you as a practice owner have to figure out what to do about them. First of all, what are they good for? If you have good reviews, they can serve to bring in new clients (if they are read). Even better, they raise your practice website’s ranking on search engines like Google. The more in-links that you have, the better your website will rank.Bad reviews, on the other hand, can be disastrous. If you are one of those practice owners who have just been quietly going about your daily activities without checking review sites, you may be vulnerable to attack from a bad reviewer. If you have been thinking that everything will work out fine simply by providing great service, watch out. You and I both know that in practice, even when we do our best, we occasionally come across that one client that does not connect with us or one of our associates. In today’s times, this does not result in a simple parting of ways. It often results in a bad online review.

Step One. Open Your Eyes.

Your customers are talking about you – and the whole world is listening.” writes Kermit Pattison in the NY Times. He recommends monitoring your online reputation at various review sites like yelp and citysearch. You can also set up a Google Alert to alert you everytime your practice name is mentioned on the web.

Step Two. Take Defensive Steps.

Take care of every dissatisfied customer; train your staff to notify you within 2 hours or less when they have an interaction with a customer who is not happy. A quick phone call from you or someone designated by you may head off a bad review. Remember that most online reviews are either made by extremely satisfied customers or extremely dissatisfied customers. So if all you do is call the unhappy client and just listen to them, you may move them into the more complacent although “still dissatisfied” category from the really angry “I’m so dissatisfied that I’m gonna trash you all over the web” category.

Step Three. Be Proactive.

Yes, if you provide really great service, you create clients who want to help you succeed and who would be willing to write great reviews of your hospital based on the experience that they have had with you. You still, however, can not sit back and wait for this to happen. You need to encourage your clients to write reviews. You can do this by including links to various review sites on your website or on a handout that you give to clients as they leave your hospital. Note some review sites may frown on this; check the site’s rules to make sure.

As I said before, the clients who write reviews are not a genuinely representative sample of your client base’s opinion of you; they usually represent the extremes. This may change in the future but at the moment, that is the way it is.

Andrew Gruel, owner of the SlapFish restaurant chain, (see the New York Times Article, A Bad Review is Forever: How to Counter Online Complaints, by Constance Gustke) responds to all reviews good and bad. And he begs customers who gave poor reviews to give the restaurant a second chance.

What not to do.

Do not “astroturf” review sites. This means do not have your employees write false reviews of your hospital to make you look good.

Do not get on the review sites and make “defensive” or “offensive” replies or posts to negative reviews. Be respectful if you are allowed to reply to a comment, identify who you are and give out facts only.

Do not keep your head in the sand and hope you won’t be a victim of a bad review.



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