5 smart ways to handle negative online reviews

July 23, 2018

Healthcare practitioners and marketers want patients to leave reviews. Unfortunately, not all reviews are positive and constructive. Here’s how to handle negative reviews so they don’t damage your practice’s growth or reputation.

Every physician or medical practice owner has to deal with a large number of online reviews. Most are encouraging comments, but the comfort of anonymity can make some patients more inclined to be vindictive and post scathing reviews of your service and staff.

Displeased patients tend to be more expressive than satisfied patients because they want tell others about their experience with your service or staff. They also might try to post negatives reviews on as many online platforms as possible.

Every time a patient writes negative about your staff or services, the whole world can read it. Your existing and potential patients may start to judge you based on what is posted about your practice on various review sites, how quickly you responded to those comments, what your reaction was, and how you resolved the matter.

However, it can become difficult to read these reviews if you start to take patient feedback personally without considering patients may be dissatisfied with their own understanding of your service or have confused one treatment for another.

Make sure someone from your practice is responsible for handling online reviews, someone who knows how to deal with negative reviews in an effective manner. Here are five smart ways to achieve a more balanced view of online patient reviews, the way they affect your medical practice, and your reputation.

1. Stay calm

It may be instinctive to press the panic button the moment you see a scathing review. However, you must accept that you cannot please every patient, and not every patient is going to like every aspect of your service. It is critical to understand that not all feedback is beneficial. When you are reading through online reviews, start by looking for repeated issues. For instance, if the most common word in negative reviews is “disappointed,” this may imply that the patients had higher expectations from your practice than what was offered. Once you have identified the patterns, figure out what aspect is causing an issue with your patients.

 

2. Look for solutions

Once you have determined what aspect of your practice needs improvement, brainstorm with your team potential effective solutions. For instance, if you are experiencing long wait times, consider the steps to improve your efficiency or ways to engage patients while they are waiting. The most important thing to learn from negative reviews is never to take them personally. Taking each review personally can actually harm your service and reputation. Instead, negative feedback should act as the framework to improve your service.

3. Acknowledge negative reviews

Ignoring a bad comment on social networks may seem like the best move for a while, but a prompt and professional response is a better plan of action. A soft yet firm response to online reviews will not only help establish a long-term relationship with the dissatisfied patient but will also show that you are trying to resolve their concerns. Patients often post negative reviews for practices that are not up to the mark on patient service and then try to evade blame. Therefore, instead of playing the blame game, look for ways to keep improving your service quality.

 

4. Apologize and thank the reviewer

When you respond, try not to be aggressive or defensive, and never put blame on the reviewer. In order to change a negative perception, try to explain why and how the incident happened. While you are focused on responding to the reviewer, other people are also reading your comments and wondering whether or not to trust your practice. The reviewer took the time to alert you about an issue, so it becomes your responsibility to thank him or her for giving you the opportunity to address a potential problem. Had the reviewer simply shared his or her feedback at a friend’s get-together, it would not have been possible for you to understand and fix the problem.

 

5. Look at the positive side

If every patient starts posting positive reviews of your practice, potential patients could become suspicious that the reviews are fake and not genuine. Therefore, a handful of negative reviews can actually help to build patients’ trust. Online reputation is crucial, and negative reviews have the power to build or shake your reputation. The smartest way to mitigate the impact of negative reviews is to try to attract more positive reviews. This fresh, positive content will help “push down” the old negative review. A number of online tools are available on the market that can help you monitor and manage your online reviews.

Remember: No matter how scathing the review is, you can always learn from it. If you know that the negative feedback is correct, it is essential to take proactive steps to fix the issue. Use the information provided in the review to prevent another patient from having similar experiences in the future.

Alex Mangrolia has been in digital marketing for more than 15 years to drive new profitable growth as well as techniques to boost website traffic and leads. He works as Director of Marketing and Product Development for Practice Builders, a healthcare marketing and consulting firm for healthcare practices, hospitals and clinics. Learn more about Alex's capabilities at PracticeBuilders.com.