Receiving a negative review is frustrating and may feel disappointing for a diligent dentist with patient’s best interest at heart. Despite the high quality of dental services provided at the dental practice, sometimes patients may still leave an unfavourable review.

While a positive online reputation is important for attracting new patients, a perfect 5-star rating is not crucial. In fact, featuring only superb 5-star ratings can make readers doubtful of their authenticity. So a few negative reviews will not spoil an impeccable reputation until they receive a professional response from the dental practice.

For successful management of negative reviews, every dental practice should be aware of:

Why is it essential to respond to a negative review?

Although dealing with negative feedback is unpleasant, it is not an option to ignore it. Negative comments will not go away and even outdated low ratings might impact the decision of prospective patients. Your response is a chance to show readers that you are not neglectful of patient concerns. Furthermore, you can relieve the fears of future patients, and show them that if an issue occurs, it will be handled successfully. Your reply is also an opportunity to restore good relations with disgruntled patients and you might even win them back. In any case, replying to negative feedback gives you an opportunity to prove yourself as a professional with the patient’s best interest at heart.

Why patients post negative reviews and how to prevent them?

Before going to the good practices for dealing with negative reviews, let’s dig deeper into the motives for adverse feedback.

For some people, online reviews are a way to vent their frustrations after a disappointing experience. However, most often miscommunication is the root cause. Patients resort to online reviews when they feel unheard or their concerns were not addressed to their satisfaction offline. In practice, this can happen quite often with pressure of busy schedule and a full waiting room.
Another common issue that leads to discontent is lack of clearly outlined treatment plan. This may leave patients confused about what and why certain procedures are performed, and prompt them to leave unfavourable comments online.

Several measures can prove helpful to reduce such instances:

  • Provide patients with a way to reach out after appointment.
  • Ask about their experience while they are still at the office.
  • Train staff to be considerate of patient feedback.
  • Provide a clear treatment plan to avoid misunderstandings; if changes are needed – just explain.
  • Learn from reviews and improve – use them to uncover shortcomings or rectify mistakes.

How to turn a negative review into positive results?

#1: Don’t be emotional

Take a breath before you start crafting your response. It is normal to feel upset, especially if the review is inaccurate or unfair. However, anger will not help you focus on a constructive reply.

#2: Respond in a timely manner

Aim to provide an answer within 48 hours. This will show professional handling of the situation and may prevent the patient to post the negative review to more online platforms.

#3: Do not use default responses

Mass ‘cookie-cutter’ responses feel impersonal and do not provide any new information to readers. It is acceptable to turn to examples for inspiration but applying them directly will be at the very least not helpful for your online reputation.

Be specific and address the issues in the review with respect. Be mindful of patient privacy and adhere to the restrictions of privacy laws, applicable in your country. Try to avoid discussing sensitive health issues online.

#4: Avoid jargon

Specific terms may be the correct way to describe conditions and procedures but they will alienate patients. Use language non-professionals will understand to make you response more accessible, adequate and effective.

#5: Take responsibility

Show concern about patient negative experience. Do not defend or try to diminish patient distress. However, note that taking responsibility does not mean to be over-apologetic but to demonstrate that you take patient concern and comments seriously.

#6: Provide “next steps”

One of the most critical parts of your reply is to describe how future patients will not experience the same issue. Highlight the subsequent actions and measures to prevent recurrence of the issue.

#7: Take the conversation offline

One-to-one communication will allow you to discuss the situation in more details without revealing publicly sensitive patient information. This way you can find a suitable solution sooner.

#8: Don’t forget the audience

When replying to a negative review, you are not only talking to the patient who wrote it but to all other people that could potentially read it. Use this chance to provide insightful information and earn trust!

What about ungrounded reviews?

While some reviews may present a rather inaccurate account of the actual situation, it is still advisable to answer them professionally. In special cases, when the review content is against the rules of the review platform, you report it to the administrators. Familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions of the platform before taking this step and note that commonly they will not take down a review simply for presenting a practice in unfavourable light.

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