Dos and Don’ts of Dealing with Online Reviews

October 16, 2015 - Posted by Anna Mazereeuw

When it comes to online reviews, the saying “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” definitely applies. As frustrating as they can be, online reviews aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, so it’s necessary to embrace the reviews, recognize that they do have their benefits, and learn to use them to your advantage. If you’re not sure where to start with handling online reviews, we’ve got you covered with some dos and don’ts for dealing with them:

Dos

Do make your response personal and customized.

Sometimes we see responses being copy and pasted for each review. While this a quick and easy solution, it’s not hard for people to tell that you’re doing that and it doesn’t reflect well on your practice. By comparison, responding to each review individually looks great and demonstrates that your practice cares about each patient.

Do apologize for bad experiences.

Offer to make things right or let the client know that you are investigating. Also make sure to thank the client and mention that you value feedback.

Do use proper spelling, grammar, and punctuation.

This may seem like a no brainer, but we’ve seen some pretty poorly written response to reviews. Reviews themselves come in all kinds of formats, with reviewers often forgetting to include punctuation, not bothering to capitalize words, or even using all caps to try and prove their point. The Internet can be a free-for-all when it comes to writing.

But no matter what the review you’re responding to looks like, it’s a good idea to adhere to proper writing style. Your response will be seen by a lot of potential clients and you want to appear professional and articulate.

Do pay attention to the customer’s feedback.

It can feel like people are just complaining to complain, but even if a client is upset because a point of confusion or a misunderstanding, there may be valuable feedback to take from their experience. For example, if a client’s review demonstrates that they don’t understand why you had to do so many tests on their pet, you might consider whether you need to communicate more clearly with clients about the tests you’re doing and why. It won’t always be a problem with a solution, but keep your eyes peeled for any opportunities to improve.

Additionally, watch your reviews for patterns. For example, I’ve noticed that my doctor’s office has several negative online reviews, and all the reviews say the same thing – that they’re unhappy with the service they received from reception. It might be time for my doctor’s office to review staff policies or reception procedures, because it is obvious from the reviews that the clients are unhappy. When reviews say the same thing repeatedly, it’s usually a sign that you have an issue that needs to be addressed.

Do encourage people to write reviews whenever possible.

The more positive reviews your hospital has, the more appealing it looks to potential clients. Additionally, a large quantity of positive reviews can reduce the impact of a few negative reviews, by making the naysayers look like outliers.

You can solicit positive reviews by simply requesting them from your clients via email after a positive visit. Tools like VSmart Promote make this process easy by automatically sending follow-up emails after a client’s visit to get feedback and request online reviews.

Do report false reviews.

While you can’t remove false reviews yourself, if you genuinely feel that a review is untruthful or actually a competitor, you can ask the review site to take it down. They may or may not comply, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. This is a good tactic to use in the case of cyberbullying.

Don’ts

Don’t ignore bad reviews.

While it can be tempting to let those angry replies gather dust, the best solution to most bad reviews is to respond (the exception to this being obviously fake or malicious reviews). Not responding maintains the negative impact of the review. However, if you add a customer service message in response, you leave the reader on a positive note – knowing that your practice is paying attention and attempting to rectify the situation.

Don’t ignore good reviews.

When you respond to good reviews, even if it’s just a brief sentence saying thank you, you reward the individual for writing the review, inspire continued loyalty, and encourage other people to write good reviews as well.

Don’t get defensive or berate the author for writing a negative review.

The review is not usually intended to be personal – the reviewer is attempting to help other people avoid a negative experience or looking to receive a reply from your practice regarding their bad experience. It may feel frustrating that the reviewer chose to air their grievances online instead of coming to you directly, but acting on that frustration will do nothing to help your reputation. Responding defensively makes your clinic look unprofessional and can discourage other readers from visiting your clinic.

Don’t accuse the reviewer of being fake.

It might be OK to gently call the client out on not having visited your practice in quite some time (e.g., “It seems like you haven’t been to our practice in a while, as Dr.__ hasn’t worked here in a few years. We’ve made some changes and we’d love a second chance to show you excellent service.”), or to state that you weren’t able to find them in your records. Our favorite example of this is a practice owner responding to an irate reviewer with “We’re sorry that you had a bad experience, but it seems like there may have been a misunderstanding. Did you maybe bring your kitten in under a different name? We can’t find your name in our files.” This response subtly lets readers know that the reviewer might not be a real client without placing any blame.

However, we have seen a couple of reviews where the owner blatantly suggested that the reviewer was a jealous competitor or a malicious attacker. This did nothing to improve the appearance of the business, but it did make the owner look angry, unpleasant to interact with, and unwilling to investigate negative experiences. And people don’t take too kindly to being called fake.

Dealing with online reviews won’t always be easy, but it doesn’t have to be challenging or impossible either. With these dos and don’ts, you’re equipped to handle any reviews that come your way and manage your online reputation like a champ.


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