How Should Doctors Respond to Online Reviews?

In the field of medicine, reputations are hard won.

If you are a consultant you will appreciate more than most, the years of sacrifice, hard work and dedication that were invested behind the scenes while you were making a name for yourself.

Within the ever changing digital landscape, everyone now has the opportunity to review and comment on your services, and with the increasing popularity and proliferation of review websites, their voices are now louder than ever.  

If you are thinking that online reviews are only for hoteliers and cafe owners, you may want to reconsider. Positive reviews will carry a lot of weight in the decision making process for all online users, including potential patients. In fact, 74% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more and 88% of consumers trust online reviews as much as they would trust a personal recommendation.

It is also worth noting that online reviews have an large impact on local search, influencing as much as 10% of the ranking. If you want your practice to appear highly in the search engines you need to request reviews regularly, and keep them up to date.

The Benefits of Bad Reviews

It may seem counterintuitive, but even bad reviews are valuable to your business. They can offer insights into areas where your business could be improved. After all, you can’t oversee every single aspect of running a private practice. From our studies, we have found the majority of poor reviews have little or nothing to do with the consultant or doctor. For example, poor reviews often focus on issues like unfriendly staff on reception or confusion about appointment times.

 

Responding promptly to these bad reviews in a professional and courteous manner is of vital importance. However, many practitioners overlook this. Though it can be a challenging task (particularly within the constraints of patient confidentiality) it can help to contain bad sentiment or rectify situations where patients have been left feeling dissatisfied.

 

Doctors will often tell us that they have not responded to bad reviews because they have been unsure how to respond due to patient confidentiality issues. This silence can be seen as validation of the review. You’re not defending yourself, so readers may assume the public  feedback must be (at least partially) true. However, the patient has already voluntarily divulged that they (or a relative) has attended the clinic, so it is acceptable to address the issue without giving out any specific details.

 

In a field where trust is of paramount importance, responding to reviews actually gives the opportunity to gain patient trust, respect and set out your own high standards.. To quote the GMC:

 

“Patients must be able to trust doctors with their lives and health. To justify that trust you must show respect for human life and make sure your practice meets the standards expected of you”.

 

Even if one patient is displeased with the service they have received, you can still demonstrate the respect and standards you hold to other potential patients searching for you online.  

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How should healthcare professionals and doctors respond to negative reviews online?

Start with a thank you. This shows that you welcome all feedback and appreciate the time people have spent writing it.

Reinforce standards. Some people have impossible standards that can never be met. By stating that you strive for excellence, you are showing searchers the standards you expect of yourself and your clinic.

Apologise! Getting an apology from some consultants can be harder than getting a ‘yes’ / ‘no’ from a politician. Acknowledging that something went badly enough to prompt a bad review can be enough to show a human and down-to-earth attitude.

Maintain confidentiality. No one wants to become embroiled in an online dispute and doing so may well risk breaching patient confidentiality.

Provide another channel of communication. The script below offers patients the option to contact you again to discuss their issue with more privacy.

Keep it professional. Many web users will not click through to a website with negative reviews. Leaving a professional response like the one below may be enough to recapture the interest of the user.

Show that you care. Private patients are often vocal about the sums they have paid for a private  treatment or consultation. Responding to feedback shows that you are interested in the outcome of this investment.

Demonstrate your bedside manner. Potential patients are much more likely to dismiss a negative review that is handled sensitively than a review that is ignored.

 

Perhaps most importantly, a response that has all these elements works because patients appreciate it: 26% of consumers say it’s important that a local business responds to its reviews, and if a business resolves its issue quickly and efficiently, 95% of unhappy customers will return back to your business

A Template for Doctors Who Have Received A Bad Review

An example of an appropriate response to a bad review is outlined below. Feel free to copy and paste it – don’t forget to edit it accordingly – for your own needs;

 

“Thank you for your valuable feedback. We always aim to provide the most exceptional service possible at [your clinic] and we can only apologise sincerely that your experience did not meet these expectations on this occasion. Due to confidentiality laws, we cannot go into further details here, however, we would be happy to discuss your experiences if you contact us privately.”

How often should healthcare professionals and doctors seek reviews?

 

Maybe you received some satisfactory reviews in the past but prompting clients to leave reviews regularly is vital. This ensures that your review posts are considered to be an accurate reflection of your business as it is currently. Almost 73% of consumers think that reviews older than 3 months are no longer relevant

 

If you are successful in gathering positive reviews on a regular basis it will have a positive impact on your practice’s website. As many as 54% of people will visit your website after reading positive reviews.

 

Don’t forget that regular replies to reviews both good and bad offer you the chance to showcase your practice’s customer service skills as well as offering a personal touch.

The danger of not getting reviews for healthcare professionals and doctors

On some directory sites such as Google My Business, visitors are able to post reviews or star ratings directly onto your business listing. This is then displayed for all visitors to see. Sites will often average out scores, even when the total number of ratings posted is very low, Google My Business being one such example.

 

So, if you only have say, three ratings, even if two of them carry 5 stars, it would only take one poor rating of one or two stars to make a huge impact on your average overall rating. This is prominently displayed next to your listing.

 

Therefore it is in your interest to try and maximise the overall quantity of ratings and reviews on your listings pages. This enables an overwhelming quantity of good 4 or 5 star ratings to absorb the damage that an occasional 1 or 2 star review can wreak on your overall rating. The impact of this should be overlooked at your peril, as 92% of people will hesitate to do business with companies with less than four out five stars

 

Four or more negative articles about your company or product appearing in Google search results is likely to cause you to lose 70% of potential customers and it only takes one to three negative reviews for most people to decide not to buy your product or service

 

If you have an active business listing on Google, you can encourage satisfied clients to leave positive reviews using an automated prompt when sending out emails: 7 out of 10 consumers will leave a review for a business if they’re asked to. Remember that you only need one or two favourable ratings or reviews to give you a clearly displayed 5* rating next to your business name, adding credibility to your business and reputation.

But I don’t have time for all of this

 

Staying up to date with your reviews as they come in and actively encouraging patients to leave reviews can be an extra consideration that your practice will struggle to find time to do effectively on a regular basis.

 

To help with this, we have developed a way to provide you with an automated method of requesting reviews from clients. We call this (predictably) SERP Health Reputation Management.

 

Those patients that are happy with their care and treatment are offered the opportunity to leave feedback on almost any online review site of your choice. Oour software will even automatically share your top reviews to your social media platforms,

 

If a patient responds with a three star rating (or less) our SERP Health reputation management software redirects the user and allows them to send their feedback (privately) This gives you, or a member of your team, the ability to follow up with unhappy patients and provide explanations and resolutions as relevant.

 

To find out more about SERP Health Reputation Management just click this link, email [email protected] or call us on 0333 012 4632.

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