Taking the Pain Out of Online Reviews

Aaron Clifford


Have you Googled your practice recently? You probably haven’t. You’re focused on delivering the best oral care—and short on time. So, take a minute here. Try searching for “dentists near me.” The results are what your potential patients see when they’re seeking a local dentist. Online reviews in particular—positive, negative, or the lack of them—are affecting their decisions.

You may have used online ratings and review sites at one point or another to select a restaurant, hotel, or handyman. As the new word of mouth, they’ve become a popular part of how we make consumer decisions. A recent national survey conducted by OnePoll, and commissioned by Binary Fountain, found that 75% of consumers say online ratings and review sites have influenced their decision when selecting a provider.

As a result, managing an online reputation is becoming important to building a practice. Dental offices will need to implement practices for managing their online reputation. Below are three strategies that can help.

Building Your Online Presence: Ask for Reviews

To start building your online presence, we recommend asking patients after their visit if they would be willing to provide feedback. An automated text message or email can be sent post-visit with direct links to various rating and review sites, like Google, Facebook, and Healthgrades. By seeking permission and making it easier for patients to post online reviews, dental offices will see an increase in response rates.

We also recommend displaying signage or offering handouts in your waiting room outlining how to post an online review. Keep your message neutral (“Share Your Experience Online”), reiterate your commitment to their dental care, and let them know their opinion can help inform others seeking dental care. Requesting honest feedback helps create an accurate, transparent profile of a practice’s skillsets and patient services. Plus, the more feedback you receive, the more it will drown out any “questionable” reviews.

How to Handle Online Reviews 

Face it. Negative online reviews are worse than a root canal. You’ve worked hard at providing the best dental care possible. How could this happen? The good news is that most online reviews are positive. But there are cases when negative reviews happen. So, it’s important for dental practices to be vigilant about monitoring their online reputation.

When receiving a “tough love” review, think of it as a customer service call. Your patient may have an issue. Not responding is like not answering or not returning the call. This is your opportunity to send the message you care about your patient’s experience. Never take online reviews personally. Use them to your advantage. 

So how do you handle a negative review? You’ll need to answer these questions:

  • What’s the best way to respond? 
  • What can you learn from it?
  • What can you do to resolve the issue?

First, you need to establish a process. Decide who will monitor and respond to reviews, what the response message is, and who will be the point of contact for resolving the issue. We recommend responding promptly to these reviews. Thank them for their feedback and then take the conversation offline. This will prevent the situation from escalating online in front of potential customers and violating any HIPAA rules. Provide the patient with either a phone number or email address to contact the practice.

When negative comments are addressed in a timely manner, dental offices can turn a patient’s frown into a smile. Our clients have told us of cases where patients have changed their negative review into a positive response after quickly resolving their issues. They’ll love the fact that you’re listening to their concerns. Also, use negative reviews as learning moments on how you can improve your practice. You have a major stake in seeing your practice succeed, so taking care of these issues can help prevent losing current and potential patients. 

What’s better than a positive online review? Responding to one. Send a quick note thanking these patients for their feedback and restating your commitment to delivering great dental care, and a good patient experience goes a long way. Prospective patients will notice. Plus, sharing positive feedback with staff is a great way to build morale. 

Take a Time-Saving Approach

When you saw the article’s title, you may have thought you just don’t have time for this. You also don’t know where to start, and you have a small staff. Well, here are time-saving tactics to manage your online reputation. And technology can help.

First, as mentioned above, you need to assign ownership to managing your online reputation. It’s recommended that the dentist be the owner of the program and not the one responding to reviews online. The divide and conquer approach minimizes the amount of time it takes to manage your online reputation.

We recommend using templates for responding to, or soliciting, online reviews. This will prevent you from reinventing the wheel every time your practice engages patients. You should also add a brief personal comment to them, so your responses don’t all sound the same. 

Managing online reviews can be like herding cattle. Checking every review site is just time-consuming. You need a centralized platform that can pull in these reviews for you to view and manage. A reputation management solution can help here.

You should also consider having email notifications sent to you when a negative or positive review is posted. This will save you even more time. We further recommend prioritizing which online review sites make sense for you to manage. Doing that Google search can give you an idea of where to start. Begin with those and add more as needed.  

In conclusion, your practice is your business. Your online reputation is how current and prospective patients can perceive your practice and whether you’ll get their business. You need to take ownership and figure out the best way to manage it. The “know how” and technology is out there as practices across the country are managing their reputations. So, start now and create more smiling patients.

Mr. Clifford is the senior vice president of marketing for Binary Fountain. He brings more than 15 years of experience in the healthcare industry to his current role. He recently joined Binary Fountain from HCA, one of the nation’s leading providers of healthcare services, where he served as the senior director of digital marketing solutions. While at HCA, he created the vision for the organization’s enterprise-wide reputation management program and oversaw digital strategy for 171 hospitals, 119 free-standing surgery centers, 830 physician clinics, and multiple business units across the healthcare system. He received his BS in management information systems from Trevecca Nazarene University and an MBA from Lipscomb University. He can be reached at marketing@binaryfountain.com.

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