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Managing your dental practice's online reputation is critical to helping your practice thrive. Being present is one way you can maintain a positive online reputation.
A good reputation is more valuable than money. And in today’s technology and social media environment, managing that reputation online is critical to helping your practice thrive, even in the event of the occasional negative review.
Warren Buffet once said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
The key phrase there is “if you think about that,” because it seems too many people do not, especially when it comes to an online reputation. Too often, according to Andrea Samacicia Mullan, founder of Victory Public Relations, businesses large and small tend to neglect that component. And worse.
“The greater issue is not understanding the impact that component has on their actual business,” Mullan says.
Where dentists are concerned, Mullan cautions that if they do not actively participate in the impression of their practice online, they’re leaving it open for other people to do so. That means patients, who become online reviewers, and are dissatisfied with your practice for reasons that run the gamut, are the ones speaking for you on the Internet. And what they’re saying may not be kind.
Mullan says the key to achieving and then maintaining a positive online reputation is to have an active online presence.
“Once a patient sees that, it plants the seed of the culture of your practice,” she says. “A patient who is grateful and enthusiastic wants the opportunity to show that. Writing a review is an easy way to do it. And patients are happy to when given the opportunity.”
You give patients that opportunity by asking, whether it’s face-to-face or through an email or text following an office visit, for their feedback. It’s not just a way to get positive reviews. It also lets patients know that you’re serious about improving customer service. That if they’re not satisfied with the service they received, you want to know what you can do to make it better.
“Don’t battle against singular, negative reviews, because you don’t want to appear as a combatant with a patient,” Mullan says. “It’s not about preventing [negative reviews] from happening, because that doesn’t work.”
Instead, thank them for their review. Stress that you take it seriously, and welcome them to contact you so that you can work to rectify the situation.
“And then it’s on the patient to do that,” Mullan says.
If your practice has a website, if you have a business page on Facebook or Yelp or LinkedIn, how current is the information? Did you recently add a new service, or hire an outstanding oral health professional? Maybe you recently obtained continuing education credentials that give you a leg up on your competition. How important is it for you that when people Google to see the services you offer, the ones you pride yourself on, that you remain competitive against others providing the same service?
“Because that’s how people are finding their specialists and general dentists today, they go to the Internet,” Mullan says. “Even when people get a reference from a friend or neighbor, they may Google the practice.”
And the more active you are online, the higher up your practice will appear in search engine results.
“It’s a cumulative effect,” Mullan explains. “When you talk about the success of your website, the visibility of your website, the work that we do to ensure our clients’ expertise is reflected in popular media, and that their website gets a link back from other high ranking websites, that impacts the visibility of their website tremendously.”
In other words, it ramps up. But as soon as you take your foot off the pedal, someone will come up from behind and take your place.
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Mullan says that maintaining a positive online reputation can have an equal positive impact on your practice’s bottom line. The more visible your message, and the better the message is honed, the more people will be interested in your practice.
But, she adds, that’s just step one. Step two is making sure that staff who are fielding the calls and messages coming into the office as a result of your positive online reputation are effective at their job, and well equipped to perform the sales process and convert the interest into actual appointments.
And if you’ve been fortunate enough to this point to not have to battle against negative reviews or a declining reputation, that’s good. But Mullan points out that the best time to invest in public relations is when you don’t necessarily need it.
“It’s better to create an image and brand for your practice that is complimentary, and that is appropriately reflective of the practice that you are running, than to find yourself in a situation where one review is threatening to undermine all the work you have done, and the relationships you have built with your patients,” she says.