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Online Reviews Can Make or Break You

One of the websites our company runs takes online questions from visitors. I enjoy answering them because these visitors trust my recommendations so highly. However, it was disconcerting recently when, in an e-mail exchange, a patient said he was not going to go to the dentist I recommended. She was a great dentist and AACD Accredited, with a very effective website. I have seen her work and knew it was beautiful. But she had a couple of bad reviews online. He wrote, “You should read her reviews. . . . The reviews were just too negative for me to trust her.” So he went somewhere else.
 
This is happening more and more—a great dentist with a great website torpedoed by bad reviews. Look at it from the patient’s point of view. What you say about yourself sounds wonderful, but they wonder if they can trust that information. So before they make an appointment they want to check out your reviews.
 
So what review sites are important? Since they show up automatically with some search results, you want to pay particular attention to Google reviews. Yahoo!, Yelp, and Doctor Oogle are also popular, as are Kudzu and Angie’s List. Here’s how I would choose where to focus my attention. If you are Dr. G. V. Black, do a search on “G. V. Black dentist reviews” and see what review sites come up prominently. This is what your prospective patients will see, so pay close attention to them.
 
HANDLING NEGATIVE REVIEWS
 
So you find a couple of really awful reviews. What do you do?
 
First, don’t get too worked up over negative reviews. People understand that it’s impossible to please everyone 100% of the time. So don’t obsess over trying to remove negative reviews. Instead, respond.
 
Say the patient’s complaint is about the outcome of a procedure. Post a response that offers to fix the problem. The same for almost any other type of complaint. Be gracious and responsive. Doing so may inspire the complainer to revise their review. But even if it doesn’t, it tells prospective patients that if they have a complaint, you will listen and respond.
 
What if the complaint is without foundation? For example, sometimes competitors will post bogus negative reviews. We helped a client with one of these recently. Don’t put your worst suspicions in writing, but you can gently question the validity of the review without attacking the credibility of the reviewer. How he responded was by merely saying that he didn’t remember the patient, attributing it to possibly her getting him confused with another dentist. And he pointed out that the reviewer had gotten the name of the hygienist wrong.
 
After responding, then go to work getting as many positive reviews as you can.
 
Beware, however, when you do this. Don’t make a big, sudden push for reviews. Most review sites have triggers in place to detect artificially induced reviews, and a sudden flood of positive reviews will arouse suspicion. An absolute “no-no” is to have a computer or tablet set up in your office for patients to write reviews. Google review guidelines specifically prohibit this practice. Also, Yelp will delete reviews if the reviewer posts a positive review and they have never done a review on Yelp before. But if they have used Yelp before, this is a great review site because Yelp is used as a source for Apple Maps. Be methodical and steady in your efforts to acquire reviews.
 
You can give patients a flyer instructing them how to post a review from home. You can also send them an e-mail asking for a review. There are two excellent services that will automatically generate an e-mail like this after an appointment: Demandforce and SmileReminder. If you choose Demandforce, be aware that the reviews post to their proprietary site, and if you ever discontinue using them, your reviews will be taken down. SmileReminder promotes popular outside review sites, which makes posting the reviews less smooth, but those reviews will remain online if you ever cancel their service.
 
People are coming more and more to rely on reviews to help them pick a dentist. It is well worth your time and money to make sure they speak well of you.
 
David Hall, DDS
Dr. Hall is an Accredited member of the AACD who is also the founder and President of Infinity Dental Web, a dental Internet marketing company in Mesa, Arizona.