Remember the good old days when the average dissatisfied customer or patient only told nine or so people about an unpleasant experience? It seemed like a huge deal! Nine people? Today, social media has all but blown that number out of the water. If you’ve somehow angered a Yelper, you’ll be lucky if only nine hundred people read it. Online review sites are a mixed bag–incredible publicity in a hard-to-control, slightly terrifying forum. We’ve seen some dentists who hope that perhaps online reviews as a means of communication will just fall out of fashion with patient, never to be seen again.
Online Review Sites Are Here to Stay (Sorry)
The good folks at Software Advice recently shared research from their 2013 IndustryView study, which used Google Consumer Surveys to gain insights from 4,515 adult patients in the United States. A few things stand out:
Healthgrades is the most popular site for finding online reviews, although more patients trust Yelp!
When searching for a new provider, most patients begin by reading online reviews.
Patients who read online reviews are most interested in the accuracy of previous diagnoses, years of experience, and average wait times.
“She said WHAT on Yelp?!”
When you pour your heart and soul into your practice, even a single negative review amid dozens of favorable reviews can send you into a tailspin of disappointment, resentment, and even anger. In a world made increasingly transparent by social media, however, a response made in the heat of passion could spell disaster for the positive reputation you’ve worked so hard to cultivate. You need a plan of action for dealing with persnickety patient reviews. Again, I’m focusing on Yelp! reviews. The specifics for other online review sites, such as Healthgrades, Insider Pages, and Citysearch, may differ slightly.
Verify that the review does not violate the Yelp! content guidelines. For example, a review that relays secondhand information, constitutes harassment, or contains offensive language is in violation of the site’s rules.
Review the complaints made in the review to determine what action, if any, could have been taken by you or your staff to avoid the problem.
If possible, determine the identity of the patient who left the review. Reach out to the patient privately to discuss these concerns and, if necessary, explain what steps you have taken to prevent similar issues from occurring in the future. Absolutely DO NOT initiate this exchange in a public forum. HIPAA violation, anyone?
If you are unable to identify the patient, respond to the review publicly to express your regret that the patient did not have a positive experience. Invite the patient (again, no names) to contact you for further resolution.
Yelp does not allow businesses to remove unfavorable reviews, so unfortunately the complaint will still be visible to site visitors. However, the site does allow its users to edit reviews. This means that a patient who receives a satisfactory resolution to his or her problem will have the ability to update the unfavorable review even after many months.