How to deal with negative online reviews.
You can’t please everybody, and there’s no better evidence of that than online review. Nearly anyone who works with the public has had to deal with a bad review of their business at some point.
And suffice it to say, we all deal with these reviews in our own ways.
Recently, a Manhattan woman posted scathing reviews of Dr. Joon Song, a gynecologist, on sites such as Yelp, Zocdoc and Healthgrades. Her reviews leaned toward exaggeration and generalizations, accusing the doc of "very poor and crooked business practices.”
Not taking this sitting down, Dr. Song turned around and sued her for $1 million in damages plus legal fees, even after she removed the reviews.
In my opinion, this is a terrible way to handle a bad review and can do permanent, irreversible damage to your brand that possibly could prevent you from selling your practice in the future.
It’s just a bad way to handle it when there are much better options available.
For the less litigious among us, let’s talk about other ways to handle a negative review.
The very first thing you should do.
Okay, so you’ve seen a negative review pop up-and it’s bad. The reviewer rants and raves, and maybe even takes some cheap shots.
What’s the first thing you should do? Well, in my recent chat with Joshua Austin, DDS, his biggest recommendation is to “not take it personally. Then, just wait.”
We’re all human, and it’s natural to feel insulted, attacked, angry and humiliated from a bad review. After all, this is somebody commenting in a public forum, which amplifies the pain of reading something negative about yourself.
So, take some time and get some space. Dr. Austin recommends 24 to 48 hours to get past that initial reaction and regain a larger perspective.
Then, go back and reread the review. What’s the fundamental message behind it? Did the person feel mistreated or ignored? Did she/he have a legitimate complaint that could and should be addressed?
Contact the patient and open a dialogue.
If so, consider contacting the patient yourself and starting an open dialogue. You’re not calling to apologize necessarily, but rather to politely address the problem. Start by not talking, but politely listening to what the patient has to say. And acknowledge their feelings. Most issues can be handled by letting the other side express what caused the problem in the first place.
Try to turn a negative into a positive and if possible, offer a remedy.
Let crazy be crazy.
The thing about review sites, however, is some people are just miserable and unhappy and looking for a place to dump. And unfortunately, sometimes you, your staff and your practice are the target of that dump. Sometimes, these people are even serial flamers and are simply interested in attacking businesses in a misdirected effort to gain control and self-esteem.
Dr. Austin’s response to this? “Let crazy be crazy.”
You simply let that reviewer say what she/he has to say, then take the high road. Leave a response that’s not based in anger or retaliation, but instead leave a response displaying (specifically to others who would read the response) that you’re a reasonable and respectable service provider…and the reviewer is the one who’s not to be trusted.
Should I ask a patient to delete a review?
No, probably not. Do your best to provide solutions and create a dialogue. If they truly feel they’ve been listened to, they will likely adjust the review on their own.
But if they don’t, you do have the option to flag the review to the site owner (i.e. Google, Yelp) and petition them to remove it on the basis it violates their terms of service.
No matter what road you take, remember a few bad online reviews, set against a sea of positive ones, will fade into the background. Most of the time these will add some validity to the hundreds of positive reviews, because patients understand everyone can have a bad day and that’s what makes us human. Focus on providing a positive experience to your patients, and this will come through in the reviews.