Online Reputation, Dentists, Negative Reviews
The Internet has given dental patients the ability to find and easily post online reviews and testimonials. Dentists will often find themselves, their practice and even their staff or assistants being reviewed at a number of websites — which were created just for that purpose.
Each week we receive a number of inquiries from dentists complaining that their reputation is ruined and asking if we can help “eliminate” a negative review posted on the Web by a disgruntled patient. Their concerns are legitimate since more and more patients today seek out ratings and reviews of doctors to help guide their decisions. If the dentist has a poor rating score, or several “bad” reviews, he or she may just lose the patient to a competitor.
Adding To Their Woes
In an economic downturn, a negative review is one of the last things the dentist wants or needs, especially when they are already struggling with rising costs, not to mention the hard cold fact that new patient numbers are down and “no shows” and cancellations are increasing.
Many dentists react to a negative review emotionally and expect, or demand that the website in question remove the “offending” comment. Still others attempt to seek legal recourse and retain an attorney, hoping the law firm can get a review removed. Unfortunately, neither of these methods work well and sometimes the dentist finds they are far worse off than before.
Even if the comment borders on defamation and the dentist wants to pursue legal remedy, be warned. Attorneys often charge a minimum of $5K-$10K retainer - with sometimes a $100K - $200K total fee to handle such cases.
Accepting Your Dilemma
Obviously, adopting a preemptive awareness policy within the practice that such a potential exists will help prevent poor reviews from being posted. However, once confronted with a negative review, it is possible to turn it around in your favor. You may have to swallow your pride and humble yourself, though the overall learning experience can pay big dividends.
Resign yourself to the fact that the reviewing website will under most circumstances never remove the patient’s remarks; they will likely be there forever. Patient comments are essentially free content generated for these sites by the public — and they equate to the site owner’s bread and butter.
How To Address Bad Reviews
Once you’ve found a bad review about your practice, your best course of action is to post a response. Create a user profile under your real name, navigate to the comments and reply to the person who posted. Keep in mind never to do this in haste, or if you’re angry; you’ll want to plan what you say carefully. You want to mitigate the problem - not compound it.
Handle the situation graciously with tact and integrity. You’ll have to come up with your own words, though here’s a 5-step guideline to follow.
1. Validate the patient’s feelings; acknowledge that she’s upset.
2. Let her know that you’re sorry she experienced a problem and that you’re glad she told you about it.
3. Assure her that you will make it right and something will be done.
4. Ask the patient how you can make it up to her — e.g. what would make her happy.
5. Make an offer to remedy the situation — one which shows you sincerely care about her.
While the above suggestions will remedy most negative reviews and provide the public with an alternate, positive viewpoint, there may be occasions where other means will be needed to diffuse the impact of a bad review on your practice. Many of these can implemented by dentists themselves.
Since the reviews are found by prospective patients via the search engines, the idea is to push the websites where the review is found, down deeper in the search results, or displace the site so that it’s moved to the second or third page results. Most people will not venture past the first page of SERPS.
Improve Your Online Presence
The good news is that the solution to your problem is actually part of a marketing strategy that you could have used already; a bad review can be seen as the incentive that you needed to get started.
Your practice website is your first line of defense; it should be search engine optimized to position the dentist profile, or bio page above all other websites in the search results for your name and/or your practice identity.
The next item on your to-do list is to create multiple profiles for your name online; there are plenty of free ones too that have sufficient “link juice” behind them to exceed, compete with and dilute negative review sites. Here are some of the most popular sites where you can establish a profile.
Since a person might search reviews for your name, in all instances be sure to use your real name which will appear in the title for your profile.
Free Blogs / Google Sites
Here are more free ways to crowd out the review sites; these platforms will require a little more work on your part, yet they’re still fast and effective. Again, ensure that you use your full, real name when creating these channels.
Low-Cost Online Directories
Another valuable venue are those directories which in addition to providing a link to your website, also offer a dedicated “details page” devoted to your listing. To reiterate, use your name or practice for the submission title.
Still more options include press releases, article submission sites and niche mini-sites for your practice that can be positioned in the search engines. The key point to remember is that a bad review is not the end of the world. There are ways to deal with them — and as an extra bonus, the experience can also help you grow as a person — and become an even better dentist.
Monitor Your Reputation Online
One of the simplest methods to assist with managing your reputation is to set up free Google alerts (for your name and practice). Whenever a mention of your name is found, you’ll receive an email alert so that you can then deal with any problems immediately.
Search Over 40 Top Dental Review Sites
You can instantly search every major medical and doctor review site on the Internet for your name or practice — all with a single click. Simply enter your information right here on The Visible Dentist.
Google recently provided Local Business owners listed in Google Places the ability to respond to reviews. Read: Google Announcement