How Dentists Can Leverage Review Sites to Grow Their Practices Through Patient Engagement

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By Emily Washcovick
From the Spring 2017 Journal of the Colorado Dental Association

Nearly 80% of patients use online review websites as their first step to finding a new doctor, according to a 2014 Software Advice survey. They are already using review websites, like Yelp, to find restaurants and auto body shops—and they trust the reviews! Now they’re turning to these websites to find dentists, as well. This trend isn’t stopping anytime soon, so how can you make the best of this movement especially if your office receives a less than glowing evaluation?

The first step: Don’t ignore reviews! Online reviews can influence potential patient decisions. In fact, 60% of surveyed consumers feel it is important for doctors to respond to online reviews. It’s crucial to join the conversation happening about you or your practice, and it’s easy to respond in a way that does not violate HIPAA.

The second step: Respond responsibly! Respond to your reviews professionally. Thank the reviewer for their feedback and share any updates that have been made to your practice as a result of the feedback if applicable. Consumers see a response to a negative review as the business valuing the patient’s experience and wanting to engage with patients on a personal level. Some review websites allow you to respond to reviews publicly or privately, like Yelp for Business Owners (biz.yelp.com).

Let’s Break it Down

The Positive Review: Don’t take this for granted! These customers took time out of their day to give you positive feedback online. Sending a direct message is a fast and effective way to let those happy patients know you appreciate their feedback and their business. Now and then, respond to those stellar five-star reviews publicly so potential patients know that you care.

The Negative Review: Take this as an opportunity to grow. When it comes to a negative review, it’s easy to get upset, but successful business owners remain calm, cool and collected. If you need to give yourself 24 hours to cool off, feel free! Then, it’s time to respond and outline a plan to fix the situation.

Step 1: Respond privately to the reviewer. Try to dig in a bit and get more information about what happened. Thank them for reaching out to you and give them a way to communicate with you directly to get things resolved practice to patient.

Step 2: Post a public response while you wait to hear back from the patient directly. This can be a generic message for the most part. Thank the reviewer for their feedback, do not confirm or deny that the reviewer was your patient (abide by patient privacy laws), outline steps you have taken to resolve the issue, and urge them to contact you to talk further about what happened. This shows that you value feedback and want your patient experience to be exceptional. This public response is to showcase your business practices to all of your future patients. It’s not always about trying to win that reviewer over. Consider this example: “Thanks for the feedback. We try to keep wait times to a minimum, but emergencies sometimes cause longer delays than we’d like. We don’t take our patients’ time for granted, and will continue to over-communicate with our patients when emergencies come up. We would be more than happy to discuss this issue further at your convenience.”

Last, be proactive. Here are two pro-tips for business owners to get their patients to rave about them online without asking for reviews:

Share your online reviews on other platforms. When you have a great review, you want people to see it! Share your reviews on other platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, or via an emailed newsletter. You can even print reviews and frame them for your waiting room.

Consider using Yelp to your advantage. Beyond just responding to reviews, you can help new and existing patients find your business on Yelp. Just like any other social media platform, patients will look for you online so make it easy for them to find you. Add links to Yelp, Facebook, Twitter, etc. in your email communications, website and appointment reminders.


About the Author: Emily Washcovick is with Yelp Business Outreach. Emily helps professionals best use Yelp to grow their businesses. You can request a “Find Us On Yelp” sticker at bit.ly/yelpsticker.