Your Practice’s Online Image Depends on Patient Reviews

Jackie Ulasewich-Cullen
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In this day and age, you can find online reviews for just about every existing business, including most dental practices, whether they have intentionally cultivated an online presence or not.

In a time when consumers and patients rely almost exclusively on the internet for information about local businesses and services, online reviews from existing patients have become an increasingly important part of a practice’s online presence. They can shape how potential patients perceive the quality of care they will receive.

Therefore, if a practice is not actively managing its online reviews, it is really leaving a major part of its reputation to chance. Here are some recommendations on how to correctly manage online reviews and avoid potential mistakes that could cost you patients.

Ensure Visibility

First, do make sure your reviews are visible on the platforms where most people are looking for them: Google and Facebook. Patients rely on these tech giants more than any other service when it comes to reviews and information.

There are certainly other large companies that offer a place to “host” your practice’s reviews, but chances are your potential patients are not going to those sites. So, do not be lured in by a service promising that its software will dramatically increase your practice’s positive reviews. While this claim may be technically true, it is likely that your potential patients will never see them unless they intentionally seek out that company’s website.

Avoid Pay for Play

Second, don’t pay for reviews. As tempting as it may be to offer an incentive for reviews, this strategy can end up backfiring on your practice, even if the intention is simply to encourage more patients to give their honest feedback.

If patients are compensated for their feedback, they may feel obligated to say something nice rather than be honest about their experience. And while positive feedback is always the goal, a good review is only really good if it comes from the heart.

Another important reason why offering compensation for reviews is not an effective strategy is that many sites will penalize or even ban your practice if they find out. In fact, Google, Facebook, and Yelp strictly prohibit compensating for consumer reviews because they want their users’ experience to be trustworthy and safe.

Talk to Your Patients

Third, do tell all your patients how important their feedback is. Encouraging patients to give their feedback is essential to building and maintaining your practice’s reputation. The first step is letting patients know how helpful it is when they review their experience online.

A simple reminder while they are checking out and scheduling their next appointment can go a long way. Make sure to tell them that good reviews help your practice gain new patients just like them. Most people are happy to write a review if they know it will help a business they like.

Along these same lines, sending out reminder texts and emails is another important do. Once patients walk out the door, they can very quickly become focused on other things and forget that they promised to review their experience. Sending reminders will help increase the number of reviews your practice receives.

Acknowledge the Negative

Fourth, absolutely respond to negative reviews. No one likes a negative review, especially if it is unwarranted. Unfortunately, however, they do happen, and sometimes they aren’t even justified. While you cannot control what a patient writes about your practice, you can control how you handle it.

When looking at online reviews, many people also read the business’s responses as well. If it only acknowledges the positive reviews and ignores the negative ones, it can be a red flag for a potential new patient. Likewise, if the business responds inappropriately to negative reviews, showing anger or disdain, for example, a potential new patient is likely to move on.

When a dentist takes the time to respond to negative feedback, it is a chance to show that they care. Therefore, it is not only important for a practice to respond to negative reviews, but also to empathize.

This does not mean admitting to providing substandard care, but rather understanding that a patient’s experience is subjective and that, as professional and caring as you and your staff are, sometimes a person will come away not completely satisfied.

Showing compassion and empathy can neutralize negative feedback and even turn a negative review into a positive one in the eyes of a potential patient.

Your Turn

Online reviews are a fact of life and, if managed correctly, they can be an extremely effective in marketing your dental practice, even the negative ones. Ignoring or mishandling online reviews can be a costly mistake. However, if you take the time to incorporate online reviews into your marketing strategy, they can boost your practice’s reputation and become an excellent tool for attracting new patients.

With more than a decade of experience in corporate dental laboratory marketing and brand development, Ms. UlasewichCullen decided to take her passion for the dental business and marketing to the next level by founding My Dental Agency. Since starting her company, she and her team have helped a wide variety of practices all over the nation focus their message, reach their target audience, and increase their sales through effective marketing campaigns. She can be reached at (800) 689-6434 or via email at jackie@mydentalagency.com.

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