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How to Respond to
a Negative Review

Every now and then one of our clients gets a negative review online. It’s obviously not a fun experience to get negative feedback, but of course it needs to get addressed. Through collaboration with the doctor, we respond to these negative reviews for our clients. I think it’s a positive thing that we broker these responses on behalf of the clients as it takes the desire for a knee-jerk reaction out of the equation.

If you don’t have an agency around to help you our in writing these reviews, here’s our step-by-step guide!

      1. Take a moment and a deep breath.

        Walk away from the keyboard if need be! You do NOT need to respond immediately, though a timely response is crucial – within 24-48 hours.

      2. Read the review, in full, 2-3 times.

        Make sure you pick up on any nuances.

      3. Investigate. 

        If you don’t remember this patient, look up their chart and any notes you may have. If the review calls out any other office employees, make sure you gather information and their side of the story as well.

      4. Step out of Defensiveness and into Self-Realization.

        Try and be impartial. Take a step back from the immediate need to defend yourself, your business, or their observations/accusations. With all of your information from Step 3, take a moment to see what YOU could have done differently. Sometimes the answer is nothing. Sometimes the answer may result in a shift or change of the way things happen at your office. This could be process, procedure, staff, language, etc. Billing and financial frustrations are the leading generator of negative reviews. Make sure you protect yourself by communicating clearly to patients and setting expectations! Please keep in mind that you are NOT answering this review to provide an explanation or defend your practice. Sometimes, doing the right thing for your business is not always the thing you want to do or feel is fair.

      5. Call them.

        Any time someone raises concerns about you or your practice, the most thoughtful approach can be to reach out directly to address their concerns. Read the rest of this blog to make sure you solidify an approach first! Calling a patient who is upset is the best course of action. Be a good listener and see if you can professionally settle the matter. If it gets settled, skip to Step #8. If it doesn’t or they don’t comply with Step #8, continue down this list to craft your reply.  

      6. Be an active listener.

        This is the most important and hardest to do. Acknowledge their review. Apologize for their negative experience and let them know it’s certainly not what you intended or how you like to run your business. **I want to be clear here, you are not apologizing for anything you did wrong, simply for their experience. Wording here is EVERYTHING!** Provide additional context where necessary, without violating HIPAA compliance. Don’t talk about the specifics of their treatment plan, even if they do!

      7. Offer to make it right.

        This doesn’t mean giving away the farm, but what it does mean is extending an invite for them to come to the office to see a better side of you and the practice if they are up for it. Even if you gave them the best side to begin with, they obviously don’t feel that way! Sometimes this may mean offering a full or partial refund. That’s okay, too. Even if it doesn’t feel great.

      8. Gently ask for reconsideration, if appropriate.

        If a disgruntled patient takes you up on making it right, you may want to try and subtly say something like, “I’m a small business owner and reviews have a big impact on me and my business. I hope you can see my my desire to refund the difference to you as a step forward to make things right and I hope that you will consider updating your review and rating to reflect that.” If said patient doesn’t do it, don’t push again. Asking once is enough and pushing may make things worse.

      9. Be proactive.

        At some point, you will receive a negative review. As my mom says, you can’t make everyone happy all the time. It’s going to happen, so be ready when it does and make sure you have a plan in place to be generating positive reviews across multiple valuable places. (Google, Yelp!, Facebook. A lot of patient management platforms, like LH360 and DemandForce, can generate reviews, but not in the places they are needed or seen.) The best approach to beating negative reviews is to dilute them with positive ones! Generating positive reviews isn’t something you have to sit around and hope for. Using a review generating platform (We recommend Podium.co) make sure you’re asking patients who you know had a great experience to leave you a review.

If you have any additional questions or want to learn more, visit: wonderistagency.com or email me at laura.maly@wonderistagency.com

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