A London dentist recently took the bold, if not questionable, action against a patient that posted a negative review about its practice. They have sued the patient for £125,000 in damages plus costs.
Even if a judge does uphold the suit and the patient is forced to pay them, the question is was it worth it? Or will the overall cost to its reputation far outweigh any pay-out the practice receives?
You only have to look at the comments on the articles written in the media about the action taken to know that the practice is on an uphill battle to restore its reputation. Interestingly it isn’t the review itself that has caused the damage, it is the lawsuit. Surely if the dentist had simply chosen to listen to the patient and respond in a more reserved manner by either refuting the claims or apologising for any mistake made. Or even offering to rectify the situation, the review wouldn’t have made the national media and caused so much damage to its reputation, and its future bottom line.
No business is immune to negative reviews being left by disgruntled customers. It is how you respond that can set you apart from your competitors and maintain your reputation.
According to BrightLocal, 88% trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, so as much as you might want to, you can’t ignore reviews, good or bad. You need to engage with your patients and turn the situation around in your favour. Even if it doesn’t result in the patient that posted the initial review returning to your practice, other patients searching online for a new dentist (38% in 2014) will see that you listen to your patients and try to rectify any mistakes.
Sometimes customers complain online; it is how you respond that impacts your reputation, not the initial negative review. Good and bad reviews redress the balance and make people believe that the good ones are likely to be genuine.
The first action is to take control and begin to manage your online reputation. This will enable people to find you in local searches and help you build a strong reputation to attract new patients.
Here are four easy steps to follow:
- Encourage reviews and quote good ones: ask patients to leave a review. The more reviews you have the more likely you are to be included in local searches. A tablet at reception is a great way to capture reviews and you could even email patients after to share those reviews across other review sites, such as Toothpick.com. You can add the great reviews to your website and link to your profiles on review sites.
- Respond to negative reviews positively: When someone posts a bad review don't take it personally and address the issue in that manner. Apologise and show you are taking steps to resolve the issue. Provide a calm and factual rebuttal to people who have an axe to grind and a professional and polished response will be viewed favourably by other people reading the review. Listen to what patients are saying: In a 2014 survey, 38% of people questioned searched for dentists online and 35% read online reviews about dentists. As a result, analyse reviews to provide valuable information direct from patient experiences that will help you improve your practice.
- Create online listings for better visibility in local searches: Google your practice and make sure you fill out the information on your business listings and that it’s exactly the same for each site. Research what review sites are important to your patients and register your practice details on those. Check your competitors’ listings and if you are not listed there, create one. Post images and videos to increase user appeal and boost authority in search engines. Include links to your website, and social media profiles. Get listed on Google My Business as it enables you to manage how patients find your practice on Google and Google Maps, as well as being listed on Google+. Patients can rate and review you here, and your star-rating will appear on your search listings when you have at least five reviews. Check out sites such as Toothpick.com and whatclinic.com.
- Manage your social media: Your customers are using social media to talk about you and you need to be listening, responding and improving. It helps to have a bird’s eye view of what is being said about your business across all your social media platforms. This will enable you to track, flag, post and respond to your audience. All this sentiment can be analysed to identify trends or respond quickly to underlying issues. This is valuable insight and even more so to a practice that has multiple locations as you can benchmark against best performing locations.
Online reviews are an opportunity to increase new patient registrations through referrals from existing patients. Online review sites and social media platforms are where patients go to share their experiences so you need to be there too.
Tony McChrystal is Head of Sales, UK, at Reputation.com