Hinman Dental Meeting: How to Deal with Negative Reviews

On Friday, March 24 at the 2017 Hinman Dental Meeting, Rita Zamora explained that selecting a dentist is no different than shopping around for your next vacation. The same research and effort go into both. That’s why online reviews, whether on Google or your social media pages, are important. Understanding how to deal with negative reviews can make or break your practice’s reputation.

Dentistry is a referral-based business. Few things can mess up your flow of referrals more than a negative online review. Rita Zamora gave 2017 Hinman Dental Meeting attendees a plan for dealing with bad reviews.

At the 2017 Hinman Dental Meeting, Rita Zamora opened her session titled, “Word of Mouth: The Secrets of Generating Referrals from Existing Patients and Through Online Reviews,” with a simple question: “Imagine shopping for something exciting,” she said, “what’s your process?”

Zamora said that there’s a typical method most people use to narrow their options before they make a final decision on a new car, phone, or healthcare provider. This method includes: First, asking trusted friends and family members for feedback; next, going online and reading reviews; and finally, checking out the business’ website.

According to recent studies, 83 percent of consumers trust recommendations from people they know, while 66 percent trust online reviews, Zamora said. Some of the information a potential new patient may expect to find on a practice’s website includes background on the practicing dentist(s), treatment options offered at the practice, payment options and accepted insurance


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However, it is more lucrative for your business to retain existing patients than to acquire new ones. Zamora said it’s approximately five times more profitable to treat existing patients than to acquire new ones. The most successful way to do this, according to Zamora, is to “fine tune the practice’s internal marketing skills.”

A strong patient engagement system encourages referrals and reviews. During her presentation, Zamora shared a video by Rachel Wall, R.D.H, B.S. According to Wall, patients are either vulnerable, static, or ecstatic. Vulnerable patients are the patients who are not interested in your practice and are just waiting for the next “deal” to dump you for another dentist. Static patients “just exist.” They’re indifferent about the practice, neither excited nor upset over their next dental appointment. Ecstatic patients are the ones who are your patient cheerleaders. They’re always referring their friends, family, or even that guy they see at the coffee shop every morning.

While most patients are static, getting them off of the middle ground is not very difficult. Zamora recommended calling patients after procedures to check how they’re doing, and surprise them when they have big life events, such as birthdays or weddings. A simple balloon and birthday song can go a long way.

However, Zamora said that you won’t be able to appeal to everyone, no matter how hard you try. Some people just like giving negative reviews. The most important thing is knowing how to approach these reviews and turn a disgruntled patient into a happy camper.

Zamora recommends having a Crisis Plan for negative reviews. Some things to consider include:

· Which team member is responsible for handling these reviews?

· Do you need to call someone for advice? A risk management advisor, a lawyer?

· Always keep your response brief, whether it’s for a positive or negative review.

· Draft a standard and succinct response to keep on hand.

Your response should start off with an apology for the bad experience. Next, mention that you will reach out to the patient privately to discuss the matter. End the response with gratitude for the feedback.

After, call the patient and work everything out, you can kindly ask them to update (not delete) the negative review.

Zamora stressed that having a plan of action will instill the confidence you need to avert a Google or social media review crisis.

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