How to respond to negative reviews

How you respond to an unfavorable online review of your dental practice is critical to mitigate damage to your reputation in the local community.

If you ignore a negative review, it can result in prospective patients going elsewhere when looking for the types of dental services you provide. And the wrong sort of response can be just as bad.

On the other hand, having a strategy for a careful, measured reply to online criticism can turn a negative experience into a positive one.

Here, we’re setting out some tips for responding to a negative review in a way that will show potential patients you have their best interests at heart and consistently strive to offer quality dental care.

We’ll start by looking at why ignoring a bad review is never a good idea, no matter how invalid it may be.

Tip #1: Never Ignore a Bad Review

While having a presence on sites like Healthgrades, Google My Business and Yelp allows patients to say good things about your dental office, it also provides a platform for people to be disparaging.

Adverse reviews may arise from what is perceived as a genuine grievance or simply be a means of someone venting their frustration because they’re having a bad day. You may also get fake negative reviews (more on this later).

If you don’t respond to a negative review, it can give the impression you don’t care what your patients think.

Posting a reply gives you the opportunity to:

  • Demonstrate your willingness to resolve problems.
  • Set your dental office apart from practices that misguidedly ignore reviews.
  • Reinforce the message that you have the best interests of your patients at heart.

However disappointing, a bad review is not the end of the world, and it’s possible to deal with it in a way that lessens the impact on your practice reputation.

Tip #2: Don’t Get Emotional

When you first come across a negative review, it can be extremely distressing and it’s only natural if you feel upset or irritated, but emotions like these won’t help you to fix the problem.

Try to stay calm and consider the matter rationally. When you reply to a review online, don’t forget that your response is going to be out there for all to see, so you don’t want to get involved in a personal confrontation with the reviewer.

It can be beneficial if you have a set of standard replies to draw on. This can give you a starting point for your response but it needs to be personalized to address the reviewer’s specific concerns.

Tip #3: Fix the Problem

If a negative review appears to be making a valid point, regard it as an opportunity to improve your practice in that area of concern, which will ultimately enhance your reputation.

Your response to the review could include inviting the patient to call you or visit your office to discuss the issue in more detail.

This will show the reviewer – and potential new patients – that you’re willing to make an effort to rectify the situation and address any concerns your patients may have.

Once you’ve fixed the problem to the reviewer’s satisfaction, you can ask them to modify their post or even remove it.

Look at the Bigger Picture

A negative review can help you to get an insight into how you could possibly improve the way your practice operates overall.

If you carefully assess what the disgruntled patient is saying, you may find there are wider issues that need to be looked at.

Tip #4: Encourage More Positive Reviews

If you take proactive measures to accumulate a lot of good reviews, the occasional criticism will have far less significance.

Without being pushy, remind patients that you value their opinions and always welcome their comments. Research suggests that 70 percent of consumers will post feedback when asked to do so.

You could try using follow-up emails as an opportunity to ask patients for reviews, giving them handy links to review sites. This will encourage them to post their feedback while their visit to your practice is still fresh in their mind.

Once those positive reviews start flooding in, remember to respond to them, as well as to unfavorable posts. Your patients will appreciate receiving a response to their feedback, which can encourage others to join in the dialogue.

Tip #5: Be Alert to Fake Negative Reviews

As with all reviews, you should still respond to a fake negative review – in a calm, professional manner.

Because of their nature, fake reviews won’t reference a problem you can address. However, you can make it clear to your real patients and prospective patients that you’re aware of the negative evaluation and that you take all reviews seriously.

You can do this by highlighting that the core values of your practice and your business ethos are based on providing quality care for your patients.

If a negative review is clearly not from a genuine patient or is unrelated to your dental office, you should also contact the review site and point out the problem, although it can be surprisingly difficult to get a fake negative review removed.

Tip #6: Have an Online Reputation Management Strategy in Place

How you respond to a negative review should be a key component of an overall online reputation management policy that encourages real patients to review your practice honestly.

This strategy should also include monitoring all your reviews so you can take appropriate action.

Effectively managing your online reputation can consolidate the bond of trust between your practice and current and future patients.

This can attract more new patients to increase your revenue – research shows that more than 70 percent of patients regard online reviews as an integral part of finding a new dentist.

A strong online reputation management strategy will also minimize the effect of negative reviews. By being prepared for them, you can respond accordingly and take control of the situation.