Reputation Management and Patient Reviews

Apr 26th, 2019
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Online reviews and reputation management in dentistry today.

Nowadays, many of us shop online and the convenience offered by these platforms allows us to buy things from the comfort of our homes, saving us precious time and effort.

The most important criteria influencing any purchase today are reviews. We all see how many stars the product has got, what other customers are saying about the product. The same behavior trend is now applicable for dental practices and doctors too. These reviews written by patients carry immense weightage due to their first-hand experience. Thus, online reviews and ratings play a significant role in the minds of potential patients when they choose a dentist.

Going back, after purchasing a product how many of us write a review for the product? In India, after the purchase is made and the product is delivered, very few (< 10%) review the product despite reminder mails for the same. When the service delivered is on par with expectations, we forget about it and move on with our lives.  Now imagine if the product you bought had not worked or was defective. When the expectation is interrupted, the outrage mentality kicks in and we tend towards being vicious in our critique!  Immediately, we take to the platform and write a bad review about the service, product, delay in delivery, etc.

It is therefore important to understand the importance of digital marketing, reviews and reputation management as it can make or break your dental practice.
Step 1: Get your act together
   a. Visualize the processes in the clinic that you have set for the patient and document it as a workflow. As an example, as soon as a         patient walks in, he / she must be welcomed. This process is called hosting. This is followed by registration, patient coordination,          then the treatment, followed by billing and feedback.
   b. Similarly, for every treatment and every procedure, develop an SOP (Standard Operating Procedure), disseminate the information         to all the people responsible for patient care, design a system of implementation, and a method for monitoring the same.
   c. This will ensure that all the people in your practice are aligned to a single service philosophy.

Step 2: Start gathering the reviews
    a. Every patient is an opportunity to improve your patient care services.
    b. Once you have completed the treatment, solicit a review for your work on either of the platforms that you feel will give maximum          visibility, from patients that you are sure are going to give you a positive review.
    c. Go out of your way to make sure the patients have a great experience. Giving away small gifts, spending time with patients, and          going the extra mile for the patients are things beyond dentistry that they remember as they leave your clinic. These increase the          likelihood of patients writing a positive review.

Step 3: Reply to reviews
    a. Typically, the reply to the review must go out within 24 hours of receiving the review.
    b. Always begin the reply by thanking the patient for taking the time out to review the clinic. The tone of the reply must always be         humble and genuine. Standard replies to every patient make it sound fake. Sentences like “I admire the patience you had while         undergoing the treatment”, or “I know it must have been tough, but you were exceptional in your cooperation!” always improve         disposition of your patients towards you. It also inspires other patients to write in their reviews as well.

Step 4: A bad review
    a. It is important to realize that it is impossible to satisfy each patient. There will always be a stray incident of delay, complication,         failure that results in a not so pleasant situation. This will result in a bad review and it is important to address these reviews as         delicately as possible.
    b. The typical human response to any negative criticism is self-defense and/or justification. Always remember, the reader of the         review is a patient or a potential patient. Hence, the bias is likely to on behalf of the patient. If you justify yourself, you will end up         sounding unconcerned about the patient. If you sound too apologetic, it will sound as if you have no control over the process in          your practice. The ideal reply to a negative review has 3 parts;
                  1. Accept and empathize
                  2. Problem solving approach
                  3. Compassionate recall

In the first part, always agree to what the patient has felt and express your empathy for the same. Also thank them for taking the time out to review the practice. Every patient needs to feel that they have been heard and when you accept it, 50% of the patients’ frustration dissipates.

In the second part, explain what steps you have taken to address the issue and how this step is going to prevent any further such escalations.

In the third part, focus and recall some good moments you shared in the clinic and end by saying that you hope to see them soon.

Here is a sample bad review and its reply;
“Not very good experience ...

I have visited this hospital few months back for wisdom tooth removal. Front office and appointment booking are smoothly done.

They left out to consultant to the actual job and really consultant doctor is rushed to complete his job and run away from there, he didn't put stitch properly, which has caused a lot of bleeding.  Consultant doctors are extremely busy, and they bothered about other things and using the phone always! He has taken at least 3 calls during 15 min. make sure you mention it to doctor to not to use if doctor is using mobile while drilling the tooth!

The good part is, doctor ABC was very nice and polite and did additional procedure to fix the consultant doctor's mistake and offered me their number to call if problem persists.”

The ideal reply should be along the lines of;

“Dear Mr. R, Greetings from ABC Dental Clinic.
Firstly, thank you for pointing out the deficiencies. Yes, you are right. Every patient deserves 100% attention, and from this point, we apologize for this.
We believe in treating every patient like we would treat our own family.
While our aim is to provide experienced doctors and consultants, sometimes due to their busy schedule, they get calls in between. It’s been a few months since the incident, and although we were happy with the consultant, we decided to let him go. The new consultant is briefed specifically about this part.
We realize the importance of feedback and it is more relevant in today’s day and age as it provides a great opportunity for patients to express what they feel.

My team and I remember you and your wife fondly and discuss how brave you both were during your treatments. Hope to see you soon for follow ups.

With warm regards,
Dr. ABC”

Conclusion
   1. A dentist’s reputation can take years to build but doesn’t take long to get destroyed. Sit on the dental chair as a patient every day and observe your surroundings to see if you can find out mistakes. Remember while you are looking into the patient’s mouth and complaining about the stains, the patient is looking up at the ceiling and mentally complaining about the cobwebs.
   2. Improve your services every day; solicit feedback on how to genuinely improve your practice. Use the positive feedback smartly to improve the way your practice is perceived in the locality.

Following these steps will play a significant part in uplifting your practice.

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