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Handling Online Complaints Against Your Practice

Primum non nocere, or, do no harm, is perhaps the most important value that a doctor holds. It guides the methodology and informs the course of a patient’s treatment and care. While care providers are passionate about improving lives during every appointment, patients can experience, or believe, harm has been done to them. With dental clinics across Canada structured like businesses, complaints or grievances against a practice can run the gamut from poor customer experience, all the way up to serious health issues or outcomes. They are usually aired through social media or review sites, sometimes in the pursuit of free goods or services, and it’s been happening for as long as people have been able to comment online.

Understanding the best way to handle or react to complaints of all shapes and sizes can mean the difference between a tarnished reputation with fewer patients, and a thriving practice with customers that trust their dentist.

To Respond or Not to Respond

The timeless question since society was first confronted by the online troll, do you engage to protect your reputation, or simply ignore those with an axe to grind? The answer is frequently hard to put your finger on. An easy yes or no ignores the nuance in people’s grievances, and more importantly, the potential for existing patients that might read your response. If a patient feels as though they were treated poorly, but can easily be identified as disappointed instead of angry, they are worth your time to reach out.

Patients and customers that make a valid complaint online require a prompt response. Many businesses see success by responding within an hour to formal complaints, or 24 hours for social media posts. While it can be pretty easy to spot a canned response, preparing a few messages ahead of time can save you plenty of headaches and that ticking clock feeling down the road.

One golden rule, regardless of what you read, is to never delete a comment, and never argue with the person posting.

The Difference Between Fact and Opinion

The Internet has done wonders for spreading information about small businesses, creating marketing opportunities that would usually require an expensive team of creative talent. The downside of that democratic equality is that personal opinion can be shouted from the rooftops while being treated as fact. RateMDs.com, Google Reviews, and a variety of other rating-based sites offer first-hand experiences that influence curious prospects. These reviews, whether positive or not, are some of the first things that are likely to be searched by prospective patients when choosing a new clinic. Checking up on your online reputation is a healthy habit that businesses of all shapes and sizes must undertake.

When addressing negative comments, it’s worth considering that fine line between fact and fiction. It can be hard to believe, but a post that’s easily debunked as false isn’t worth much of your time. Remember to never argue online. On the other hand, if a patient feels as though they were not treated the way they deserved, through a cancelled appointment or spending too long in your waiting room, responding thoughtfully while outlining ways your practice intends to change sends the signal that your patients and their experiences are being listened to. 

A Proactive Practice

There is no doubt that you’re putting in hard work. Whether running a business or treating patients, people rely on you. The work that goes into maintaining the many relationships that keep your office afloat can be exhausting. So, why wait for people to create a deficit that you need to work your way out of? Offering discounts, promotions, contests, or just asking politely for satisfied patients to leave a rating online goes a long way. Building up a strong base of four and five-star ratings from customers that find you calm, supportive, and caring will make a handful of complaints, fact or fiction, seem trivial.

Just so long as you’re asking for open and honest feedback on your site or service of choice, people will speak from the heart and create plenty of recognition for your hard work. You’ll have a counterbalance for negativity, and a fantastic resource of quotes and testimonials to re-enforce how great your practice is.

Managing an online profile for your business means tending to the good and bad feedback that comes your way. Using the right tools along with the right approach can soften blows, bring dissatisfied customers back to the table, or even provide a large pool of encouragement for patients you haven’t met yet.

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