How to Respond to Negative Reviews Online
Curious about how to respond to negative reviews online? Learn the right way to deal with negative business reviews and maintain your online reputation.
ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT GUIDE FOR DOCTORS
First impressions matter, which is why the first impression people have of your medical practice when they Google you really matters.
Which business are you more likely to trust?
A business that has a handful of directory listings and a website that is rarely updated.
A business that has five pages of organic search results from media interviews, thought leadership op-eds and guest posts.
Maybe you think first impressions of your brand don’t matter.
However, there are many people you have to impress in a digital economy including:
- Potential clients and new patients
- Existing clients and patients
- Potential employees and new staff members
- Potential investors
- Members of the media
- Google quality raters
SEARCH ENGINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT AND NEGATIVE REVIEWS
Why Google is the new business card.
Positive reviews are a critical trust factor before a new patient schedules the first appointment with a new physician.
Your online reputation results can mean the difference between a thriving practice vs. a flailing one.
When negative media coverage or online reviews about doctors appear online, medical practices see a one-third drop in visits and calls to their offices, causing a potentially disastrous financial impact.
The first page of Google search results tied to a doctor’s name or practice is the new business card. While some doctors may still choose to ignore this fact; their prospective patients will not.
When a patient looks online for your name or the name of your practice, what do they find?
Positive brand mentions and digital reviews of your practice can influence your search engine ranking and online presence. That is why it is critical to practice digital hygiene and periodic search engine check-ups to assess the health of your practice on search engine results across numerous search engines (not only Google).
Positive reviews and media coverage is an important factor for prospective patients before scheduling an appointment with a new doctor.
Online medical review sites of doctors can benefit your practice by building trust with new patients. But if they are left unattended, they can wreak havoc on your practice by discouraging new patients from never booking a consultation with you.
Unfortunately, negative search engine results can happen to anyone on a variety of websites, whether they are real or undeserved. Even companies with consistent 5-star reviews receive a handful of 1-star reviews from time to time.
These reviews can take place on:
- Ripoff Report, Yelp, Healthgrades, RateMDs.com, Google Reviews
- Medical review sites for doctors
- Blog post comments from revengeful former employees
- Negative Glassdoor reviews from disgruntled and vengeful interns
- Negative press mentions or news articles
- Negative comments on social media posts
For medical practices, the most common negative reviews include long wait times, poor service, rude office managers or billing issues.
Are negative reviews inevitable in a digital economy?
With the rise in healthcare review websites, it is critical for medical practices to learn how to respond to negative reviews in a proper and timely manner.
The very worst thing you can do is let all of the negative reviews sit online with no response from your practice. Think of it like a wound that doesn’t heal, or a cut that slowly keeps bleeding. The goal is to stop the bleeding before it gets worse.
How do you remove negative information from the Internet?
If you Google the question “How do I get something removed from Google search?” you will see a myriad of companies offering to do the following:
- Suppress negative reviews
- Bury negative content
- Lower negative search results
- Push down search results
- Fix search results through paid removal
Unfortunately, our experience has shown that many of these companies are ultimately unsuccessful in their attempts.
Because you can’t control content once it has been posted, but you can control how you respond to the content, and what type of content you push out on behalf of your company and through third-party media outlets.
How can you change your negative search engine results?
You can’t change your results, but you can impact your search results through the creation of positive, fresh content and new media interviews to change the narrative.
Internet search results can make or break your digital reputation and personal brand.
Unfortunately, one or more negative search results showing up for your name can have a massive impact on the initial impression people have of you when they look you up. This can also negatively impact your score in Google’s Quality Rater guidelines.
Negative search engine results are not the only thing that leads to a negative impression.
Having nothing come up about your company or medical practice is just as bad as having negative results come up.
Both give a very poor impression when someone is searching for you online.
People like to see an active digital presence when they look you up. No one wants to research a business or New York physician and see a desolate ghost town when they are trying to find more information about you.
Statistics: Online reputation management for doctors
- 91% of searches don’t go beyond page 1 on Google.
- “25% of a company’s market value is directly related to its reputation.”
- “92% of employers and clients will conduct an online search of your business before engaging with you.”
- 84% of patients research new medical doctors before their first appointment.
In your role as CEO of a prominent NYC public relations and social media agency, what advice do you offer your clients like doctors (and/or other professionals) when it comes to navigating online reviews and the potential impact on their reputation?
Online reputation management is a burgeoning area in the digital world where Google is your new front door.
What you say and what you post matters and not posting and staying silent can also impact your reputation and damage trust. Patients expect instantaneous responses in a 24/7 connected digital world.
Make sure you get online reviews the right way, and in an ethical manner, or else you risk being fined and tanking your search results. Don’t write fake reviews or have people try to write reviews who have never used your services.
WATCH: RMG Founder Kris Ruby on Fox News discusses how to spot negative online reviews with Tucker Carlson
Navigating the world of online reviews is challenging, which is why plastic surgeons, dermatologists, and cardiologists hire Ruby Media Group to manage their online reputation. They pay for VIP treatment to have a consultant on retainer to craft appropriate responses in real-time in a way that mitigates risk and causes the least amount of harm.
In addition to not causing further harm, you also want to see if you can ’turn the tide’ to turn someone who is disgruntled into someone who can become an advocate.
If people take the time to write a terrible review about your practice, they ultimately want to feel heard, seen and acknowledged.
How should you respond when patients ask about your negative online reviews?
Acknowledge the review and do not pretend it didn’t happen.
Step 1: Make them feel heard. Use their name when replying. “Hi X”
Step 2: Validate their feelings with empathy. Strip the emotion out of what they are saying and objectively try to hear what the complaint is. Address it. Do not ignore it.
Step 3: Know when to stop. If you have tried every possible avenue to be accommodating to someone and they still continue to trash your business in every reply, a public thread of a business owner arguing is never a good look.
Online reviews have tremendous potential to impact your reputation, but ultimately, how you respond to the reviews has a greater impact.
Respond with elegance and grace to reflect positively on your company. All responses should be on-brand. Consumers and patients do not only measure a business by the negative reviews. Ultimately, they measure the business by the way the owner replies. Fundamentally, that is 50 % of the equation and the part that is unfortunately overlooked.
As the practice owner, you have the power to help or hurt your online reputation.
You have more power than you think and that starts with you and how you choose to handle difficult online situations.
Do online reviews matter to the media?
Yes, online reviews matter to patients and search engines when patients are deciding what doctor to go to.
But you know who else it matters to? The media!
When the media Googles your name or the name of your medical practice, what do they find?
When deciding what doctor to quote as an expert, the media is less likely to use a doctor who has terrible online reviews. If you hire a medical PR firm and have terrible negative reviews about your practice, this will unequivocally hurt your chances of getting quoted as a credible expert.
I also want to reiterate that having no results on page one of Google is just as bad as having negative reviews.
Journalists do not want to quote medical experts that have zero digital credibility.
You Received a Negative Review, Now What?
First off, accept that negative reviews are normal and common. If you don’t deal with your customers or patients on a daily basis, this can be hard to see for the first time, so it’s important to be aware and accept that everyone will receive a negative review at some point in their career.
Next, you’ll want to put together a plan to respond to negative reviews. Every business should have one of these plans put in place early on in their tenure, and the relevant team members should know how to respond to negative reviews.
The first step is to put together a plan to respond to negative reviews. Every doctor should have a standard response for combating negative reviews in place early on in their tenure. The document should be shared with the PR agency or online reputation manager for the practice.
Responding to Negative Reviews- Dos and Don’ts
How should a business reply to a negative online review?
Businesses must acknowledge their customers’ concerns to inspire continued loyalty. Think of it this way – when a customer invests their time and effort to evaluate a business and they don’t receive a response, you could lose that customer. Be sure to respond in a timely manner – if you don’t, they will take their business elsewhere.
Research shows that customer emotions become permanent with time, so it’s best for an effective intervention to take place as close to the experience as possible.
You should never be waiting around for negative reviews to happen. Ideally, you’ll want to address any of these issues and intervene before those online business reviews are published. This allows them to mitigate the negative experiences and amplify the positive ones in the minds of customers.
Do this through your social media channels and your customer service email account. Additionally, be sure to address and remediate poor reviews before launching an aggressive, proactive marketing campaign.
What is the best way to handle negative online reviews?
Responding to negative reviews online is a band-aid approach and not a permanent cure. Online reputation management (ORM) is a multi-faceted process of different steps working together to positively influence your search engine results.
If your business is proactively seeking out (and acting on) your customers’ feedback promptly, you’ll not only retain existing customers, but you will also add new ones through positive word-of-mouth referrals.
How should physicians respond to Google and Yelp reviews?
Make sure your answer is HIPAA compliant.
If you are looking to outsource responses to negative reviews to a reputation management consultant or healthcare PR firm, you need to be extremely careful. It is critical that all responses are HIPAA compliant before responding to any patient reviews.
How do you respond to negative reviews online?
In order to inspire loyalty and continued patronage, businesses must acknowledge and respond to customers’ complaints in real-time on social media.
DON’T ignore the complaint. When a customer invests time to criticize a business and they don’t receive a response, it could snowball into a larger PR or crisis communications issue. You can use this as an opportunity to let the problem grow, or deal with it at the moment so you keep the customer happy and inspire them to stop spreading the negative reviews on other sites.
DO Respond in a timely matter. If you don’t, things could get bad, very quickly. Obviously, the customer is going to take their business elsewhere, but the point here is that this will stop them from trashing you in the process, hopefully! An effective intervention should take place online as close to the experience as possible.
DO issue a formal response. Address the complaint(s) and name the steps you will take to resolve the issue in the future. Make them feel heard.
DO address the issues. Intervene before any other reviews are published. This enables you to mitigate the negative experiences and amplify the positive ones. You can do this through your social media channels and your customer service email account.
DON’T launch a PR campaign until you clean up your digital presence. Be sure to address and remediate poor reviews before launching an aggressive, proactive public relations campaign. You want to clean up your digital presence before reaching out to the media, as this can have a substantial impact on media relations efforts.
DO reach out to happy customers. To combat any negative reviews, you can also consider reaching out to happy customers and asking them to post their own reviews.
DO invite influencers in to increase positive reviews. Reach out to bloggers and influencers in your niche and invite them in to write about their experiences as a customer or client. You can also consider inviting customers who left negative reviews to come back when the issue is resolved. However, this could mean comping their next service or cosmetic procedure.
DO claim ownership of your company listings. Be sure to claim the listing of your business or medical practice name on each review site before someone else does!
How to Remove a Defamatory Review
How can you remove a bad review from Google?
Many review websites and social media platforms allow you to request the removal of defamatory reviews.
However, just because you request it, doesn’t mean it will actually happen.
Most established review websites and social media platforms allow you to request the removal of defamatory reviews. It’s best to go to the website the review is posted at and look for their policy on the issue (often this can be found in their FAQ or Legal section, but a quick Google search can save the day if this doesn’t yield results).
If the negative reviews are indexed in a search engine like Google, you can visit their Legal Removal Request page, which allows you to seek to obtain a judgment from a court declaring the statements in a review to be false, and then present the court order to Google with the goal of having the relevant URL(s) de-indexed from Google.
Monitor medical practice online reviews
As a doctor, one way to earn better reviews is to create a system to ask patients to rate your practice right after their visit.
Pro Tip: Create a formal and systematized process to proactively ask patients to write reviews. Utilize technology apps for this to put it on autopilot.
HEALTHCARE ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT SERVICES | DOCTOR NEGATIVE REVIEW REMOVAL SERVICES
Healthcare Publicist & Owner of an Award-Winning Medical Public Relations Agency for Doctors located in New York
Frustrated with your online search engine results? We help defend your reputation.
If you need assistance with crafting these responses (as most people do), enlist the help of a firm like Ruby Media Group to wordsmith this for you.
Does your practice suffer with terrible page one search results on Google from negative PR results? We can help improve your practice in search.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR | KRIS RUBY
Kris Ruby is a nationally recognized authority on online reputation management, crisis management, and corporate social responsibility, and has counseled some of the world’s most prominent executives and companies. Ruby is an author and speaker on a variety of public relations, management, entrepreneurship, and marketing topics.
Date last updated: August 2022