5 Tips to Respond to Negative Online Reviews

By John Sung Kim  |  January 26, 2016

Bad online reviews can happen to any business at some point. So negative reviews are always a looming threat to practice marketing and the reputation of a medical organization. And while this can hang like a dark cloud over providers, it’s important to understand the best practices to respond when this type of consumer content comes across our profile pages.

The first step is to make a request to the website that the negative review be removed, but most first attempts that I’ve seen don't succeed. That is why it is important to understand these five tips to handling negative reviews before requesting removal: Tweet this Kareo story

  1. You will, in all likelihood, only get one shot at requesting a review be removed, so it’s critical to have a strategy before contacting the review site.
  2. Reading the Terms of Service (TOS) from that review site will go a long way in helping to determine what that strategy should be. It’s common for these review sites to publish in bullet points what types of content they do not allow, for example mentioning a competing company, naming one of your employees specifically, using profanity, etc.
  3. Once it’s determined that a review could violate one or more of the terms, write that in the subject line of the email to the review site, “Violation of Your Terms of Service,” or “This Review Violates Your Terms of Service.” This will often bring your review removal request to the front of the queue.
  4. It’s also a best practice not to respond to the patient directly as this lowers your brand by having you “stoop to their level.”
  5. It is perfectly acceptable, however, to have your Office Manager respond to the review with a statement that, “This review has been flagged for violating the website’s terms of service and is awaiting moderation for removal.”

Using these strategies the next time you have a negative online review will significantly increase your chances of having it removed. However, if it isn't removed keep in mind that the occasional negative review isn't the end of the world, especially if you have a lot of positive reviews. They are only a problem if you don't have many reviews.

Organically (meaning passively waiting for reviews to generate), the average medical practice can have anywhere from two to ten reviews a year. That’s far too few to aggressively recruit new patients and have a solid defense against the occasional bad review. Having just four 5 star reviews and one 1 star review means that a single disgruntled patient can drag down a 5 star practice to a 4 star practice.

Many practices are hesitant to ask for reviews because of fears around patient perception and regulatory compliance. A simple way to avoid problems and to consistently generate a healthy volume of reviews is to use practice marketing automation software that integrates into your appointment schedule. In this way, each patient who walks out the door gets a mobile-friendly email that asks them to rate their visit, which makes the feedback request more of a patient survey and not a selective “ask” for positive reviews.

The more sophisticated systems can not only integrate into popular review sites (feeding them your positive reviews) but can also detect unhappy patients and send them down an alternate path (providing private feedback to the doctor) as opposed to giving the patient a chance to write a publicly negative review.

Several studies have shown that patients are looking at reviews of healthcare providers before booking an appointment. So it is worth the investment to put a system in place to increase overall reviews and manage negative feedback.

If you are looking for more tips on managing your online reputation, download 4 Steps to Building and Managing Your Practice's Online Reputation.

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