There’s More to Online Reviews than Great Ratings (and other Secrets)

By now, there’s no denying the role online reviews play in people’s healthcare decisions. As noted earlier this week, almost one-half (45%) of consumers have viewed provider ratings/reviews before and nearly 1 in 3 (30%) do so as the first step in their search for a doctor.

Those are some impressive statistics but the fact is they only scratch the surface of the subject. Digging deeper, it turns out that online reviews are as diverse as the people who write (and read) them and understanding the differences can be the key to leveraging them to their fullest potential:

Don’t get star-struck

That 5-star review? Sure, it’s nice but if that represents said “review” in its entirety, it probably doesn’t carry the weight you think it does. Simply put, star- or number-based ratings don’t give readers any idea of why a reviewer chose a provider, what the procedure was like or whether it’s the right choice for her. Consider: When asked to rank the importance of online reviews and star ratings in selecting a doctor, 56% of healthcare consumers in a recent survey by National Research Corp. said quality/content of reviews was No. 1 vs. just 15% who cited overall star rating.

Strive for 5 — or more

It goes without saying that the more reviews you have the better, but how many are enough to generate trust? According to the NRC survey, 89% of consumers didn’t feel a doctor rating was legitimate if it had less than 5 reviews. As an added benefit, the more you have, the more likely they are to represent a wider range of ages, ethnicities, etc., an important factor when you realize that many aesthetic consumers are looking for reviews from people who are like them.

Longer reviews generate more leads

At first glance, it’s easy to think that reviews are strictly about procedures, providers and outcomes but as the RealSelf community can attest, that’s not the case. For many aesthetic consumers, reviews are really chronicles of journeys that start before a decision gets made and often continue for days, weeks or months after a procedure is completed. And readers are not the only ones who benefit from the ongoing story: According to RealSelf data, doctors whose patients update their stories get 6 times more inquiries and web clicks than those who just have a one-time, star-based review.

Don’t sweat the sour notes

Yes, negative reviews can be hurtful and harmful to your practice but they don’t have to be the death-knell they’re often made out to be. In fact, consumers count on them because they know nobody’s perfect and a litany of nothing but rave reviews rings false. In fact, according to TrustPilot, 68% of consumers trust online reviews more when they see good and bad feedback.

The key, of course, is to make every effort to ensure that that negative review is seen in context. If it’s one of two or three, it may very well be a problem. If it’s one of five or 10 or 50, readers will take it with a grain of salt — just one more reason it’s so important to have more reviews, longer reviews and reviews that rely on great stories rather than a handful of stars.

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 NBCnews.com, Expedia.com and the inflight magazines of Alaska, Horizon and Frontier airlines.

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