Dental Marketing, Practice Marketing, Reviews

How to Manage Positive and Negative Dental Reviews

You already know the importance of generating online reviews for your dental practice. In today’s world, simply hiding from online review sites is not an option. The fact is, whether people are insanely happy or displeased with the services that you provide, it is likely that they will take to the Internet to express their satisfaction or lack thereof.

Regardless of if the feedback is positive or negative, it is always in your best interest to respond, as more than half of customers expect to hear back from businesses within 7 days of writing an online review. Plus, 78% of consumers say that seeing a business respond to an online review makes them believe that the business cares about their clients.

Responding to Your Online Dental Reviews

When responding to online reviews, utilize these best practices to ensure you don’t dig yourself into a hole:

  1. Say “thank you!” Many people think that they should only respond to criticism or negative reviews. However, quite the contrary is true. If someone leaves you a positive note, be sure to express your gratitude and let them know how happy you are to have them as a patient.
  2. Even if it’s a negative review, thank them for their input. Whether you agree or disagree with the negative feedback, thank them for sharing their thoughts and expressing their concerns. Be sure to keep your tone civil to avoid any negative follow-up comments that could escalate the situation.
  3. Take it offline quickly. When you get a negative review, the last thing you want to do is respond with a comment that sparks an even nastier reply for everyone to see. Thank them for their feedback and let them know you are sorry for their experience and want to learn more. Ask them how you can best get in touch with them via phone or email, to avoid a back-and-forth directly on your public reviews pages.
  4. Give it 24 hours. If you receive a negative review, take some time to write a response, sit on it and see how you feel about your response after 24 hours. It’s easy to become defensive, especially if you don’t agree with the review. However, with your online reputation on the line, make sure that you always communicate in a calm, professional manner.
  5. Highlight your practice’s values. Emotions run high when it comes to dental work, and people can become very opinionated. There will always be people who are convinced that dentists are trying to upsell them and don’t really care about their overall oral health. When you get a negative opinion like this, help them understand your practice’s values and that you truly do care.

Remember, negative reviews aren’t the end of the world – especially when they’re countered by many positive reviews. People are able to form their own judgements and can tell when an online review is a one-time rant or if there seems to be an overall trend of poor service.

The most important thing is to show potential new clients that you do care about patient feedback and are dedicated to providing great service and care.

Dealing With, Responding to, and Avoiding Negative Reviews – In-Depth

It’s likely you have a plan for a variety of the “worst-case scenarios” your practice might encounter. For instance, insurance to protect you in the event of anything from fire to theft, malpractice and equipment damage.

But do you have a plan in place to deal with an inevitable bad online review?

Even the best doctors run into curmudgeonly patients who just can’t be pleased no matter how perfect your diagnosis and treatment. The customer may always be right, but that doesn’t mean you have to let them tarnish your reputation online. Just like for any other calamity, you need a plan to deal with the potential fallout of a negative online review.

You should be regularly searching your reviews to see if there are any glowing testimonials you can grab to put on your website, or to nip any problem comments in the bud. Finding them is as easy as searching for your practice on Google, Yahoo or Bing. Reviews from all the major review websites like Yelp or ZocDoc will appear in a search engine query – so don’t worry about visiting multiple sites to track down reviews.

When you find bad reviews, it’s tempting to just ignore them and hope they’ll go away. While it’s important to avoid engaging in a public debate with your detractors, there are some steps you can and should take to mitigate the damage a negative review can do.

What kind of damage? Well, according to a survey by the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) 59% of people surveyed believe online reviews are “somewhat important” to “very important” in their decision to choose a doctor. One or two negative reviews aren’t likely to ruin your practice, but how you deal with them could make a big difference in how you’re perceived by potential patients.

Here are some guidelines to help you come up with an action plan:

  1. Don’t Take it Personally

Your unhappy patient might be cranky, (and maybe a little childish) but you’re the professional – so you need to put their perception into perspective.

If the review is legitimate and it seems like the complaint is reasonable, consider posting a response – something like, “I’m sorry you had a bad experience at my office. I strive to provide professional treatment and service to all of my patients. I have a standing guarantee that if you have any questions, concerns, complaints or problems to contact my office so we can address your issue and get you the care you need.”

  1. Know When to Ignore

If the review is a jumbled mess of expletives and personal attacks, it’s probably best to report or flag it if it’s on a site like Yelp, or to simply delete it if it’s on a platform you control like your website or your Facebook account.

Don’t ever get in a shouting match with someone with nothing to lose when you have a reputation and a practice weighing in the balance. It’s not worth it. Winning an argument on the internet with someone who is “wrong” might be cathartic, but it’s not a good use of time or energy.

  1. Know When to Make a Change

Not all internet criticism is without merit. If you’re noticing a trend of people complaining about a specific employee, procedure, policy, expense or other feature of your practice – you should consider addressing it internally. Some things, like insurance co-pays, are not completely in your control. Even in those cases, you can have a better communication strategy so that your patients are informed.

Fix the issue – and then reply to the negative comment and present yourself as the advocate for change they were asking for. You worked with the employee to be less crotchety on the phone, or you got rid of the annoying easy-listening music in the waiting room.

You can post something like, “I noticed many of my patients complaining about X – so I looked into this problem, and I took these 3 steps to fix it. I apologize for not realizing it was an issue in the first place, and I’m deeply appreciative to those of you who called me out on this problem. I appreciate your feedback and thank you for helping us become a better practice.”

Being friendly, professional and courteous is free – but it can have a positive impact on the way patients and prospective patients view you and your practice. The good news is that there’s almost always a large gulf between a legitimate complainant and someone who’s just trying to tear you down.

It’s easy to know when to apologize for perceived slights and when to address real issues. Use your best judgement to know the difference.

Make changes and/or write out a thoughtful response when necessary, and you might even turn your practice’s worst weakness into an authentic and effective marketing opportunity.

How to Avoid Potential Negative Reviews

As a dentist, you have a unique and fragile opportunity to help your patients navigate their insurance plan. Do it right, and you’ll be their hero. Do it wrong, and an upset patient and negative reviews are likely.

I recently discussed the issue with a patient who had a bad experience with their doctor.

Jane* went to get a check-up and opted for a more expensive (but more convenient than the alternative) procedure after hearing that her insurance “may” fully or partially cover it.

After the procedure was completed, she was presented with the bill and found that insurance covered none of the expense. “They told me it wasn’t medically necessary,” Jane said.

She was irritated that the doctor’s staff seemed disinterested in whether she would have to pay out of pocket for the procedure and didn’t go through the additional steps to see how much, if any, of the expense would be covered.

Jane said, “I wouldn’t have opted for the more expensive procedure if they hadn’t told me it may be covered. I was annoyed.”

In defense of the practice, they’re under no obligation to spell out insurance terms to their patients – and patients, of course, should verify what’s covered and what’s not.

But consider an alternative outcome – where the practice’s staff told Jane that while the procedure “may” be covered by insurance, it’s likely that it wouldn’t be, and the total out of pocket cost would be $178. Maybe the staff member could have recommended a cheaper alternative procedure.

Which practice do you think Jane would be more likely to return to, refer to friends and family or leave a positive review for? Which practice is likely to get the dreaded “negative online review?”

So, what can your practice do to ensure optimal experiences when dealing with patients and their insurance plans?

1. Be able to answer basic questions.

Your practice’s staff should be knowledgeable enough about various accepted insurance plans to answer basic questions about coverage. In the event that they don’t know the answer, staff should always be straightforward in how they respond to a question about what’s covered and what’s not covered.

Always err on the side of caution and answer questions with something along the lines of, “I don’t know if that procedure is covered, but if it’s not covered it will cost you $X out of pocket.”

Even better: If the option is available, discuss alternative options the patient could take advantage of that may be covered by insurance.

2. Be upfront about billing procedures.

Always be crystal clear about your practice’s billing procedures. While you can’t control the insurance companies, you can be very up front about how much, when and in what matter your patients are expected to pay you.

Every staff member should understand your billing procedures inside and out. A surprise bill or sticker shock over how much you charge for a procedure or service should be avoided at all costs (no pun intended).

3. Inform patients of requirements or follow-ups.

If your patient’s insurance requires any special follow-up forms or reimbursement, take time to remind them of that fact, and be prepared to point them in the right direction on how to fulfill those terms so they get the best possible financial outcome.

These three steps can help you avoid negative online reviews while at the same time positioning yourself as a real advocate for your patient’s health as well as their checkbooks.

Positive Reviews – Responding and Sharing

Should Dentists Respond to Positive Reviews? Absolutely! A simple “Thank you so much for your kind feedback!” is always a gracious way to show appreciation for someone taking the time to leave a review about your practice. Plus, it shows that you actively monitor what people are saying about your practice and may prevent someone from leaving a negative review if they know you’ll respond.

Sharing Your Positive Reviews with Google’s Small Thanks with Google

It always feels good to receive a positive review from patients online. Not only does it help build trust for your practice among potential patients, but it can help your search rankings and improve your overall brand recognition.

While many dentists are starting to encourage more patients to leave positive reviews online, there’s still many ways that dentists can showcase their reviews both on and off their website for maximum visibility.

Google’s Small Thanks with Google tool helps you showcase your positive reviews in your practice via poster or through social media content. By posting these signs in your practice’s waiting room, you can build brand equity and help patients feel good about their choice of having you as their dentist. Sharing your positive reviews on social media adds more visibility to Google reviews that might otherwise go unnoticed by your Facebook and Twitter followers and their friends.

Using Small Thanks with Google

Follow this video step-by-step tutorial to learn how to create posters and/or social media posts of your own by selecting your favorite reviews to create a file that you can then distribute both on and off line.

Showcasing positive reviews on your website and social media pages shows potential patients that they don’t only have to rely on your word, they can look at other people’s opinions about you and feel reassured that you’re the right dentist for them.

Take charge of your online reputation and set yourself apart from competitors. To find out how ProSites can help you garner more positive patient reviews directly on your website, visit or call (888) 932-3644.

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