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It’s nearly impossible for a business to maintain a perfect reputation with 100 percent of their customer base. Patients, like customers, are all individuals with varying personalities. Some of them may be outspoken fans who sing your praises to everyone they meet. But some may not be as excited about your practice. Online business guides, such as Google Places and Yelp, have made it easy for the satisfied and dissatisfied customers alike to post their reviews. This might be a source of apprehension for you, but do not let the fear of a negative review hold you back from expanding your medical marketing strategy into the realm of social media. Learning how to turn a negative review into a positive experience can mean all the difference for you and your practice.

It is healthy to maintain a cautious awareness of your practice’s online reputation when you do business with your patients, but sometimes there are situations that arise in which a negative experience is simply unavoidable. You can sit back and cross your fingers, hoping that negative experience won’t tarnish that four or five star rating on your Yelp or Google Places page, but inevitably it could happen.

Do you know what to do when you uncover a negative review about your practice? You may get angry or frustrated, thinking the reviewer was surly or impossible to please. Your first response may be to delete it, but do not give into the urge. Instead, take a deep breath and first try to understand the negative experience from the patient’s point of view. Do you know what prompted the review? You should. Most negative reviews do not come out of the blue, but if they do, it is important to understand the why behind it. Perhaps there was a misunderstanding that you attempted unsuccessfully to rectify. Perhaps a patient had a financial difficulty. Or perhaps the patient had an unpleasant experience in the waiting room.

Your best course of action is to address the review directly on the website, in plain view of other online visitors. The sooner you do it, the better. Do not wait a few weeks or a month, hoping for more positive reviews to balance it out. If a negative review is addressed in a prompt matter, it shows the unsatisfied patient that their opinion had an impact on you. When you respond, do not be defensive. Address the issue in a warm, friendly tone, and tell the patient that you truly apologize for the negative experience. Offer a solution. If the patient had a poor experience with someone at the front desk or had a long wait time, sit down and talk about it with your front desk staff. If a solution to the problem is not within immediate reach, kindly inform the patient that you appreciate them taking the time to share the issue with you, and that you will do your utmost to resolve the issue in the future.

Negative reviews do not have to be a blemish to your online reputation. They do not have to stay online forever. Did you know that many “unhappy” patients often remove their negative reviews if they have been calmly and rationally addressed by a practice? And did you know that these so-called “unhappy” patients often become some of the most loyal patrons? This is all the more reason to encourage your patients to review online, regardless of the outcome!