No one likes to see bad reviews about their services but closing your eyes to them is never a good idea. And while some doctors are still hesitant to wade into the waters of social media, acknowledging reviews — the good, the bad and the ugly — can pay off in surprising ways.
Consider the situation in the hotel industry, where people rant and rave about their lodging experiences. Millions of them follow up their trips by posting hotel reviews on TripAdvisor.com — so many, in fact, that the site receives 25 new contributions every minute.
And if you’ve ever looked at the site — and, really, who hasn’t? — you know they’re not all raves, one reason the site undertook a study last year to investigate what sort of influence management responses to reviews have on people’s impressions:
For years we have been hearing from travelers that a management response to a negative review often has more of an impact on their booking decision than the review itself. Travelers have said that management responses indicate that a hotel takes customer feedback seriously.
Among the results:
- 71% of travelers said that seeing a management response to reviews was important to them
- 78% said that seeing a management response to good reviews made them think more highly of the property
- 79% said that seeing management responses to bad reviews made them think more highly of the property
- 68% said that when choosing between two comparable properties, the presence of a management response would sway them in favor of that property
Of course, responding to an unhappy hotel guest vs. an unhappy cosmetic surgery patient is a very different experience — hoteliers don’t have to worry about HIPAA or other privacy concerns — but the underlying point is worth remembering. People appreciate it when they feel they’re being listened to and others pick up on the conversation and make buying decisions accordingly.
1. Respond quickly, courteously and compassionately
Identify the patient’s concern (without identifying the patient, of course), address it directly and be honest about what you can and cannot do to rectify the situation. Thank them for bringing the issue to your attention and let them know that you value all feedback — good, bad or otherwise.
2. You are your practice but your practice is more than just you
Having your response come from your practice rather than directly from you can help keep the conversation from degenerating into an argument, says Tom Seery, CEO of RealSelf.com, who recommends saying something along the lines of: “Our practice encourages patients to share their experiences. In fact, our greatest source of new referrals are our past patients. We are 100% dedicated to seeing patients achieve safe outcomes and ask that any past patient with a concern contact us directly.”
3. When words fail, have an escalation plan in place
If addressing the issue “in public” doesn’t resolve the issue, understand that you still have options. If you know who the poster is, you can send a letter asking them to remove the review; if you don’t, you can contact the website and ask them to remove it. Make this appeal direct from you, not a lawyer! Taking legal action — against the reviewer, not the website, which is protected by the Communications Decency Act — should only be considered a last resort and when you believe the review is truly defamatory. At that point, it’s time to talk to an attorney.