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:
- I post this review online.
- 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!”
- 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?”
- I say, I understand that mistakes happen and thank Mary.
- 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.”
- I reply and say thank you.
- I write a blog post on Healthcare Social Media Done Right.
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.