April 10, 2016

Bad Review? Five Easy Steps to Soften the Blow

It happens. You’re running late due to an emergency, a new patient is mad their insurance doesn’t cover what they’d hoped for, or maybe you two just aren’t a personality match. Days or weeks later, you run across a review on Google or Yelp that makes you… well, yelp.

We agree with you. It’s patently unfair that the world can take their frustrations out so publicly, but it is the world we live in and it’s not changing any time soon. So, what do you do when you get surprised with this news? Here’s our five step process to mitigate any negative review:

  1. Identify the Patient. Most review sites require their reviewers to have an account with a complete profile that includes a name. If your reviewer has used an alias, you may be able to identify the patient based on the comments in their review.
  2. Try to Resolve the Issue. Most people take to the web to lodge a complaint because they did not feel listened to in the first place. If you know who wrote the review, the doctor (not the team!) should reach out to the patient by phone. Email is simply too impersonal. Your conversation might go like this:

“Mr. Jones, I heard through the grapevine that you may have not had a good experience in our office last week. I love my patients, and I want to know what we can improve in our practice so that you, and everyone who comes to see us, can benefit from what we might learn. Could you walk me through what happened?”

Let the patient get it all out without interruption. Do not get defensive, no matter what. Validate their frustrations and see if you can resolve the issue. So many complaints are simply the result of a misunderstanding and a bit of conversation can go a long way. If you feel you are able to resolve the problem and your patient seems satisfied, ask them if they might be willing to amend their review. Asking the patient to remove it entirely invalidates their experience, but if they change the review to reflect your caring and concern, you’re going to look even better in the public eye.

  1. Write a Public Response. If the issue simply can’t be fixed, you deserve the opportunity to defend yourself. As long as you have claimed the account (keep that login and password for the future, you may be back here soon!), you can write a response. Take a deep breath and remember that your response is publicly judged just as the review is, and that you are bound by HIPAA so no personal references can be disclosed. Ask at least one other unbiased party to read your response before posting it. Oh – and those positive reviews? You should respond to those too. It lets your audience know you’re listening.
  2. Change Something. Every review has a smidgen of truth in it. Evaluate your systems and see what you need to improve so this issue does not happen again. Do you need to be more upfront about financial obligations before an appointment? Should you call a patient who may overlap an emergency and offer them the chance to reschedule? Can another team member step in to create a bond if you and the patient just don’t click?
  3. Get as Many Positive Reviews as You Can. One negative review can be totally balanced by 10 positive ones. Make it a daily habit to ask for reviews, and balance them out over multiple review sites. Ask us about our very easy, very inexpensive review service that will help prospective patients see the real you.  (link to a page on our new review service – which we need to price and name asap.)

In a perfect world, you would have nothing but 5-star reviews. However, none of us are perfect and problems happen. A practice with 4.8 stars is often seen as more authentic and truthful than one with nothing but 5-star reviews. At least now when you do get that uncomfortable 1 or 2 star review, you’ll be better equipped to handle it.

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