Online reviews play a critical role in consumer decisions; one survey shows that 71 percent of patients choose a physician based on online reviews. Positive reviews are very or extremely important in their decision-making.
While healthcare providers and business owners fear negative reviews, research shows most patients make only positive comments. Only one-third of reviewers say they have shared a negative experience.
And yet, one negative review can have big repercussions. That’s why it is critical to monitor on-line comments and reviews, to protect your reputation by addressing problems immediately.
Reviews affect patients’ decisions
Generally, websites feature reviews with a scale of one to five stars, a measure of online reputation. When a healthcare practice or business has a limited number of reviews, there is higher risk of negative reviews bringing down your rating; even one review can have that effect. That low rating can hurt patient accrual since online reviews are so critical.
A couple of 2-star reviews won’t stand out amid hundreds of positive reviews; but if a company (or practice) has just a handful of reviews, those 2-star reviews will dominate. Your average star rating will plummet.
Online reputation management is all about managing a business’ negative reviews, along with encouraging patient feedback via online reviews.
6 strategies to diffuse negative online reviews
First, it’s essential to respond to negative reviews; your response allows you to show your understanding of patients’ difficulties and your interest in solving their problems. And because you’re publishing your response online, you will show prospective patients that you care, are responsive, and willing to share important information about your business or practice.
In creating your response, keep these points in mind:
Thank your reader: Show appreciation for their time spent writing feedback. You’ll show that you appreciate their opinions and value their loyalty.
Respond promptly: Always respond within one or two business days; this is especially true with negative feedback. If you wait longer, more people will see the negative message — and the situation will get worse if there’s no proper response.
Respond on the same platform as the initial feedback: Google reviews, Facebook comments, Yelp reviews — it’s critical that you respond directly within that platform. All must be able to see your response.
Be friendly and sincere: A personable tone is always the best approach. Keep your response simple and brief, and don’t sound defensive. Don’t accuse anyone. Don’t apologize or accept blame. Instead, acknowledge the complaint and refer to company policy, when possible.
Offer to resolve the issue offline: An offer to connect privately is always the best way to resolve a problem. This removes it from the public eye; this also gives the patient the opportunity to decide on next steps.
Respect HIPAA compliance: Never share details about a patient’s date of service, diagnosis or treatment.
Make sure you don’t sound robotic. Develop a personal style for responses, keeping the tone warm.
Encourage feedback. The best way to defend your reputation against a handful of negative reviews is by keeping a high volume of patient reviews. The best way to get more reviews? Simply ask for feedback.
Create patient satisfaction surveys. When the surveys are automated, feedback will be part of your process — which increases the number of reviews you receive. A high number of reviews not only soften the negative impact, but also improve your search engine ranking. This increases the odds of patients finding your practice in an online search.
With an effective online reputation strategy, your healthcare practice or business can outshine the competition. You will be better positioned to attract and retain patients.