The Good, the Bad, and the Spam

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The benefits of engaging with online reviews (even the worst ones)

By Peter Decoteau

Online reviews are a vital resource for customers, especially those seeking service providers. Consider the last time you hired someone to provide a service — car repair, dinner, dentist — without researching their Google, Yelp, social media, and/or other reviews. I’ll wager it was likely during the Bush Jr. presidency, or they were referred by a friend or family member — what those in the digital sphere might refer to as an “IRL (in real life) review.”

Service providers are heavily reliant on positive word-of-mouth to attract new customers, so it’s an unavoidable fact that marketers in healthcare have to pay attention to their online reviews, both good and bad. I’d take it a step further and say that any business should respond to all of their online reviews. While some may see this as extra work with little payoff, there are plenty of opportunities to take advantage of these interactions to bolster your marketing and reputation — yes, that even goes for negative reviews.

Before we get to the how and the why of the action-items, here are some statistics to consider:

72% of consumers read online ratings and reviews to consider a new healthcare provider. The same percentage of consumers also stated they preferred providers rated 4 out of 5 stars or higher.1

The top resources customers turn to when researching reviews are, in order: Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor, and Facebook.2

94% of consumers say a bad review has convinced them to avoid a business…but 45% say they’re more likely to visit a business if it responds to negative reviews.2

The most common filter applied to review research is “4-stars and higher,” meaning most people are not even willing to consider a business that has a rating average under 4-stars.2

So… online reviews are important! Getting them and managing them with care can make a notable difference in new patient volume, especially with first-time physical therapy seekers. We’ve explored ways to increase your online reviews in previous articles, “4 Ways QR Codes Can Ignite Your Marketing Efforts” (bit.ly/3B0mFUD) and “Elevate Your SEO” (bit.ly/3B3vbTM). Keep reading for best practices in managing your many glowing (and very rarely negative) online reviews.

RESPONDING TO REVIEWS

The first, and most important, piece of advice is to respond to all ratings that include a written review. If someone took the time to write a note about your service, whether brief or at length, you should be sure to take the time to honor their sentiments and offer a considerate response. How you respond may vary, but the fact that you’ve responded publicly shows others that you’re paying attention, listening to your customers and that you care enough to seriously think about criticisms — and take action when necessary.

MANAGING POSITIVE REVIEWS

Some might find it unnecessary to respond to positive reviews — after all, the person already likes you — but responding to your advocates has many benefits you may not have considered.

1) Responding to positive reviews can only help to strengthen your relationship with that patient, which builds loyalty to your business. Additionally, others doing their own online research see a business owner that takes time to build relationships with their patients. Those looking for a more personalized level of care will see that level of care reflected in these interactions.

2) Positive reviews can be a great tool for building team morale, as well as an excuse to show your thanks in more specific ways, such as a staff outing, staff gifts, or simply ordering your team lunch. For those over-the-top reviews that name names and gush about your entire operation, copy and paste the review in an email to your entire staff, or even print copies and hand them out at your next staff meeting so you can offer your appreciation for their hard work in person.

3) As marketers in a digital world, we’re always looking for good content. It’s been suggested before, but it bears repeating: online reviews and testimonials are often the most effective content for the lowest effort.

MANAGING NEGATIVE REVIEWS

Ultimately, your response to negative reviews can garner much of the same type of goodwill as can be gained by responding to positive reviews. In a similar way, it shows your willingness to listen to your patients and receive constructive feedback sincerely, with an openness to improving by acting on the criticisms. Note the stat above, that 45% of people are more likely to visit (or in this case, perhaps consider) a business that responds to their negative reviews. Also, remember that anything above a 4-star average rating tends to remain appealing to potential patients, so don’t get too worked up over one bad review in the midst of tens or even hundreds of good ones.

The most important thing to remember when responding to negative reviews, even if they are off-base or unfair, is that your response is public and reflects on you and your business. With that in mind, it’s vital that you not get defensive. The general public can typically differentiate between legitimate criticisms and the rare fake reviews or petty personal attacks that pop up from time to time.

Unfortunately, less-than-legitimate reviews happen, and they can be incredibly frustrating. In these instances, thank the reviewer and reiterate your aim to provide excellent care while suggesting you can’t find a record of their time with your clinic. File an appeal to the platform, but understand that these are very rarely overturned, even in obvious cases of misconduct or malice. Keep in mind the note above about ratings averages and take solace in the many more positive comments and ratings you’ve received and will continue to receive. Truly something to be grateful for! 

References:

1Patient Engagement HIT. “72% of Patients View Online Reviews When Selecting a New Provider.” Accessed August 22, 2022. https://bit.ly/3CPOsc8

2Review Trackers. “2022 Online Reviews Statistics and Trends: A Report by Reviewtrackers.” Published December 1, 2021. https://www.reviewtrackers.com/reports/online-reviews-survey/


Peter Decoteau

Peter Decoteau is the Director of Marketing at Physical Therapy & Sports Medicine Centers (PTSMC), Connecticut’s largest private practice physical therapy company. He can be reached at peter.decoteau@ptsmc.com.

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