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You Got a Negative Online Review. Now What?

There it is, staring at you like a poop in a swimming pool.  You logged on to Yelp, Angie’s List, or another online review site and some jerk wrote something nasty about you.  It hurts even worse if the patient was a total jerk and you and your team didn’t do anything wrong.  No fair!

Do you have any recourse?  Yes.  Here are the three things you can do:

(1) Contact the site

Some sites will allow you to flag a review for removal if it is suspicious or malicious.  If you feel the review is completely unwarranted, do some investigating as to the site’s posting rules.  If you can make an unfair review disappear from existence you should consider yourself lucky.  This is not always possible.

(2) Nothing

There is wisdom to just leaving the darn thing alone.  Believe it or not, some review sites will actually penalize you if all your reviews are positive.  They’ll suspect you just got your friends to log on and write nice things about you.  Potential patients might also be suspicious if they don’t see at least one bad review.

The other advantage to ignoring it is that you won’t risk provoking the angry reviewer.  Dentists have gotten into heated arguments on these sites going back-and-forth with their former patients, accusing and name-calling.  Not only does that look bad on the screen, it could also lead your reviewer to pursue more aggressive action.

(3) Reply with a polite post

My preferred approach is to engage the former patient in a pleasant and constructive manner.  I always say that every mistake is an opportunity for greatness.  That bad review is an opportunity to show what a wonderful, caring dentist you are and how attentive your team is.  Be as sweet as possible.  Sickeningly sweet.  At best, the audience takes your side and thinks the reviewer is a jerk.  At worst, the audience thinks you’ve just been a naughty but still adorable puppy.

“I didn’t mean to keep you in the waiting room for so long. Forgive me?”

The trick is to not start a fight with the reviewer.  We can’t be aggressive or even passive-aggressive.  Just apologize and be sweet.  For example:

“I’m deeply sorry that this patient had a bad experience with us.  We are dedicated to making every one of patients comfortable when they spend time with us.  But we are human and we do make mistakes.”

Then perhaps mention something specific about the complaint and how you normally provide better service:

Although there are many reasons that a doctor’s office can get behind in the schedule, we are proud to say that we are almost always punctual. Our patient’s time is important to us.

We’ve taken that bad review and used it as a platform to show our integrity.


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