Guest Post: The Value of Negative Reviews

Posted on Sep 11, 2017 by Marie Gambetta

A couple of weeks ago, our social media guru detailed a post about responding to negative reviews. You can check out that post here. One of our clients, Marie Gambetta of Advanced Dental, also wrote to us, sharing how her view of negative reviews has shifted over time and how she responds. These are her words. 

Online reviews can dramatically impact practice online reputationSeveral years ago I was told by an industry expert that our referrals would increasingly come from online sources.  I’m not sure I believed him, but I think about that conversation frequently these days as I see our on-line referrals increasing every month.  These referrals are coming from Google, Yelp, Facebook, Healthgrades, and our own website. 

Our new patients tell us that reviews, especially, convince them to choose us. The statistics seem to bear that out (see here). 

We work really hard to make sure our new and returning patients have a stellar experience each and every time they come to see us.  When patients have a great experience here, we invite them to leave us a review.  SR Smart Reviews makes that super easy.  If a patient does us the courtesy of reviewing us, you’d better believe I’m going to return the favor by responding to it, especially if they go the extra mile and actually use words (not just “stars” or a number rating).  You can’t buy that kind of advertising!  I want to thank those patients with a personal connection.

How you respond to these reviews can reveal more about your practice (or any business) than not.  I always respond to reviews publicly, meaning that anyone reading the review can see my response.  That’s really important.  It lets potential patients see that you really do read and respond to feedback and that you take it seriously.  When responding to a review, I try to picture the person standing in front of me.  If that patient paid us a compliment in person, what would I say to him/her?  That visualization helps me to keep my responses both fresh and sincere.

Responding to positive reviews is pretty easy.  When I visualize it, I write what I’d say to the patient.  I think about what kind of a relationship I have with him/her.  If it’s more casual, I’m a little less formal in my response (always respectful, of course), and vice versa.  It doesn’t have to be long, but it does need to be sincere and slightly different from what I’ve said in recent responses.  Otherwise, the response will sound canned.

Negative reviews require a little bit of creativity.  Negative reviews used to really bother me, but I realizedNegative reviews take creativity to handle correctly that they are an incredible opportunity!  They are a gift really.  When responding to a negative review, I have to emotionally detach from the review a little bit.  If I take it personally, my response will sound defensive.  What I try to do is to search out even a kernel of truth in what they are saying.  Did we leave them waiting too long in the waiting room, for example?  Maybe the rest of their criticism is hogwash, but is there a grain of truth in any of it?  It’s that grain of truth that I focus on.  I have to own our part in it.  Once I get to that point, I am able to visualize that in-person conversation.  I thank them for their feedback and apologize for what we did to let them down.  I assure them that that is not the standard we aspire to, and I invite them to call me to discuss it further.

If you respond in that mature, self-differentiated way, people notice.  If the negative review was in any way mean or snide, you look like the bigger person to all who read the response.  The person who left the negative review has a little less credibility to the average reader and readers will feel a little bit protective of you.  I don’t understand the psychology behind it, but I’ve seen it time and again.

Never get into an argument in your response!  It’s better not to respond at all than to respond defensively.  You’ll just come off looking like a jerk.  If you’re not sure, have a trusted friend read your response before you post it.

Now, let me mention that if a review is in anyway abusive or threatening, you need to report it immediately.  If you cannot take down the review yourself, the review site will do it for you.  Do not respond to those kinds of reviews.

One more thing about negative reviews: if you have two reviews and one of them is negative, that doesn’t look so good.  If you have a few hundred reviews and one or two of them are negative, that is a much better percentage.  People will read the negative reviews and probably dismiss them given the overwhelming number of positive reviews.  Additionally, you need a few negative reviews (to which you’ve responded well) in order to give credibility to the positive reviews.  If you have 10 positive reviews, all 5-star, all stellar, people may wonder if the reviews are from real patients/customers or if you talked 10 of your friends into reviewing you.  Maybe I’m cynical, but I always trust reviews more when I see a few negative ones in the mix.  It’s more believable.

A mixture of mostly positive and a few negative reviews can seem more believable

On-line reviews can be one of your greatest marketing assets if you use them well.  If a patient has taken the time to say something nice about us, you’d better believe I’m going to thank them.  If they have taken the time to say something not nice about us, you’d better believe I’m going to do damage control.  On-line reviews are increasingly important in patient referrals.  Why not use them to your advantage?

Check out SR Smart Reviews (hands down-the easiest way to get online reviews from your patients). 

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Marie Gambetta

Marie Gambetta

Marie Gambetta has been the CEO of Advanced Dental since 2001. If she could have a “re-do” on any moment in her life, she would re-do any time she’s passed a person begging for food on the street without stopping to help. Now she tries to carry granola bars for that reason. Handing a hungry person a granola bar is infinitely more satisfying to her than scurrying by them.

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