Review sites are important tools that patients use to find and rate their doctors. But that doesn’t mean you have to let these sites have the final say. Here are some tips on how you can handle negative customer reviews online.
DO: Thank the reviewer.
It’s important to show appreciation that a patient took the time to share honest feedback. Sending a reply is demonstrates that you care about what patients have to say. Furthermore, a Harvard Business Review study suggested that “improved ratings can be directly linked to management responses.” Many times, people who write negative reviews just want to feel like they’re being heard.
DO: Educate patients and learn from reviews.
Set the record straight in a respectful and courteous way if there’s a misunderstanding. If there are privacy rules or reasons that require your practice to do things a certain way, it’s okay to say so. Remember, to keep it conversational, too much government-regulatory “speak” might not be received well. Additionally, identify areas your practice might make improvements (be humble) and let patients know when you’ve made changes that reflect their feedback.
DO: Use site guidelines to your advantage.
Flag reviews for removal if they clearly violate the content guidelines. Be prepared to write a strong and clear argument for why the review should be taken down. To flag reviews for removal on Yelp, Facebook, HealthGrades, and Google, check out their respective policy guidelines.
DO: Protect patient confidentiality.
As you interact with a patient online, don’t forget that you’re not exempt from HIPAA. It’s especially important to follow all confidentiality guidelines carefully. Be careful not to expose any protected health information. Not only does this violate HIPAA, but it is also a violation of your patients’ trust, which can turn potential patients away from scheduling an appointment with your office. And it’s against the law.
DO: Take the conversation offline.
While public feedback related to a patient’s treatment or exam is an obvious no-no for HIPAA reasons, consider the same approach for customer service complaints. The best way to respond to customer service complaints is to work things out offline. Simply acknowledge the feedback and reach out to them privately. Handle criticism online the same way you would if the person was in your office. Just like you’d want to take an upset patient into your office instead of trying to hash things out in the middle of the waiting room, such is the case with online reviews
DON’T: Get defensive.
You don’t want to come across as critical or insensitive to patients, old or new. Be polite and objective with your responses. Defensiveness will only make the reviewer more agitated.
DON’T: Respond right away.
It’s hard not to take negative feedback personally, which can result in a hasty reply. Think about what you’ll say before responding. It’s okay to wait a couple of days when you feel more relaxed and have time to put things into perspective. However, do try to respond to reviews within five business days.
DON’T: Ask patients to remove their reviews or offer incentives.
Use your response to address their concerns. Don’t offer any kind of service for free publicly. People may catch on and leave a negative review to take advantage of a free offer. Review sites like Yelp have algorithms that can detect reviews like these and will hide them or even put a warning on your page letting patients know that you’ve been soliciting reviews.