The reality is bad reviews happen. Today’s high-tech world guarantees a seamless outlet for clients to provide their feedback and not every one is going to agree with your approach. That is life. Experts suggest the best thing you can do when faced with the dreaded one-star review is to avoid turning a blind eye, address the complaint and harness the opportunity to make improvements to your business process.
Some may slough off a poor online review and not give it much merit. However, it is a serious matter and can certainly be a risk to any business, even more so in the healthcare industry. We all rely on our peers for advice and, no matter what advertising strategy may be in place, word-of-mouth still reigns.
Take a Deep Breath
And, while the thought of one poor online review tarnishing your well-developed professional reputation may be gut-wrenching, the best thing you can do is put your best foot forward.
But what does that mean exactly? This can be a touchy subject, especially if you are not comfortable online to begin with. Here are a few tips from the experts to guide you through what may be uncharted waters:
Take a moment to digest. What has the customer really said to you? Poor reviews can often feel very personal and the last thing you want to do is rush to reply and respond with emotion. Do your best to understand the situation from the customer’s perspective.
Evaluate the validity of the complaint. Has this issue ever come up before? Could the situation have been avoided? And, is there any action the practice could take to prevent this from reoccurring?
Don’t be defensive. The last thing an unhappy client wants to here are all the reasons why they had they experience they did. Do not try to justify anything.
Be sure to follow through. Whether you pursue connecting with the author of the review privately or respond in an open forum, be sure to follow through with any action items you may suggest.
Focus on addressing the issue. In many cases the customer just wants to feel heard. So, focus on acknowledging what has been said and try to rectify the situation with fairness.
A negative review can certainly be downer but experts say it’s not all bad news. These situations can also provide an immense opportunity to demonstrate your practice’s commitment to client engagement and offer a chance to make business improvements that are directly impacting your clients.
“An important thing to remember when dealing with negative reviews is to be proactive. This is your opportunity to demonstrate that your business is properly run and deals with problems quickly and fairly,” said Matt Earle, president of Reputation.ca, a Toronto-based digital public relations company geared towards helping people and businesses improve their online reputation. “Always respond in a highly empathetic way that addresses the substance of the complaint and shows a fair and generous response to their complaint.”
Seize the Opportunity
If you have never had to deal with a negative online review, you should still consider how to best position yourself before it happens. In this scenario, the old adage, ‘the best defense is a good offense,’ rings true.
A good starting point is to gather a few spots clients may be posting about your practice that you can monitor regularly. A simple Google search of your name or company name can pull up local discussion boards or mentions on sites such as healthgrades.com, vitals.com, or ratemd.com. Facebook, the Yellow Pages and Google itself also provide the opportunity for user to leave a review about your business.
“We do have a couple of staff members that monitor this at our practice,” said Dr. Ian Beaumont, practicing optometrist at FYidoctors in Brandon, Manitoba. “We just want to be aware of any major deficiencies that people may be posting about us. I don’t mind the online review system. It obviously has limitations just like any system, but it can be used as a self evaluation tool to better yourself.”
Aim to hold an active presence online, whether it may be with a company website, blog or social media posts. Then take it a step further and encourage all of your customers towards providing their feedback online. More often than not, patient reviews are going to be exceedingly positive, but of course the negative ones always seem more prominent. Think about balancing that equation and painting a more accurate picture of your practice by motivating clients to comment, like or provide a review.
Don’t forget, thank everyone who takes the time to provide feedback, no matter the intention. These reviews provide valuable insight from the patients’ point-of-view about what areas of your business are working well and where improvements can be made. All feedback, including that rotten review, has the capacity of improving your practice if handled correctly.
JENNIFER PAIGE GOLLETZ
Jennifer Paige Golletz is a freelance writer and journalist based in Toronto, Ontario. She graduated with honours from the print journalism program at Lethbridge College in Alberta and has been actively writing for a number of publications for the past five years.