Online Reviews: Even More Valuable than You Think

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As we noted the other day, more and more doctors are beginning to recognize the value of online reviews. But that’s just the beginning: to truly unlock the power of those online testimonials takes a deeper understanding of the way reviews actually work, a subject the folks at have given a lot of thought. Among their findings:

All reviews are not created equal: 5-star ratings are nice but they don’t give readers enough information to make informed decisions. In a controlled experiment, Bazaarvoice found that longer, more detailed “storytelling” reviews were far more powerful reviews than any other type.

What it means for doctors: People relate to other people’s stories, which is why it’s important to encourage patients to chronicle their entire journey. According to RealSelf research, reviews with 3 or more updates drive 6 times more contacts than those with fewer.

More reviews are better than fewer: Analyzing the data from a Top 25 Internet retailer, Bazaarvoice found a 9-56% increase in orders when review volume went from one review to 15 and product rating went from from 3.5 to 4.5 stars. The category that showed the biggest increase (56%)? Beauty products.

What it means for doctors: While mascara pencils and Mommy Makeovers are obviously very different animals, the underlying conclusion is the same. The experiences of “those who have gone before” carry enormous weight with those who are still considering their options and doctors who encourage patients to write reviews reap impressive benefits.

Responding to reviews boosts sentiment: When the Bazaarvoice study asked people what does a company’s response to an online review make you think, 41% said “they care about consumers,” 35% said “they have great customer service” and 22% said “they are a trustworthy brand.”

What it means for doctors: When companies communicate with their customers and prove they’re listening, other consumers take it as a sign that the brand cares about their experience beyond the sale. Thanking reviewers for their comments — positive or negative — is good; relying on canned responses or “corporate speak” is not.

Reviews provide insight for future plans: Even negative reviews can have positive benefits when they point out “pain points” your patients run into in their interactions with your practice. They are, in effect, reverse calls-to-action, which can provide insights on areas that warrant improvement.

What it means for doctors: When reading reviews, look for “pivot language” that reveals a change in sentiment. Phrases like “if only” or “I wish” indicate that a recommendation might follow.

Put the above together and it’s clear that a more complete understanding of reviews — encouraging them, responding to them, making appropriate changes based on them, etc. — is key to leveraging them to their full potential. As the folks at Bazaarvoice put it,

Commercial relationships are so much more than a series of transactions between seller and buyer. At their best, they are experiences built on trust, dialogue, mutual interest, collaboration and shared moments in time. Feedback is a dialogue – and responsive businesses win.

About Rob Lovitt

Rob Lovitt is a longtime writer and editor who believes every good business has a great story to tell. He has written for dozens of magazines and websites, including, and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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