Engage Patients to Obtain Superlative Online Reviews

April 19, 2017
Ed Rabinowitz

The best way to continually build positive reviews is to directly ask patients for them. That means building relationships and providing a high level of customer service so that patients have a willingness to post those reviews. Over time, this approach will yield more positive reviews that will block out any negative reviews your practice may have received.

Getting more five-star reviews for your dental practice may be as simple as asking for them. Does your practice have a system in place for asking satisfied patients to write reviews?

Positive online reviews: If your dental practice isn’t getting them, it’s time to ask why. It’s also time to make those positive online patient reviews a reality. Because every business needs a positive reputation online in today’s highly competitive market.

“When you look at today’s consumer, they’re not saying to themselves, ‘Oh, I need to go to a dentist, just any dentist,’” explains Nathan Yerian, CEO of LocalSignal, which helps small businesses attract local customers. “They’re very much aware they have options.”

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Those options go beyond the limited scope of reference that a friend or neighbor may provide. Sure, those references still exist, but they’ve been expanded. And they've been expanded online. Now consumers can visit any number of online review sites and get a feel for what their experience will be like with a particular dentist.

“When someone sees one dentist that has 45 reviews and with an average of a four-and-a-half star rating, and the next one might have only four stars and only 12 reviews, they’re naturally going to trust the one that has more reviews and a higher star rating,” Yerian says. “Because more people have had a positive experience there.”

TURN NEGATIVES TO POSITIVES

Yerian explains that if a business simply exists online, if it doesn’t initiate conversations with its customers, that business will often be the victim of negative reviews. That’s because people love to vent when they’re angry or think they’ve been wronged in some way.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t necessarily happen the same way when (customers) have a positive experience,” Yerian says.

That’s where tools like LocalSignal can help. Yerian says the system makes requesting patient reviews on Facebook, Google and Yelp easy. It prompts small businesses like dental practices to initiate conversations with their customers to learn about their experience by building those interactions into the process. It can be as simple as the receptionist asking patients about their visit on the way out. When a patient responds positively, ask them if they would be willing to leave a review on Google or Facebook.

“Nine out of 10 times a patient who just had a positive experience is going to say, ‘Absolutely. That’s not a problem,’” Yerian says. “All we need is a percentage of them to actually do that, and we can turn that tide of the negative reviews being the more dominant review in that space.”

GETTING OVER THE HURDLE

Obviously, Yerian points out, there needs to be a comfort level to ask patients about their experience and encourage them to submit a review. More specifically, that responsibility falls on the shoulders of staff.

“Dentists need to remember that the customer experience is not only once they get in that chair, it’s also when they’re checking in, and when they’re checking out at the front desk,” Yerian says. “Those people at the desk, coaching them on customer service and really caring about the experience, and really nurturing that relationship with those patients is paramount to the success of something like this.”

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Yerian says that customer service is really at the heart of getting outstanding patient reviews. He refers to it as connecting with humans in an authentic way. And he believes that in a standard dental practice, if the entire staff and made an initiative to learn how to connect and care for patients in a non-medical, relationship-based way, it would have a night and day impact not only on the reviews, but the emotions and feelings patients have about the practice in general.

“Because it isn’t just about reviews,” Yerian says. “Patients still have friends and relatives they talk to. They’re going to start transmitting that positive experience to them.”

AVOID THE GIFTS

One approach that Yerian discourages is providing small gifts to patients, such as pens or personalized notepads or even discounts on certain dental services. He explains that it’s important to obtain authentic and candid reviews from patients, not provide incentives for them to do so. Dangling incentives will encourage the people who only want that carrot to complete a review.

It could also backfire.

“The person who wants to leave an authentic review may look at that carrot and say, ‘That’s odd that they’re offering (the gift) to me when all I’m trying to do is share my positive experience,’” Yerian says. “It almost feels like a bribe.”

Patience is also an important element. Everyone wants to post positive reviews faster, but Yerian says that building that database of reviews can take time. And the practice is a perpetual business that’s going to be operating as long as the practitioner remains active. It’s not necessarily closing in three months.

“Everyone wants to get reviews faster,” he says. “But if done right, you’re going to have a quality result that will produce many quality returns.”

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