Tackling Online Reviews: A Doctor's Guide to Effective Feedback Responses

October 14, 2022
January 26, 2024
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Online reputation management is a crucial component of a brand's online and offline presence. Reviews and feedback play a big part in a dental clinic's image. Patients want to engage with healthcare providers and brands outside clinics and practices.

Therefore, by acknowledging feedback, you are validating your patient sentiments. Plus, by engaging with your patients, you are driving positive customer experience and boosting brand awareness. However, replying to online reviews can be tricky for healthcare providers.

There are many factors you need to keep in mind while interacting with patients outside the clinic. That is why we have created a dentist’s guide to responding to online reviews.

Some things to keep in mind when you respond to online reviews:

Patient privacy requirements in healthcare and dental practices

HIPAA Compliance

To protect patient data, you can not divulge any information. Additionally, you can not confirm or deny that the reviewer had undergone treatment at your clinic (if mentioned).

Remember, the failure of HIPAA compliance results in steep fines, heavy penalties, and even jail time. Which makes it one of the biggest reasons several dental clinics cite when they do not respond to reviews/feedback.

Keep it vague

Even with HIPAA regulations, respond to feedback. Not responding to feedback will set your brand awareness back a few points.

Since your patient is identifying themselves when submitting a review, you might as well make the most of it. However, do not disclose any specifics; keep your response as general as you can.

Prompt vs. impulsive

Reviews and feedback demand a quick response. However, do not mistake impulsiveness for promptness. It is easy to type out a response and hit send.

But your reply is not just yours; you are speaking on behalf of the dental practice. Therefore, take a moment to think about your response. Decide what you are going to say and how you are going to handle the situation.

Only respond when you have a plan in mind.

There are a few steps that are common to online reviews and other feedback.

1. Be prompt

Many people in business find a 24-hour duration as an appropriate answer time. However, the sooner you respond, the higher the customer satisfaction.

You can still use the 24-hour rule in most instances unless it comes to social media posts. About 39% of users expect responses within the first 60 minutes. Therefore, promptly replying tells people you care about their issues and their time.

2. Remember to be polite

It does not matter what tone a review or feedback has, you always have to be polite. Even if someone leaves the most scathing review you have ever seen, you must reply to it as you reply to a nice review.

Since you are representing your clinic, what you say will affect the dental practice. Therefore, take some time to think about what you want to say and be careful of the words you use.

3. Be concise

A feedback or review response is not an essay writing competition; you do not get points for the number of words you use.

Let's be frank. The longer your response is, the fewer people will want to read it. Hence, you should be concise. Be brief, so that your audience does not get bored. But comprehensive enough that you get your point across.

4. Thank them

Always thank people who leave reviews, irrespective of what they said. If they leave a good review, show appreciation and gratitude for the kind words.

If someone left a bad review, thank them for their input and for bringing the issues to your attention (if any). Why? Thank them because the absence of a bad review is extremely suspicious. Plus, bad reviews can help increase your brand's exposure.

Here are a few tips for when you are responding to bad online reviews:

1. Acknowledge and apologize

The blame game is always a petty game and extremely unprofessional, no matter who is to blame. The first thing you should do is acknowledge the bad experience your client had. Apologizing can put your client at ease and improve your chances of retaining them. Let the reviewer know that you have read the review and that you understand the issue. Moreover, be genuine and sincere when you apologize. You do not want to sound fake since it will do more harm than good.

2. Let them know what you plan to do

Empty words mean nothing and they tarnish your brand's image. Having bad reviews on the same issues tells potential clients that you do not care about the patients you have. Therefore, by extension, you do not care about them either. Tell your review how and when you plan to resolve the issue. By doing so, you indicate you are proactive when it comes to your customer’s experience. However, do not make promises you can not keep.

3. Encourage them to visit again and leave a review

Strongly encourage them to visit again so that you can show them the changes you have made. Showing a change is far better than talking about it. However, do not be forceful in either your words or tone.Moreover, you can ask them to leave a review after the visit. A good review after a bad one by the same patient will go miles in building your online reputation and boosting your brand image. This will show potential clients that “you walk your talk.”

Here are a few tips for when you are responding to good online reviews:

1. Leave a nice comment

Sometimes a simple thank you and a smiley emoji are fine. Sometimes a patient will refer to treatment or procedures. In such cases, be as vague as you can without sounding dismissive. More often than not, patients do not realize they are disclosing private medical information. Hence, tread with caution. If the reviewer leaves feedback on social media in the comment section or a post, then you can also like it.

2. Ask permission for testimonials

If your client has left a raving review, you can ask their permission to use it as a testimonial or social proof. Remember, take written permission for the review before you use any of their content as promotional material. Additionally, you need to disclose the purpose of the testimonials. You can even have them sign a document that complies with HIPAA.

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