Word of mouth referrals are still as powerful as ever – think of the number of times in your life that you’ve looked for affirmation in your daily decision-making. But instead of seeking reassurance from your physical network of peers, word of mouth has taken online in a huge way from daily purchase reviews to healthcare referrals.
As of early 2019, 97% of consumers are reading local business reviews. Of that almost-everyone group, around 90% admit that positive reviews influenced their decision to try out a new business. In other words, your ultimate strategy will still need to incorporate a public online presence, even if this might be new territory for your practice.
Tools for managing your online reputation are fantastic at being able to consolidate information, automatically asking patients to leave a review after their appointment, and keep you on top of updates as they happen. Knowing when you’ve received a glowing review is a morale boost for your staff, but knowing when you receive a negative one gives you time to act.
Understanding how to respond to negative ads is a hallmark of better ratings. Being courteous, informative, and, when appropriate, apologetic is an opportunity to win them back to your side. With over 80% of consumers saying they read and factor a business’s response into their decision, accepting negative criticism and responding thoughtfully can be as important as getting a great review. Calling them a liar or troll will not get you very far, regardless of who’s right and who’s wrong.
Top Sites for Review
- Google – The search engine that everyone knows, reviews, and ratings automatically populate whether a potential patient uses Maps to look for a nearby dentist or is searching out the most talented doctors in town.
- Facebook – A healthy and vibrant community that is ready to leave vocal feedback, but also more receptive to conversation and community.
- RateMDs.com – Love it or hate it, this site has provided insight into the care that doctors provide right across North America
- OpenCare.com – A reliable resource for patients that are looking for specialty services, or a recommendation for a dentist that comes well-equipped for their care needs.
- Yelp.com – Commonly associated with restaurants and food faire, Yelp allows anyone to leave a review of a local business. Thanks to their ambitious search engine optimization, they’ll always be on the first page of search results with the reviews their members provide.
Reputation management software providing you up-to-the-minute info about what’s being said allows you to quickly respond, making your overall rating easier to manage. Typically for small to medium offices, dipping below an average of 3.4 stars on reliable review sites will actively deter potential patients from even asking if you’ve got room for them. It’s also worth considering what a potential new hire may perceive or learn when Googling your practice’s history.
What if you’re having trouble getting patients to leave reviews online for you? Just like surveys, there’s always plenty of ways to grease the wheels of your favorite patients. A review opening with the explanation of being given free dentures to voice their glowing opinion will raise an eyebrow, so it’s best to save the give-aways for just toothpaste and floss samples at the end of an appointment. Inciting your patients with a draw or giveaway, while also expressing that you want their truthful opinion, good or bad, is a fantastic way to get some momentum when increasing your online presence. You can always use your practice management software to set up a survey that automatically sends after every 4th or 5th visit. This makes it easier to grab feedback, without your patients feeling like providing their opinion is a part of each appointment.
As tempting as it may be to go the ‘bot’ route, these moves are becoming easier and easier to spot. Going from 35 followers to 10,000 in a week, without staring in a major movie or becoming a nationally elected politician, makes for obvious fraud. The same applies if every review you have is 5 stars, and the reviews themselves are the same 6 or 7 different sentences copied and pasted. Your patients and potential patients could come to their own conclusion about why you’re spending the time and money to inflate perceptions online. Getting noticed for fraudulently inflating your presence inevitably comes with backlash that can even end with your online accounts being removed.
Executing on a well developed, thoughtful communication strategy that uses templates to automatically engage patients over text or email isn’t quite as useful when you’re not allowed online. Your reputation as a reliable and welcoming dental practice is everything. That reputation is equal parts word of mouth as it is online reviews. Managing your reputation means keeping a thoughtful eye on the feedback that you ask for, and the feedback that you don’t.