As a dentist and practice owner, you will run into criticism sooner or later. Before the proliferation of social media, dissatisfied customers didn’t have a lot of venues to vent their frustration. But thanks to the Internet, unhappy clients can reach thousands of people to describe their bad experiences.
Why You Should Respond to Negative Reviews
We’ve already seen a couple of examples of how to respond to critical or negative business reviews. Sometimes you’ll be lucky enough that the patient comes back for a second visit and/or updates their review. But this doesn’t always happen. In the vast majority of cases, the reviewer may not even see your response! Even when they do, they may not give you a second chance.
So why should you even bother responding to criticism online? There are two main reasons. If the reviewer is complaining about a particular problem or situation, you want to try to resolve it. Research shows that customers are willing to give businesses a second chance if management reaches out to them. In this case, you do want the patient to see your response and consider coming back.
The other reason is to show potential clients that you engage with your patients, especially when they criticize your clinic. So even if the original reviewer doesn’t see your post, others certainly will. New clients will know that you’re willing to improve and work on correcting any mistakes.
Trolls and Bullies – Should You Engage with Them?
A small portion of negative reviews will be from people who don’t necessarily have a problem. They make rude statements or leave scathing reviews to provoke a response from you. Others are not actually interested in resolving the issue. Instead they just want the attention generated from a loud review. Some reviewers may even attempt to bully your staff to get a free coupon or get out of paying the bill.
It is tempting to simply ignore such reviewers and sometimes that is exactly the right course of action. But you might be better served by responding to them politely, thanking them for the review and moving on. It is especially true if they threaten you, your staff or your practice in public. Sometimes you have to stand by your employees and defend your reputation. 9 times out of 10 they will not read or reply to your message. Yet again, others will see the response and revise their opinion of your clinic accordingly.
How NOT to Respond
There are a handful of things you should never do when responding to bad reviews. Do not reply to reviews when you are angry, upset or frustrated. Come back to it after a few hours if need be. You don’t want to come across as anything other than professional when you engage in public discussion.
The second rule is to never continue the conversation in a public forum. The longer you talk in public, the more likely you’ll slip up and reveal patient data, violating HIPAA rules. Even acknowledging that you provided X or Y treatment could constitute a violation.
Your response should include contact info, so the reviewer can talk to you in private. It serves to defuse the situation. It also weeds out bullies looking to provoke a reaction from you or those who want the attention and have no actual interest in working with you.
In spite of your best efforts, you cannot eliminate negative reviews law about your practice. It’s actually better in a way, as many people view the absence of bad reviews with suspicion. How you handle negative reviews will influence public perception more than only having positive reviews!