For most businesses, both big and small, customer (or patient) opinions can mean the difference between success and failure. Word of mouth is often referred to as the most powerful form of marketing, and in the new online age, people’s opinions of your business can reach a much larger audience. It’s important to learn how customer reviews can impact your practice and what to do in terms of both good and poor reviews. Being able to manage your online reputation can potentially make or break your practice success.
What Are Reviews
A review is defined as “a formal assessment or examination of something with the possibility or intention of instituting change if necessary.” Many businesses have a specific place on their website where customers (or patients) can leave these “assessments” and share their experiences. Reviews can include both comments and ratings. For most products/services, there will be a rating system of 1-5 stars accompanied by a written review.
Along with the reviews on your practice site, websites like Yelp, Google, Yahoo, Yellow Pages, Better Business Bureau, and Angie’s List and social media sites like Facebook and Twitter give consumers another platform to share their thoughts. This also allows other users searching for goods and services to see what experiences other people have had when using these companies.
How Can Reviews Affect Business?
Reviews are quickly becoming an important part of the decision-making process. They can be the deciding factor of whether a potential patient makes an appointment with you or your competitor. Beyond decision making, online reviews can play a role in search engine optimization (SEO). For example, if a patient searches for “optometrists near [LOCATION]”, that search will often include Google ratings (1-5 stars) of the businesses that appear, both good and bad.
See the Bigger Picture: the Importance of Customer Service
Reviews are all about the experience a patient has in your office. Practice guru Neil Gailmard, OD, MBA, FAAO, shared his customer satisfaction tips to help fellow eye care professionals create a positive atmosphere for their patients. His ultimate philosophy is to let unhappy patients win. This may not seem like he has his business’s best interest in mind, but he disagrees. Because this amount of patients is so small, it doesn’t impact his bottom line as much as one might think.
“The 2% of the time represents such a small amount of revenue that it just does not make sense to fight about it. The office still runs smoothly with this group of patients as well, because we just let them win.”
How to Respond to Negative Online Reviews
While many business owners would like to think that all these comments will be positive ones, people can and will leave bad reviews. It’s important to encourage patients who have had great experiences to leave a positive review. However, it may be even more important to know how to handle negative reviews.
- Don’t panic.
Responding rashly won’t fix anything, and, oftentimes, it’s from a place of anger. These responses will hurt more than help. Take a deep breath and calm yourself before getting into it.
- Evaluate the situation.
What is this patient’s story? Do you remember his/her visit? What is the review complaining about? Was this a one-time thing or could other patients experience this issue?
- Respond quickly.
While you shouldn’t answer off the cuff, a timely response is crucial. Waiting too long can make the patient even more agitated and make him/her feel like you don’t hear them. Make sure you are tactful and respectful, even if the review is not.
- If the review is fake, flag it for removal.
Here’s a great source on how to remove a fake Google review.
- Rectify the situation.
Apologize for the poor experience and offer to fix it somehow. Take the conversation off public forum and find out how to fix the situation.
- Stay on top of it.
Don’t let this patient or problem fall off your radar. Follow through with how you suggested to reconcile the situation and figure out how to fix the underlying problem of the review.
Knowing how to utilize and handle online reviews can build your online reputation and continue to differentiate your practice from competitors. This is a brief overview of what reviews can do for your practice; it’s important to keep researching and learning how to manage your online reputation.
Our next post will review email marketing and how you can utilize this medium.
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