Safeguarding Your Online Reputation
Business review sites like Google+ Local, Angie's List or Yelp! may be a boon to patients, but an unfavorable critique may cause problems for your medical practice. How do you protect your practice's good name? And what can you do if someone posts a negative review?
An Ounce Of Prevention
Every doctor knows an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. The same is true when managing your online reputation. Take common sense measures before a patient posts a negative review and you can keep your practice's good name healthy.
Set Phasers To Stunning!
Is your website as well-organized and up-to-date as it could be? Is your content relevant to your patients? Your website is the first chance for patients to meet you, so make that first impression a good one.
Your social media accounts are another opportunity for you to put your best face forward. Just be aware that it's easier to maintain appropriate doctor-patient boundaries if you keep practice and personal accounts separate.
Walk A Mile In Their Shoes
As a doctor, you intuitively know how to balance professionalism with empathy. But did you know this talent can be applied to your online reputation? All it takes is a few minutes:
Literally take time to be on the receiving end of your services. How does it feel to wait in your practice's waiting area, be greeted by staff, and be presented with paperwork to fill out? Are the chairs comfortable? Is the waiting area free of clutter and outdated magazines? Is the rest room spotless? Are your staff and doctors approachable? Do they make time to answer questions? Are they friendly and courteous? Did you wait long to be seen?
These are the things patients notice and post reviews about. If you experience what patients experience, you'll be less likely to take complaints personally, and more willing to consider whether they're valid. This puts you in a great position to address problems exposed in negative reviews.
No News Is Bad News
Sometimes, a negative review can be better than none at all. Consider this: Patients unhappy with the care you provide, but who don't give you feedback, may simply switch to another provider, leaving you in the dark about a problem you could otherwise fix.
Vocal patients who bluntly tell you what's on their mind are doing you a favor by telling you how to improve your business. If you listen carefully to what they have to say, you can turn a potential loss into a win since chances are, when you take their concerns seriously those same patients will be equally vocal in complimenting you.
Truth In Advertising
Reviews have credibility because they come from direct experience. Harness their power by letting patients know testimonials are welcome. But don't leave their content entirely to chance, or you'll end up with twenty people all saying, "Dr. Awesome is great!" That may be gratifying (and well-deserved!) but it's also a missed opportunity. Why not provide a few survey questions for patients, so their testimonials address personal impressions plus aspects of your practice you'd like to promote (a beautiful new office, convenient location, shorter wait times, your patient's experience of a minimally invasive procedure, patient access to information).
Add testimonials to your practice website and Facebook page, link to them from Twitter, and update them regularly. Just be sure to follow HIPAA guidelines regarding patient privacy. This means testimonials should not be signed with full names. First name only, or initials and town would work. And there's no need to post complete testimonials; simply select the part you'd like featured on your site.
Testimonials influence potential patients, so make the most of them.
Three's A Crowd
But what about those third-party business review sites? You can't control those. Unless you're a Jedi knight, that is:
Obi Wan: "These are not the droids you're looking for."
Storm Trooper: "These are not the droids we're looking for."
Few can harness The Force. But that doesn't make you helpless when it comes to independent review sites. For instance, let satisfied patients know you'd appreciate their feedback on Google+ Local or Yahoo! Local, and link to positive reviews from your website, Facebook, and Twitter.
Pop Quiz: Uh oh. The unthinkable has happened. Someone posted a negative review about your practice. What do you do?
Ignore it—it will go away.
Yell at them online. Point out that no one in the history of the world has ever complained about you. Call them a liar. Suggest they are deeply troubled. Tell them you call it like you see it.
Apologize for their negative experience, ask them how you might do better, offer solutions of your own.
If you chose A, here's a hug and some kleenex.
If you chose B, the internet is 4 ever.
If you chose C, we know you wouldn't choose C.
If you chose D, go to the head of the class!
Turn That Frown Upside Down
A negative online review can feel like a personal attack. But sometimes all you need to do is shift your perspective. You can choose to reenact "The Godfather." Or, you can see reviews as free market research and an opportunity to engage with your patients and generate positive publicity.
Although such conversations might lack the excitement of a fight in a supermarket parking lot, it doesn't mean no one is watching. Patients and potential patients will see them as indications of how they'll be treated by you. Courteous, thoughtful responses suggest your practice is a safe place staffed by caring people who take patient concerns seriously. Plus, your courteous response may prompt patients who had positive experiences to rally to your defense.
Choose a designated person to monitor independent review sites, thank those who post positive reviews, and assist those who don't. The quickest way to find reviews is to search for your practice's name plus the word 'reviews' in a major search engine such as Google, Yahoo! or Bing. Your point person should monitor Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and your other social networks too. But keep HIPAA in mind and ask patients with health concerns to contact your practice to set up an appointment.
Hide In Plain Sight
Responding to patient reviews takes time. Is there something you can do that will remove negative comments so no one will see them?
Well, if you know anything about SEO (learn more here!) you'll know that page one of Google results is the sweet spot. You might be able to make this work for you. If you provide enough useful, interesting online content for others to link to, you could essentially drown out nay-sayers by pushing their negative reviews further down the search results. With any luck, people searching for information about your practice won't even see them.
Here are five types of content to add to your site. Another way to promote your practice in search engine results is to list them with online directory services. And don't neglect your social media accounts either. Try to post content regularly on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and YouTube, even if it's just a brief comment.
Like Larry King, π, And Whole Body Tattoos, The Internet Is 4 Ever
Like Larry King, π, and whole body tattoos, the internet is forever. That negative review on a third-party business review website is not going away even if it is pushed down lower in Search results, so it's wise to address your patients' concerns head on. The payoff? You'll mitigate the impact of negative reviews and garner positive publicity.
Are there any exceptions? What if the negative review is so aggressive that it is essentially trolling? Is it better not to respond? Good question. On the one hand your reply tells search engines the comment is important and pushes it higher in searches on your practice's name. On the other hand, leaving a comment unanswered is a bit like...
You see our point.
Low-key regret for a patient experience that did not meet expectations, plus an invitation to contact the practice directly to address the concern, might be a better way to go. It's really a judgement call.
Online reputation management can be challenging at times, but having a strategy in place ahead of time can save you a lot of stress, plus the rewards make it well worth the effort.
Remedy's Healthcommunities offers social media management services! We can build or maintain your Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube sites and provide posts and tweets that you approve. Call 888.950.0808 for more information and a custom quote.
Want to boost your online visibility? So do we! Call Remedy's Healthcommunities at 1.888.950.0808 and ask about our custom-tailored SEO strategies, our Online Business Directories service, and the Google Authorship Markup initiative.
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