Optometry: How to Deal with Negative Online Reviews

Optometry: How to Deal With Negative Online Reviews

Nearly three-quarters of patients begin their search for a healthcare provider by reading online reviews. What’s more, according to BrightLocal, only 48% of patients say they’ll choose a practice with less than four stars. Essentially, it’s safe to say that your optometry practice reviews are important.

Everyone in your optometry practice works hard to ensure optimal patient experiences and patient satisfaction. As great as it would be to receive glowing five-star reviews from every patient, there may be times when someone is unsatisfied with their visit. Bad reviews do happen. Unfortunately, you can’t please everyone. 

Getting a bad review can be frustrating or upsetting. What matters more than a few bad reviews, however, is how you manage them. Here are a few tips to help you deal with negative online reviews of your optometry practice.

Respond Publicly to the Review

One of the best things you can do when you receive an online review, whether negative or positive, is respond publicly. Research from the Harvard Business Review shows that doing so can increase a business’s (or practice’s) likeability. Responding to positive and negative reviews helps to reinforce how much your practice cares about its patients and their experiences with you. 

When you get a negative review, your first instinct might be to argue (especially if you know what they’re saying isn’t correct). But doing so will only make the situation worse. Instead, the first thing you should do is apologize. Acknowledge the patient’s complaint, whether they’re upset about the wait time, the cost of their care, or something else, and tell them you’re sorry for their experience. This can help to diffuse the situation by making the patient feel heard and pave the way to finding a solution.

Continue the Conversation Privately

Your public acknowledgment of a patient’s negative experience is just the start. Telling the patient you’re sorry and then doing nothing else about it can make your apology feel meaningless, even if you are genuinely sorry. You should keep the conversation going, but not on the review site. If a patient is particularly argumentative, you might run into trouble trying to defend your optometry practice. A series of angry replies could deter potential patients from scheduling appointments.

Instead of trying to figure things out on a public forum, take it offline by asking the patient to reach out to your practice. That way, you can get to the bottom of the issue and work together to reach a resolution. Include your practice’s phone number and email address in your response so they don’t have to worry about finding the information themselves.

Ask the Patient Questions

When you’re able to connect privately with the patient, try to get to the root of your patient’s unsatisfactory experience. While some patients can be very descriptive in their reviews, others can be rather vague. Either way, taking steps to get more information can be beneficial for you and for them. 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions for clarification. Not only will this help grow your understanding of the situation, but it can help you get a better view of how things looked from their perspective, too. It also allows you to clear up any miscommunications or misconceptions that may have occurred. 

Another essential step to keep in mind is thanking the patient for their feedback. In some cases, hearing their side of the story directly from them (rather than reading it online) can help you better your practice and provide even better patient care and experiences in the future.

Stay Communicative

If the patient doesn’t respond to your request to contact you, you can take the initiative and reach out to them. One of the last things you want is for the issue to go unresolved. Rather than sending an email, though, call them directly. It’s more personal and can go a bit farther in showing that you care. 

Communication is vital. When you do get the patient on the phone, apologize for their experience. Another sincere apology can reinforce the importance of patient satisfaction in your practice. Then, let them know that you want to work with them to find a suitable solution. That could be offering a discount on a future appointment or refunding the cost of the treatment they received. The goal is to not only set the situation right but to help get your practice back on the patient’s good side. 

Be Nothing But Kind

Some patients, when upset, can become argumentative. No matter how upset their review or how angry they get when you’re trying to help them resolve the issue, don’t argue back. This generally only makes the situation worse. Not to mention, a defensive reply from you to their online review could affect how potential patients view your optometry practice.

Kindness is the way to go. If the review is particularly inflammatory or you know the patient is wrong, wait to respond. Give yourself some time to process their complaint so you can craft a compassionate response. If the patient gets agitated or starts yelling on the phone, remain calm, patient, and sympathetic. In doing so, you may help to calm the patient. Kindness in the public setting will also show potential patients how seriously you take the concerns of your existing patients, no matter how upset they appear.

Request To Remove the Review

Some negative reviews of your optometry practice can actually be a good thing, especially when you respond politely. You may have some patients who go back and change or edit their original reviews themselves. 

However, you don’t necessarily want to ask your patients to remove their negative reviews after you resolve their issues. If you receive a negative review that’s fake or misleading — whether it’s from your competition or someone trying to cause trouble for some — remember that these types of comments often go against the community standards of most review sites. In such cases, you can go to the site directly and ask that they take it down.

Encourage Patients to Leave Positive Reviews 

Finally, patients are generally more likely to leave a negative review than a positive one. But you can encourage more positive reviews by asking for them. In a 2020 BrightLocal survey, for example, 72% of participants who were asked to leave a review went on to do so. There’s a good chance that if you ask your satisfied patients to leave a review, they will do it. And there’s no harm in asking. 

There are several ways to ask your optometry patients for reviews. One method is to have your front office staff ask during check out. You could also include a request on their take-home instruction sheet or with a follow-up email. Another option is to create a space on your website (if you haven’t already) to request feedback.

Manage Negative Online Reviews Quickly and Effectively

Unfortunately, getting occasional negative online reviews is almost inevitable. But that doesn’t mean they’ll ruin your practice, especially if you handle them well. Respond publicly and take the conversation offline. Work with the patient to find a solution to help salvage your relationship with them. Communicate and, above all, be kind. Handling your negative online reviews tactfully and professionally can help to grow and maintain your reputation. It can also help to provide a positive first impression for potential patients who are searching for an optometry practice. 

Patient reviews play a critical role in your online reputation for optometrists and the right tools can help you manage it effectively. With Demandforce’s review alerts, you’ll receive a notification the moment a patient posts a review of your optometry practice. You can then view and reply to it right from your smartphone. 

For more information and to see how Demandforce can help your optometry practice thrive, schedule your demo today. 

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