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A Guest Post By Jason Scott Montoya

If you run a healthcare business, chances are you’ve encountered bad reviews

So, when these bad reviews happen, how do we effectively respond?
The best way to deal with negative reviews is to prevent them from ever happening in the first place, and this starts with your marketing.
When communicating expectations for anyone working with your business, make sure you’re operationally able to deliver on the promises you make. When you work with patients, I recommend proactively soliciting their feedback, for the following three reasons.
  1. Patient feedback makes your company better.
  2. Invited positive feedback cultivates raving fans.
  3. Invited negative feedback curbs negative online reviews.

soliciting negative and positive feedback helps your healthcare business

Shall I say more? The point is, you need to be collecting feedback from your patients if you intend to scale your company forward and upward.
If you’re looking for questions on how to effectively solicit this feedback, here are three to get you started.
  1. Would you choose us again? Why or why not?
  2. Would you refer your closest friend to us?
  3. How could we improve?
These three questions get to the heart of the matter, eliciting information that will be most helpful in making your business better for the experience of future your patients and your staff. Maintaining this practice will minimize the volume of negative reviews that flow your way.

Mindset & Framework For Responding To Bad Reviews

But, no matter how well run your organization, how effectively you solicit feedback, and how well you handle unsatisfied customers, you will eventually face the inevitable negative review. So when this happens, how do we respond? Let’s start by getting focused with an anchored mindset.
focus on an anchored mindset when responding to bad online reviews

Bad Review Response Mindset

While it would be helpful to consider the other person’s point of view, or how you would like to be treated if you were on the other side of the coin, the most important person to think about is your potential future customer. They’re researching your organization to determine if they should choose your business for their healthcare needs, and reviews are a factor in their decision making.
Every business makes mistakes and has bad customers, but what determines and communicates quality and character is how those companies respond when these mistakes happen. The way in which organizations reply to bad reviews provides a glimpse into a business and reflects it’s values.
What tends to be highly emotional for small business owners, can be grounded by anchoring into a mindset for who we’re speaking to, which is our next customer, and the next customers are the key to successful business growth. Once we’ve recognized this, we leverage the following framework to actually respond to the negative review.

Bad Review Response Framework

With our future client focus, we’re properly aimed when responding to negative public feedback with the following framework, which starts with acknowledging them.
bad review response framework
  • Acknowledge Reviewer & Thank Them: As Dale Carnegie puts it, the sweetest sound in any language is a person’s first name. Start your response to the bad review with their name and follow it with an expression of gratitude. While it might sound absurd to thank a 1-star reviewer, thank them for sharing their feedback anyway. We want people to share, even when we don’t like what they have to say, and by expressing our thankfulness, we disarm the situation and express our desire for reconciliation.
  • Acknowledge Their Pain & Take Responsibility For Your Part: Even if you disagree with it, acknowledge their pain, issue, or complaint. Even if you’re only responsible for 1%, take ownership of that 1% and apologize. In most cases, if they’ve had a negative experience we contributed somehow to it. By owning this, we set the stage towards reconciliation.
  • Align The Failure With Your Organization’s Mission / Vision & Future Customers: Your organization should have a clearly articulated mission and vision. When you’ve got an upset customer, you’ve failed to execute on that mission and deliver the vision. Articulate this intention and how you failed to accomplish this for them. This allows you to convey this important message to the prospect while also acknowledging the disappointed customer.
  • Communicate What’s Been Done, Or How We’ll Resolve It Going Forward: Words can feel cheap, so share what you’ve done (or plan to do) to rectify the situation or make it better. It could be specifically towards them or for those that may soon follow (or both).
  • Extend A Gesture Of Goodwill: This last act is intended to push a bad reviewer towards a satisfying conclusion while still seeking to reconcile. In some cases, it may be appropriate to offer a credit (as opposed to a refund) towards a future visit or care (this giving gesture encourages them to come back), while other times a personal offer to hear the complaint in depth and help advocate for their plight is appropriate (be careful not to get caught in the middle). Ideally, you extend this during any pre-review interactions and your review response is simply reiterating what you’ve already offered. If a refund is in order, simply handle this matter privately and directly.

In addition to the focus and framework, be sure to consider the following guidelines when responding to reviews.

  • No Excuses: The recipient and future customers don’t want to read them, so keep them out. When explaining, be careful not to fall into this territory.
  • Set Expectations: Take advantage of opportunities to explain expectations for future customers that may traverse a similar scenario. You could very well prevent the same thing from happening again.
  • Write With Excellence: Before submitting a response, read, reread, and edit it. Make sure you’ve addressed all grammar and spelling errors. Errors and miscommunication simply lower your credibility and make the situation worse. Optimize before replying.
While it may seem risky to take ownership and apologize for failures, the evidence suggests doing so actually minimizes people responding in hostile ways (like a lawsuit). In many states, there are also laws that govern taking responsibility so I encourage you to consult an expert for navigating the legal aspects of responding to bad reviews.
While the key to responding to bad reviews is preventing them from ever happening in the first place, all companies will eventually find themselves in this situation. Do what you can to rectify it offline, and leverage the mindset and framework above to appropriately respond when the 1-star reviews show up.

Jason Montoya writes about hot to prevent and respond to bad online reviews

About the Author: Now working with small business to grow their income, teams, and ownersJason Scott Montoya originally moved to Atlanta in 2005 with his wife. He attempted to make an animated feature film, launched a political news website, graduated in 2008 from the Art Institute Of Atlanta, and owned a marketing agency for seven years before finally settling in as a freelance consultant and author. Jason currently lives in Atlanta, Georgia with his wife and five children.