What Happens When You Don’t Respond to Online Reviews?

online reviews, reputation management

While many doctors still believe that responding to online reviews is a risky endeavor, the fact is that not responding can be far more hazardous to your practice health. Consider the following a cautionary tale complete with good advice on how easily it could have turned out otherwise.

As she explained in a recent blog post, Katie Gutwein, director of marketing and social media for healthcare marketing agency KBK Communications, went to a doctor for a first-time visit, only to discover that someone (not her) had canceled her appointment and that her only recourse was to reschedule.

Receiving little help and no sympathy, she took to Yelp to express her dismay:

I waited a few minutes, figuring they were probably working whatever they needed to work out.  She then calls my name, I walk up, and she says, “Sorry, the doctor cannot take you.”  Dumbfounded, I said, “Excuse me?  I’ve had this appointment scheduled for over a month, I came in 20 minutes early.  Please. There’s no way he can get me in?”

She then tells me, “He’s overbooked, he won’t take patients who are late (again, I was 20 minutes early), sorry. I can reschedule you.”

Let’s review. I didn’t cancel my appointment. This was something that happened, as a result of your in-office error. And now I should reschedule?

I said I didn’t want to reschedule and walked out.  I understand (and actually appreciate) the desire to stay on time. But, there are some situations where when your office screwed up, you need to think outside of the box.  I am thoroughly disappointed, upset, and I won’t be back.

Chances are, similar scenarios play out in other doctors’ offices every day; the difference in this case is that Gutwein offers a compelling argument on just how easily the situation could’ve been handled in a way that actually enhances the doctor’s reputation:

Imagine, she says, the impact of a real-time response:

  1. I post this review online.
  2. Shortly after I post the review, I receive a reply that goes a little something like this. “Katie, we’re so sorry for your experience. Call Mary at 555-555-5557 x300. She’ll get to the bottom of this and help!”
  3. I call Mary, she empathizes, apologizes and says, “Let me do some investigating. In the meantime, our next appointment is on July 1st at 8:00 AM. I’m going to put you on the schedule, as long as that works for you?”
  4. I say, I understand that mistakes happen and thank Mary.
  5. The medical group goes back to my Yelp Review, says, “Katie, we’re glad we were able to help :). Let Mary know if she can help in any other way.”
  6. I reply and say thank you.
  7. I write a blog post on Healthcare Social Media Done Right.

Doctor Takeaway

When it comes to negative reviews, ignorance is not bliss

Not responding to online reviews doesn’t make them disappear. They remain up and visible to other potential patients who are conducting their own research, many of whom make their own decisions based on how a provider responds to online feedback. The key is to consistently monitor what’s being said about you online and to respond promptly, professionally and with a sincere desire to help.

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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  • Maureen Ezekwugo

    Since doctors often can tell who the patient is that posted the review (photos, specific cases, etc) I think it’s important to note that ‘responding to online reviews’ can occur OFFLINE, not just online. This is especially true if the practice feels the need to post a comment that is defensive in nature (which, in my opinion, should never be done). Consumers DO watch how doctors respond to getting feedback online and as difficult it may be to take a step back and respond with a peaceful resolution in mind, it’s often worth it because the patient will often post an update to let others know that the doctor responded favorably.

  • I agree that negative reviews need to be addressed and not left unanswered for the potential patient to interpret what happened. We always advise our clients to make sure that someone from the staff responds to any negative reviews as soon as they have been made aware of them.

    I also believe that having reviews that aren’t all five star or the highest rating for your practice adds some credibility. While we all would like to provide a 100% satisfaction to our customers all of the time, it generally doesn’t happen (we are all human). Seeing that someone may have had a bad interaction shows that consumers aren’t just being fed fake or inflated reviews.

    The difference in whether or not the consumer chooses to work with the practice will be in how that review is handled. We recommend that you immediately reach out (through the review site or personally, via phone or email) to the patient and try to resolve the situation. Generally, you can reach a positive resolution where everyone feels happy about the outcome in the end.

    You may also be pleasantly surprised by the patient re-posting a positive re-review in response to your efforts.

  • Nicole Hess

    It’s definitely important to respond to negative reviews online in a quickly and professional manner. I’ve heard doctors express concern that the patient couldn’t be or won’t be satisfied with whatever they might do, however it is important to show everyone that you do care and offering o attempt to resolve the concern.

    I would add that it’s also great to respond to positive reviews. This shows how much you appreciate patients taking time to say something positive about you, which can leave a lasting positive impression. Not to mention it can also diminish the visibility of any negative reviews.

    • Maureen Ezekwugo

      good point about the positive reviews!