We all know that Internet reviews are becoming a way of life. Every week I talk to physicians and dentists who are simply amazed by the impact that these reviews have on their practices: They truly see a difference when negative material is posted.
If you are a practitioner who still thinks that Internet reviews are unimportant then you’re probably reading the wrong article. My suggestion to you is to look for a nice article about retirement, because you’re about to become Internet roadkill.
In a recent survey of dental offices in Gainesville, Florida we found that the average dental office has only four posted Internet reviews. To understand why this is so risky, take a look at the first example below with only two reviews. If someone posts a single negative review, regardless of whether it is accurate or not, the impact on a potential patient checking out this provider’s reputation can be enormous.
When we look at the second example we see that someone has done an outstanding job with managing his or her reviews. Though there are two negative posts, people will likely dismiss them because of the high number of glowing comments.
Now comes the moment of truth. Imagine you are a patient searching the Internet for a dentist and you saw both of these sets of reviews. Which practice would you choose? The second practice would clearly be the logical choice despite the fact that the first dentist may be much more skilled. On the Internet it is perception – not reality – that counts when it comes to getting new patients.
Grit your teeth and Google your own office and look at the reviews that come up. If you were shopping around for the best possible care, which practice would you go to? Would you choose yourself or Dentist #2?
One important point that most practitioners aren’t aware of is that review websites tend to appear at the top of Google searches for your brand. Not convinced? Go to Google and search yourself the way that you imagine people trying to learn more about you would; for example, search Dr. Smith Tucson Arizona.
Do you see all the review sites that come up near the top? Like it or not, people checking you out on Google are seeing exactly what you’re seeing, and they are using it to form an opinion. Imagine what would happen if one over-the-top client decided to blister you with horrible reviews. Would you get any new business if this occured? What if you already had tons of glowing reviews before the negative ones were posted? I suspect that with a robust backlog of positive comments your new patient call volume would not substantially decrease.
The first step you need to take to both increase your business and protect yourself in today’s online world is to get yourself some positive reviews. This can be painful or it can be quite easy depending upon how you choose to go about it.
First, realize that you don’t need – and may not even want – reviews from absolutely everybody that you see in your practice. When soliciting reviews, concentrate on the clients that you are sure love you.
Doing this systematically is simple.
All you need is a way of communicating to your front office staff that the patient you just finished with is a good one from whom to request a review. This can be as easy as marking a patient’s chart with a check mark or tapping your left ear as you walk the patient up front. Do whatever works best for your particular office.
How do you get your patients to actually contribute a review? First, understand that some will and some won’t. Good reviews are valuable so it is worth the effort to try to get as many as possible. There are a number of different strategies that have been used successfully to solicit reviews, but the best that I’ve seen is a letter sent directly from the physician or dentist. Though the letter is standardized it feels very personal. It is written as a “Thank you for your continued business” letter. This is very appealing to patients.
I’ve also seen this type of letter sent offering a small discount or bonus service for their next visit as a gesture of appreciation. Don’t make contributing a review a requirement for receiving this! Only after you’ve made the client feel valued should you throw in a request for their help with an Internet review of your practice.
Remember that you are only extending this discount and request to patients who you know are fans, so it’s not like you’ll be giving away the farm. The return on your small investment will be much larger than the outlay, and depending upon your staff’s efficiency you may be able to automate this process so that sending one of these letters requires a minimum of time or effort.
Here’s a homework assignment for the medical or dental practitioners reading this. Go Google yourself and check out your reviews. If you find that they’re lacking then you need to implement a simple program to solicit positive comments from your very best patients. Not only will this increase your business, it will significantly help you in the event that a reputational attack occurs.