Today’s blog comes from E-rehab.com President David Straight, PT, DPT, OCS. E-Rehab provides physical therapy websites, video, email newsletters, search, and social media for physical therapy-owned private practices. Contact David at 800.468.5161 or dave@e-rehab.com. 

David Straight

As Benjamin Franklin once said, “It takes many good deeds to build a good reputation, and only one negative one to lose it.” With this statement in mind—and 21st century technology—let’s talk about reputation management in 2013. Here are a few questions to start you thinking:

  1. Do you know your online reputation?
  2. Are there any negative reviews about your practice on the Internet? If so, do you have a procedure for handling these reviews?
  3. Do you have a proactive reputation management program in place to inoculate your practice against negative reviews?
  4. Have you considered the impact that positive reviews will have on your practice’s reputation?

What is Online Reputation Management?

According to Wikipedia, “online reputation management is the practice of monitoring the Internet reputation of a person, brand, or business, with the goal of emphasizing positive coverage rather than negative reviews or feedback.” While much of online reputation management is focused on keeping negative search results at bay, the successful reputation manager works to “bridge the gap between how a company perceives itself and how others view it.”

Reputation management today is what most people would consider public relations in yesteryears. With all of the different outlets for raving fans or ranting critics (think review sites and social media platforms), reputation management is essential to your overall marketing strategy. All it takes is one unhappy patient, one angry employee, or one unethical competitor, and your online reputation can take a significant hit.

Why Does Reputation Management Matter?

  • According to Lee Resources, Inc., 91% of unhappy customers will not do business with the same company again.
  • According to the National Association for Retail Marketing Services, 95% of unhappy customers will return if an issue is resolved quickly and efficiently.  
  • In a study done by Cone, four-out-of-five consumers reverse purchase decisions based on negative online reviews.
  • According to a Pew Internet poll, 17–24% of consumers surveyed said they consider online reviews when choosing a doctor.

How Do I Manage My Reputation in a Referral-Based Practice?

Most physical therapy practices are referral-based businesses—a physician, friend, or family member recommends your or your practice by name. When a patient receives a referral, a vast majority will do a Google search for your practice by name. (If you question the validity of this, take a look at your web statistics. I’m betting you will find that a majority of your website visitors come from search engines and the number one phrase people search with is your business name.) Thus, a positive reputation referral search (i.e., positive reviews when someone searches for your business name online) is even more important than being ranked for geographic searches like “physical therapy Scottsdale.”

How Do I Monitor My Online Reputation?

The first thing to do is set up a system to monitor your practice’s online reputation. While there are costly third-party services available, most small practices can accomplish the job quite well with just a couple (free) tools. I recommend starting with Google Alerts, which will notify you by email of any keyword activity you’re interested in. For example, let’s say your practice name is Acme Physical Therapy, you can simply enter “Acme Physical Therapy” into Google Alerts and it will return all the data it can find about your practice name.

I also recommend locating your business listing on the following websites:

Open them all in the same web browser and then create a folder of bookmarks for each of them. Then, once a week, open all of your bookmarks at once and check to see if you have any reviews.

How Do I Handle Negative Reviews?

I recommend you handle a negative review the same way you would handle a complaint in your office. Let’s say that a patient who is upset about his or her bill is standing at your front desk along with several other patients. What would you do? I’m guessing you would ask the patient to accompany you to a private area where you can listen to their concerns and then attempt to rectify them. 

The same goes for negative online reviews. Post an apology to the patient for the problem or inconvenience, tell him or her that you would like to solve the matter as fast as possible, and request he or she contact you directly because you don’t want to compromise patient privacy. Obviously, you don’t want to argue online. Remain professional and diplomatic always.

And don’t even think about creating fake positive reviews to push the negative one off the page. It’s illegal and will only make things worse. Instead, address the review as I discussed above—professionally and diplomatically—and you may be able to save an existing customer and show prospective ones that you care about your patients.

Hopefully now you have a greater understanding of reputation management and why it’s important to your clinic as well as a few first steps to take in terms of monitoring and responding.

In my next post, I will discuss the benefits of implementing a positive online reputation management program and provide you with a few simple tools that will allow you to easily inoculate your practice against negative reviews while boosting your reputation. So, check back often. In the meantime, if you have questions or comments about reputation management, please leave them in the comments section below or send me an email at dave@e-rehab.com.

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