What next when the negative reviews arrive?

Proactive management of dental reviews for reputation preservation

Lots of dentists and/or their practice managers know the huge benefits of a comprehensive social media presence and use it very effectively.

It is extremely useful for demonstrating “social proof”, for broadening brand awareness and, via advertising, promoting your services to a targeted local audience. It has sometimes been described as “word-of-mouth on steroids” and when used effectively, social media is a significant tool in the overall dental marketing arsenal.

But with the benefits come a few downsides and one of these is the ever-present issue of negative reviews. This is something I’m asked about on a regular basis by dentists who are worried about embarking on their first social media campaigns or who have dabbled, only to be put off when their first negative review inevitably arrived.

Unfortunately it is not possible to prevent negative reviews and they are a fact of life for any company with an online social media presence. But does that mean we should shy away from Facebook and the like just in case, or should we embrace the opportunities they offer and be prepared to manage a negative review when it comes along? Unless you are adamant that social media isn’t for you and that you understand the implications of not taking part, then the latter option is the way to go.

Why do negative reviews happen in the first place?

Irrespective of how good a business’s service levels are, sometimes things can go wrong. Even when the issue is relatively minor, it’s all too easy for a patient to hop on the the web, track down your Facebook or Google page and leave a bad review. Very often they don’t think twice about the harm that could cause and they just blurt it out regardless. It’s frustrating because most of the time a mature discussion with the dentist or practice manager would likely have solved the issue amicably. But very often the first thing you know about it is when the negative review lands.

The good news is that most web savvy users understand that the odd negative review will crop up when it comes to reviewing businesses and in most part, if the large majority of reviews are positive, they will opt to work with you anyway. So all is not lost if we know how to spot those negative reviews and deal with them appropriately when they land.

Why can’t I just delete a bad review?

We often get emails or calls in the office asking for the procedure to delete bad reviews from various channels – but to be blunt, there isn’t one. Whilst you can request that the likes of Google and Facebook evaluate a review with regard to having it deleted, the chances that they will do that are very slim indeed. In fact I’ve never seen an appealed review actually deleted. So whilst there is a process whereby you can report reviews, Google and Facebook make it quite clear that they won’t take any action unless you can prove that the review is fraudulent or malicious. You can try, but don’t expect much to happen.

So where does that leave use when it comes to handling negative reviews?

Engage with the reviewer

It makes sense to engage with the reviewer as quickly as possible to put your side of the story. Very often this will be completely different to theirs, so you should take the opportunity to explain so that other readers can see both sides. However, it is essential to avoid an internet war and so you should be absolutely diplomatic and factual. You must not break any confidentiality and you *must* avoid a “slanging match” at all costs. If you think you know who the reviewer is, it may well be worth discussing with them in person and trying to resolve your differences – in many cases it is much easier to get a reviewer to delete their comment than to expect Facebook or Google to do it.

Responding to poor reviews takes some skill and practice so please make sure that any team members who are involved are trained and understand the potential issues before diving in. Discussion with senior team members is often prudent before action is taken.

Bury and dilute the bad reviews

So where you’ve been unsuccessful with getting a negative review removed, what else can you do to suppress it? This is not a quick fix unfortunately and relies on acquiring good reviews to effectively dilute and relegate the bad ones. As we noted above, users are used to seeing the odd bad review and will usually discount them as long as they are responded to appropriately and are in a  small minority compared to the positive reviews.

Summary

The fear of a bad reviews holds lots of dentists back when it comes to taking an active part in social media and reaping the benefits it offers. But it need not be that way if you are prepared in advance and ready to proactively manage the occasional bad stuff which may come your way. Regular checking of your social channels is necessary to spot anything adverse so that timely, diplomatic and factual responses can be made. You should also encourage a steady stream of positive reviews for all sorts of reasons; to help with local SEO, to demonstrate social proof and to build an overwhelmingly positive overview of your business. So when and if a negative review does crop up, then it will be buried by the positive returns.

If you have a problem with negative reviews and need some help, please get in touch with the Dental Media team on 01332 672548 for guidance.