Damage Control: Dealing with Negative Online Reviews in Three Simple Steps
Guest Article by Symposium Presenter David Evans, MBA, PhD, Ceatus Media Group
Bad reviews happen – even to the best facial plastic surgeons.
Few things can stunt practice growth or elicit more emotion than a negative review, but having a system in place to handle negative reviews and generate positive comments can blunt these effects.
Our three-step plan starts with:
Setting up an alert system
You can’t deal with a negative review if you don’t know about it. Your alert system should be automated and monitor 15 to 20 major review sites. You don’t want to be blindsided when a patient comes in (or cancels) after reading the review online.
Taking it offline
Do not lash out at the reviewer online and do not break HIPAA by responding with any type of identifying information about the patient or even confirmation that they are a patient.
Instead, if you know who wrote it, call the patient. This kind of positive attention goes a long way toward mending bridges. If the patient cannot be identified, respond to the review with concern about the patient’s issue using verbiage such as below.
“We are very sorry that you had a negative experience at our practice. At Mann Facial Plastic Surgery, we strive to make every patient’s experience the very best. Please contact me directly at 555-1212 so that I can understand more about your concerns and help to address them.”
This provides an outlet for the unhappy patient to contact you directly and get their issue off their chest. After a short conversation, some patients may voluntarily remove the review. A direct response offering your apologies and an attempt to correct the issue goes a long way with prospective patients, even if the original negative review is never removed.
Getting it down
Reviews that are inappropriate can be removed at the request of the practice. This includes comments that are clearly false, insulting, racist, derogatory or anti-religious. Ex-employees posting reviews also violates the terms of service.
Tip: Use the words Terms of Service or TOS in the initial request to the review site because it will trigger an alert to a real person to look at your message. Also, respond to the review indicating that this review has been flagged as being in violation of the review site’s Terms of Service.
Legal action is typically the last resort. Review sites have a well-protected legal right to publish pretty much anything they want. If, on the other hand, you have proof that someone, such as a competitor, is conspiring to hurt your business through negative reviews, you may be able to use legal action to put a stop to their activities. Find an attorney who has experience in Internet marketing and technology.
In the next newsletter, I will share tips on how to solicit positive reviews from happy patients.
David Evans, PhD, MBA, is CEO of Ceatus Media Group, based in San Diego. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org