How to respond to a negative review

When you put so much work into making your patients happy, it can be a shock to get an unfavorable online review. Having a plan to deal with negative feedback will help you maintain your reputation and avoid letting emotions take control of these situations.

With 90 percent of consumers using online reviews to inform their decisions about local businesses, reviews form a prominent part of your practice’s online presence. And now, as people are increasingly using their phones to search for a doctor, reviews have become even more important because they are integrated into navigation apps.

If it hasn’t happened quite yet, eventually your practice is going to receive a bad review—it’s just a fact of running a business. Perhaps there was a misunderstanding with a team member or a scheduling slip-up, and now you have an unhappy patient and a one-star review on Google or Yelp to deal with. Where do you begin?

If handled the right way, resolving criticisms can be an excellent opportunity to improve your practice, build your reputation and strengthen your relationship with a patient.

Follow these four guidelines for handling negative reviews of your practice:

1.  Calm Down and Assess the Situation
When you pour your heart and soul into making your practice the best it can be, a harsh review can feel like a personal attack. Before responding to anything online or asking team members what happened, take a few deep breaths and remember that listening is your greatest tool in situations like these.

Gather as much information as you can from team members about the patient’s experience at your practice and which of their expectations were not met. This will help you know how best you can meet this patient’s needs, and could also reveal a hitch in your system that might cause more problems in the future.

2. Reach Out Quickly
Responsiveness is the key to all customer service efforts. The quicker you get in touch with a patient and resolve their complaint, the higher the likelihood of them leaving satisfied—possibly with an even higher opinion of your practice than before.

If the patient has left a review on a platform where you can respond with a comment (like Google, Facebook, or Yelp), do so promptly to let them know you’re eager to correct the problem.

3. Apologize and Empathize
We know the old adage about “the customer always being right” isn’t applicable one hundred percent of the time. But what is always true is that people just want to know they’re being heard.

When responding to a negative review, let the patient know that you understand their frustration and that you’re on their side. Never take a tone that could be interpreted as argumentative or condescending. Have one or two team members take a look at your drafted response and tell you how they would feel in the patient’s situation.

4.  Afterward, Ask for an Updated Review
After—and only after—you have fully addressed a patient’s complaint, thank them for giving you the opportunity to resolve the issue and ask if they would consider updating their review. If it’s a patient that has had multiple visits with you, chances are there are a lot of things they like about your practice, and there was just that one issue causing a rift between you.

By doing this, not only have you saved the relationship with that patient, but you’ve also gained a positive review!

Prevent Unfavorable Reviews with your Practice Culture
Of course, we would all prefer that we never received any bad reviews in the first place. While that isn’t fully possible, there are many simple things you can implement with your team to not only prevent negative online reviews but build your online presence with positive ones.

- Don’t lose any patients because of simple miscommunications. Emphasize transparency, clarity, and communication with patients in all team training.
- Regularly ask for feedback in your practice and through social media.
- Designate a team member to keep a constant eye on your Google, Facebook, and Yelp reviews pages.
- Have a strategy in place to obtain a steady flow of positive reviews.

Turn a Negative into a Positive
Managing your reviews is a more important part of your online presence than ever before—but this doesn’t mean you can ensure every review will be five stars. What you can do is treat every review, positive or negative, as an opportunity to learn, strengthen relationships with patients and improve your practice.

Building a strong base of Google reviews is one of the best things you can do to attract new patients. One of the most impactful things that we do at Medical Marketing Whiz is helping our clients get a steady stream of positive reviews.  Not only does this help your online reputation, but it also results in more calls to the office and higher return on your marketing dollars.  

Want to learn more about reputation for doctors?  Check out these free resources:

You can download our free guide to online reviews below!

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