Most physicians can relate to the frustration of coming across a negative review online – especially if it is inaccurate or straight up untrue. It can be a blow to all the effort you put into your practice, however, truth is that almost all physicians will get at least a few negative reviews. Not every patient will see eye to eye with you or your staff. It’s bound to happen but the important thing is to react and respond appropriately. Responding to reviews not only shows that you are acknowledging the upset patient, but that you also care and are proactive about improving the overall patient experience.
Bottom line – any feedback (negative included) is valuable and provides you with important information to improve your business. No one likes to hear it, but quite simply, if you ignore what can be improved upon in your practice, the negative experience and word-of-mouth will end up costing you more down the line. Part of responding appropriately to negative reviews is actually taking action to improve on what might be lacking. Ignoring these issues will only continue the cycle of having dissatisfied patients who have the potential to leave more negative reviews.
When Not to Respond
Responding to reviews is a smart practice, however, there are instances when it just is better to not respond. With any bad review, it’s important to take a few minutes to clear your head so you can decide on your next steps sans emotions. Upon doing so, you may find that it’s best to just leave the review alone. For instance, if someone is extremely upset, falsifying information, leaving an anonymous review or accusing you of malpractice, it’s usually best to not respond. Other issues involving patient experience, wait times or parking might be more suitable for a response.
Tips for Responding to Negative Reviews
- Stay Professional
Remember, keep the emotions out when coming up with a response. Stay calm and give yourself some time before responding if need be. The worst thing you can do is display defensiveness or an argumentative tone. Customer service has become a public affair so keep in mind that the public is watching how you handle the situation. Responding in a professional manner while also showing respect, courtesy, sincerity and empathy will go a long way and can even turn your worst critic into your biggest supporter.
- Keep It Short and Sweet
When responding to reviews, keep it concise. Remember, this is about acknowledging and good customer service. Going into too many details will start to look like a rebuttal. Instead, thank them for their review, let them know they are helping you improve your practice and if you choose, include a brief statement about how you are working to address the stated issues.
- Keep It General
Physicians have to add an extra layer of caution when responding to reviews due to HIPAA laws. It’s important to stay within patient confidentiality and not share any private health information. Even if the reviewer discloses their own health information, it’s important to not acknowledge it specifically or respond with any additional private information. It’s always better to err on the side of caution and keep your responses general and professional.
- Respond In a Timely Manner
If you choose to respond to a review, make sure to do so in a timely manner. Responding to a negative review months after it has been posted doesn’t exactly show that you care about customer feedback. Stay on top of monitoring your different review sites so you can respond right away.
Negative online reviews can almost always be expected, but it’s how you respond that will make the difference. Further, the best way to combat bad reviews is with positive reviews. Potential patients are wiser than you think and aren’t usually deterred by a couple of bad reviews. However, if those are all the reviews you have, then it’s a different story. Make it a priority to let your patients know that feedback is important to your practice and encourage them to leave you online reviews. For pointers, check out this blog post on how to get more online reviews.