What is the first thing you do when shopping for a product or service? For the vast majority of consumers, the answer is easy – we read online reviews. It doesn’t matter whether you’re buying a car, the latest smart phone or deciding to try a new salon. Reviews on online websites like Facebook or Google etc. can make or break a business and that includes dental practices.
In today’s Internet driven world, few people bother to set foot in a clinic without reading online reviews. These reviews are the new word-of-mouth advertising and more powerful than any other marketing tactic you can think of.
The Bane of Your Practice – No Reviews!
You might think that bad reviews are the worst possible outcome for any clinic and you wouldn’t be wrong. But having no reviews at all on your website or social media pages will raise red flags for potential clients. Unless you have just started your clinic, people wonder at the lack of reviews and generally conclude that a lack of good reviews forced you to hide them.
So the first step in managing online reviews for your practice is to make sure you get them. Some dentists send follow-up emails soliciting reviews but they’re easily ignored. Would you want to think about your dentist after you come home? The best way to get client reviews is to ask them in person. It is surprising but this simple step can work wonders for your online reputation. Do make sure you don’t ask them for a review right after a painful procedure though!
Engage with Your Patients
Whether someone leaves a good or bad review, make sure you respond publicly to their comments. It is easy to respond to a positive or glowing review from one of your patients. You can thank them for coming in and assure them that you will continue to maintain the standards they are used to. But what about the bad or negative reviews?
You might be tempted to ignore them but that’s a bad idea. Whether or not the complaint has any merit, people like to see how you handle the situation. The review itself might be hurtful or full of anger but do not respond in kind. Online sites are a public forum, so always maintain a calm and professional tone when replying to reviews.
HIPAA regulations are pretty strict about what patient information you can and should not reveal in public. This is something you can use to your advantage. Instead of trying to address the issue on social media, it gives you a reason to take it off-line. The best response in the circumstances is to acknowledge the situation and give them a number to call so you can resolve the issue. You can even say that privacy or security policies prevent you from discussing this in a public forum.
How to Manage Online Reviews
There are many places online where patients can review businesses, service providers and products. So how do you manage all of them? There are many kinds of review management software available in the market. You can use them to monitor popular websites like Yelp or even LinkedIn. If your practice has a Facebook page or website, you should be monitoring those as well.
People appreciate quick responses to their reviews and a short thank you message shows your appreciation. It also allows you to address negative reviews as early as possible, so that these comments don’t show up on search results. Quite often people are happy to remove negative reviews if you resolve the situation to their satisfaction. Proactively managing your online reputation is a far better strategy than reacting after it is too late!