Every business has experiences with loud, unreasonable customers. A large part of reputation management is knowing what your patients are saying about you, and where it’s being said.

The first instinct of a practice in dealing with these patients in a public forum is going to be ignoring them, but there’s a definite customer service opportunity in addressing them directly. Not that you will necessarily sway them to a positive (though that definitely happens) but that you can show the world that you’rewilling to personally address concerns.

Of course you’re not a restaurant so you can’t go giving out discounts, and you definitely can’t discuss specifics about a patient’s experience in a public forum, so how do you deal with negative reviews from unreasonable people?

1. Acknowledge the issue, but don’t bend

Imagine you’re on the other side of the computer, searching Yelp for a doctor. You see a negative review that seems somewhat iffy.

One Star Review: “My child wouldn’t stop crying after her skin test. I knew I shouldn’t have bothered bringing her to you. She’s obviously allergic to gluten.”

There is no response from the doctor, but at first glance you are pretty sure that this is an overreacting mother who didn’t get the response she wanted/expected. But how many users are savvy enough to get the right impression, as opposed to deciding that this doctor doesn’t listen and is rough with children?

Many services allow comments on reviews, and in this care a rebuttal can be polite, simple and not share any confidential information. You can address the concerns, not necessarily to the parent, but to people who would be reading the negative reviews with a short response.

Response: “We’re sorry you weren’t happy with your office visit. Skin tests involve gentle scratching with sterile needles, so it might sting. Gluten sensitivity in children is much more rare than currently advertised. Give the office a call to schedule an appointment and we can talk more about this.”

Adding a comment such as this defuses the negativity of the review and shows others visiting the review site that you’re willing to address the concern and maybe turns a negative into a positive. If the discussion goes more heated from there? You’ve done your part, you can sleep easy ignoring anyone who insists on getting something for free, or venting any further.

2. Praise positive reviewers

Side by side, outnumbering the negative reviews by far, will be your positive reviews. It’s polite on sites where you can comment on a review to thank people, but that can get repetitive or spammy if you do it to every comment.

So here’s a trick. You see a negative review of your business. Comment positively on the surrounding reviews to lessen the prominence of the negative one.

“Thanks for the kind comments. Glad to hear your experience was a good one!”

There it is. You’re saying to people finding you online ‘hey, these other people don’t feel that way.’ In addition, commenting on positive reviews will encourage others to write their own reviews, to have that ‘direct link’ of communication with the office. More engagement on your part means more reviews which means higher rankings and more authority.

3. Lobby the site to remove inaccurate reviews

In some cases information shared might be personal, slanderous, or outright inaccurate. Acne increasing after a skin test? ‘Soreness’ after an appointment. General symptoms applied erroneously to something that they associate with your office. I’ve seen several, and found that a short explanatory letter to the customer service department can get an incorrect or abusive review pulled.

4. Any Press is Good Press

Google will use your number of reviews in weighing the authority of your site in local listings, and draws those reviews from a myriad of websites (see our last post on Local Search Strategy). Google tends not to care about the reviews themselves, positive or negative. Specific cases such as this one involving an eyeglasses scam has caused the Googleplex to insinuate that they’re looking for a way to incorporate the disposition of reviews into authority, but they haven’t yet done so. This means that even the negative reviews count in your favor.

Conclusion

Keeping a close eye on your online reputation is very important to your practice, and contributes directly to your search rankings. In a crowded market, and given similar websites, reviews may be the deciding factor in whether you rank above or below your direct competition.

It takes time, but reputation management for both your practice and your competitors is a very important weapon in any online arsenal. Do you know what people are saying about you once they leave the office?