When it comes to social media, you probably already know how important it is to listen to online conversations about you and your practice. But have you given much thought to how you respond to that conversation?
You should because if there’s one thing worse than ignoring what’s being said about you online, it’s responding in an inappropriate manner — especially when it comes negative comments and bad reviews. After all, in the echo chamber of social media, you’re not just talking to an unhappy patient; you’re talking to everyone who’s listening in.
That, of course, is one reason many doctors are leery of weighing in and addressing patient issues online. But the reality is that what you say — and how and when you say it — can not only counter today’s negative comment but also positively impact your practice tomorrow and for years to come.
Here’s how to ensure your responses accomplish both goals:
1. Respond quickly
The proliferation of Wi-Fi and broadband Internet access has accelerated Internet users’ expectations to the point that they expect nothing less than instant gratification. For busy doctors, that’s simply not possible so consider assigning a staff member to monitor social media, respond promptly and explain that you’ll follow up as soon as you can. The faster the response, the less likely the ensuing silence will be filled with other “me too” complaints.
2. Be professional, personal and human
Needless to say, you should never take negative comments personally but you should respond in a personal manner. Generic, cookie-cutter responses say you can’t be bothered to take a genuine interest in the situation, which, in turn, raises the question of why that patient — and anybody else following along — should bother with you.
3. Counter inaccurate information with facts
Let’s face it, sometimes patients are simply misinformed. Fortunately, with years of training and experience, you’re in a position to counter inaccuracies with facts — just be sure to go after the misinformation itself, not the messenger. This is also another reason to respond quickly before erroneous information can spread.
4. Consider negative comments as constructive criticism
A single bad review, especially if it’s from someone with unrealistic expectations or an ax to grind, may say more about the reviewer than it does about you and your practice but several on the subject are another matter entirely. As facial plastic surgeon Donn Chatham, of Louisville, Ky., says, “If three people complain about how long they waited or how they were treated, that tells me we can do better.” Thank the reviewers for their feedback and explain how you’re addressing the issue.
5. Be aware of the larger audience
As noted above, social media is an echo chamber where your responses are not only heard by the people you respond to but by their friends, families and others with similar concerns. And just as ignoring bad reviews is not an option, there’s no escaping the fact that others decide who they’re going to do business with based on how those businesses handle customer service complaints.
Still worried that responding to negative reviews will just give the reviewer a platform to rant and open the door to more negative comments? If so, consider the results of a study by customer-experience experts RightNow.com (now part of Oracle) that used holiday shopping to explore the relationship between negative reviews, company responses and subsequent sales.
- 68% of consumers who posted a complaint or negative review online were contacted by the business they complained about
- 34% of them deleted their original negative review
- 33% turned around and posted a positive review
- 18% became a loyal customer and bought more
Now, that’s a gift that keeps on giving.