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It’s Friday night, and you’re exhausted from a busy work week. As you rummage around your kitchen looking for dinner ingredients, you open the fridge to see what’s there. It’s nearly empty, and unfortunately, the remaining groceries look, well, unappetizing. Your stomach is growling, and going out to eat is looking like your best option. Pretty soon, you’re on Yelp, tracking down the best cheesesteak your city has to offer. You sit down on the couch and scroll through the reviews until you’ve found “the one” (in my mind, finding the best cheesesteak sandwich might look a lot like a Nicholas Sparks love story—fraught with drama and full of everlasting love, but we’ll leave that for another post). “Sam’s Sandwich” has great reviews, and thanks to those, you’re on the road to sandwich bliss.
So, what do sandwich shop reviews have to do with your therapy clinic? You may not be selling sandwiches, but you certainly should be selling the value of your therapy services online. Adults are using the Internet more than ever to find everything from their next meal to advice regarding specific medical diagnoses. And these days, online reviews aren’t only reserved for stores and restaurants. Patients are looking to Internet reviews to help them find their next healthcare provider. As this Pew Research Center article reveals, “16% of internet users, or 12% of adults, have consulted online rankings or reviews of doctors or other providers.” That means your clinic's reviews can influence your success, because patients are making their initial judgements long before they walk through your clinic’s doors.
But it’s not just the reviews themselves that are informing your potential patients’ first impressions; they’re also judging you based on how you respond to those comments and ratings. Stumped on how—and when—to respond to reviews? Here’s a hint: You should respond to all reviews—the good, the bad, and the ugly. Here’s how:
Engaging in thoughtful dialogue with your patients shouldn’t end when they step outside of your clinic’s doors. When a patient leaves a positive review online, you have a chance to show him or her you genuinely care by offering a word of thanks. You should craft your responses as if the patient were thanking you in person. For example, if a patient complimented your clinic during his or her visit, you wouldn’t turn around and ignore that person, would you? I hope not. The same logic applies online. As you’re thanking your reviewer, be sure to write in a tone that matches the vibe of your clinic. If your staff’s attitudes are upbeat and casual, don’t be afraid to write in a bubbly tone. If you err on the more serious and clinical side of the spectrum, then be straightforward—but always keep your responses kind and positive.
Bad reviews hurt. And if left unaddressed, such negative comments can hurt more than your feelings; you risk hurting your business, too. Although patients look for positive reviews when choosing a provider, this JAMA article shows that negative reviews hold their own power: “Among those who sought online physician ratings in the past year, 35 percent reported selecting a physician based on good ratings and 37 percent had avoided a physician with bad ratings.” Although you can’t avoid bad reviews entirely, you can craft responses that show your patients you genuinely care about their experiences in your clinic—and that you’re doing everything you can to improve on the thing that spurred the negative review in the first place.
Okay, so responding to bad reviews might be a little nerve-wracking, but remember, it’s all in the name of improvement—of your reviewers’ opinions of your practice as well as your practice itself. And when patients do offer advice, take it with grace, and whatever you do, don’t argue. Highlight how important it is that they have a positive experience in your clinic, then take a hard look at their suggestions. If you do find room for improvement, adjust your processes, and if those adjustments come as a direct result of a patient’s suggested changes, let that patient know. He or she will be impressed that you not only listened, but also took action.
There might come a time when a patient leaves a negative review that really pushes the limit. He or she might make over-the-top claims, use expletives, or write other damaging (or false) statements. In these types of situations, it’s easy to let your emotions get the better of you. Resist the urge to fight fire with fire—whether or not the patient’s complaint was justified. Instead, politely address the comment, expressing how sorry you are that the patient’s experience was so negative. Offer to contact the patient by phone to discuss his or her frustrations (just ask him or her to provide a phone number via email or direct message so it does not appear publicly).
It’s crucial you respond to all reviews in a timely manner, but this especially holds true when the situation is boiling hot. And your prompt attention won’t just help appease your naysayer; when future patients are stalking your clinic online, they’ll see the proactive measures you took to address past concerns. It can be reassuring—and refreshing—for a prospective patient to see that a clinic cares enough about client satisfaction to to address such reviews head on, rather than simply shrugging them off.
In this day and age, online reviews are important. And while not all reviews will be glowing, every published opinion of your practice provides you an opportunity to demonstrate how deeply you care about your patients—by either thanking them or engaging them to find out what you can do better. So, when your patients leave reviews, respond politely, appropriately, and quickly. Keep these tips in mind, and you just might win some lifelong clients—or at the very least, a delicious cheesesteak sandwich. (Who’s hungry?)
Do you have questions about online reviews? Leave them in the comments section below.