I know exactly how it feels to find a negative review of your business online; your heart jumps into your throat, you flush, and your mind races: “This review is terrible! It’s going to tank my practice. I’m doomed. And I’m angry! How could they write such a thing?!”
But do not fear! There are many ways to defuse the situation. And when handled right, you may even be able to turn the negative comment into a positive for your practice.
Three Ways to React
First, I’m going to discuss the three most common ways business owners like you respond to a bad review:
Ignore the Comment and Move On
This is a technique to be used judiciously. You do want to respond to every review you see, good or bad, but there are some cases where the thing to do is bow out of the conversation. The best time to do this is when you’ve already responded graciously to the negative review and the patient continues to lash out. There is no way to “win” this battle, so bow out before things get ugly.
One other situation that warrants the silent treatment is if you find a negative review that’s been written over a year ago. No need to waste your time and effort on reviews that most potential patients will see as outdated.
Give Them a Piece of Your Mind
Never, ever let your frustration or anger get the best of you. An online shouting match, no matter how foul the patient’s comments are, will only make you look like the bad guy. You are a professional and should present yourself as such at all times; especially when confronted. If you find yourself getting worked up, simply shut off the computer and walk away. Come back to it the next day when you’ve had time to calm down. Then write this kind of response:
Respond With Patience and Understanding
A measured response is always the right move. You want to acknowledge the patient’s frustrations and offer to speak with him or her offline. The place to figure out what went wrong isn’t online, it’s in person or over the phone. Also, be careful that your response doesn’t have any spelling and grammar errors, and that you don’t inadvertently come off as sarcastic—an easy thing to do online! To avoid this have someone in your office read over the response before you submit it.
An Example of an Effective Response
I understand how upsetting a bad review can be and I hope that I’ve helped you understand the pros and cons of the most common types of responses. To help you craft a negative review response plan, we’ve created an example of a bad review and a gracious response. I hope this will give you a good starting place for enacting your own review response strategy.
- Angry patient: I can’t stand this doctor! I should have known from the moment I walked through the door that I wasn’t going to be heard or respected. The office staff seemed annoyed when I asked some questions, I had to wait an hour for my appointment, and THEN the doctor only spent 15 minutes with me! Whatever you do, DO NOT SEE THIS DOCTOR!!! I’ve never been so disappointed in my life and will NEVER go back.
- Response: Dear Sir or Ma’am: I understand why you were frustrated during your last visit. What I want more than anything is to address these issues with you personally. Please do not hesitate to call me personally at 888-888-8888. We will discuss everything that occurred during your visit and I will do everything I can to make it right. Yours, Dr. Doctor.
This response doesn’t admit fault (never a good idea on a review site) and it doesn’t engage the patient in an argument. All we’ve done is offer to speak with him and discuss his objections. This is good on many levels. First, the patient will feel that his voice has been heard: “Well, at least she took the time to write back to me.” Also, it shows potential patients that you take complaints seriously and that you’re willing to take the time to work through any issues that arise. When handled correctly, the negative review and your response may help you as much as (if not more than) a good or neutral review.
But that’s not all there is to handling a bad review. There is every chance that the patient will call you or respond back. The question is: Will you be ready?
What Will Happen After You Respond?
These are the three most likely scenarios:
- The patient calls you. This is a good thing! Hopefully, the two of you will be able to talk through the issues and get to a place where there is no longer any bad blood between doctor and patient. When this is handled well there is the real possibility that the once-angry reviewer will go back and respond to the review, letting the world know how well you handled the situation.
- The patient doesn’t call but also doesn’t comment further. He may not have seen the review, or he may have decided just to let it go. Either way, this is a win for you. Potential patients who read the review will see that the patient ranted while you responded levelheadedly. This shows potential patients that you are polite, accommodating, and willing to work with your patients, not against them.
- The patient responds in anger. This is another very real possibility so I want you to be prepared for it. He may flame you again, scoffing at your response. What I want you to do is see this as yet another opportunity to show how calm, cool, and collected you are. Your only response should be to ask them again to call you. “I won’t be responding to any further comments on this thread. My offer to speak with you personally stands and I sincerely hope to hear from you soon.” Hopefully, this will be the end of the exchange. But if it’s not, and the patient responds with anger yet again, it’s time to use the ignore strategy discussed above.
An important note: With doctors, a lot of bad reviews (and good feedback!) will be about your staff, not you as a doctor. If you often hear that your staff is rude, inattentive, or dismissive it’s a good idea to take a hard look at your customer service and make some changes. Use this opportunity to improve your patient experience.
Have You Gotten a Bad Review?
If so, we want to hear from you! Please respond below and let us know how you handled the bad review. The goal is to start a conversation that will help other doctors not only to respond to bad reviews but to mend patient relationships.
We know this is possible, as we’ve seen many patients converted from a doctor’s biggest detractor to her #1 fan. So tell us your story so we can all learn from your experience.