Marketing is about more than perfectly placed advertisements. It consists of more than simply strategic SEO. Maintaining an online presence involves a hefty amount of back-and-forth, and a disgruntled patient just happens to be one of these occasions.

An unhappy patient can be typing up a storm on a site of their choosing before they even get to their car, venting their opinion to anyone who happens upon it. One ticked-off patient isn’t your biggest problem in this situation. Unaddressed, just a few marked words can wreak havoc on your online reputation.

Unless you know how to handle them.

Apologizing on social media: A necessary evil

Apologizing isn’t always pleasant, but showing penitence via social media can be especially difficult. I know because I’ve had to do it. You don’t want to seem defensive, but you don’t want to admit guilt. You don’t want to argue, but you are just so angry.

Online complaints will impact your ability to market your practice, but the final result doesn’t have to be negative. Here are a couple of reasons you have to buck up, swallow your pride, and humbly address the complaint anyway.


1. Minimize damage.

If you leave negative reviews or posts alone, it leads viewers to assume that you don’t care. You don’t care enough to respond, so you certainly don’t care enough to fix it. Studies show that 4 out of 5 consumers will revise their purchasing decision after looking at reviews, so it’s important to convey the right message by taking online complaints seriously.


2. Use negative reviews to your advantage.

Sure, negative reviews can carry a big punch. But what can carry an even bigger punch is a review that has been properly responded to. In fact, consumers are more likely to choose a service that has had negative reviews than they are to select one with a perfect score.

Responding to negative reviews shows that not only are you paying attention, but you care enough to change. This small act tells prospects that you are a healthcare provider who is truly invested in your patients’ happiness.


3. Social media apologies are a delicate art.

Social media apologies can be made much simpler, less frightening, and more effective when you use the right techniques. Whether you have to use them only once in your lifetime or on a few dozen occasions, taking a quick lesson will serve you well.

How can I create an effective social media apology?

Lesson #1: Don’t Hide It

If it’s too good to be true, it probably is.

It may seem counterproductive to sit back and allow people to badmouth you, but keep in mind that people expect bad reviews. A business that has only positive reviews looks suspect: Are they deleting posts? Are they real reviews?

Don’t wake the beast.

When a bad review pops up, having it removed is one of the worst things you can do. Disgruntled patients are already on edge, and the best way to make them even more ticked off is to try and silence them.

Lesson #2: Apologize Publicly, First

Make a public apology 

When you make a social media apology, it’s important to make sure that as many viewers see it as possible. Responding privately destroys the ability to use the negative comments as positive PR.

If you’re apologizing on X, put the patient’s username AFTER your first word (i.e., “Thank you for your feedback, @exampleusername. We …”) so that your response is seen by the most people possible.

On Facebook, be sure to tag the user to increase visibility.

Know your limits.

Social media sites like Facebook and X demand that you speak concisely and convincingly. X won’t let you post extra characters, but even Facebook will limit the amount that people see. You want viewers to see the important part right away, so omit unnecessary words and let the patient know that you’ll be reaching out to them privately.

Lesson #3: Say the Right Things

You’re going to want to deescalate the situation by leaving a message that is both professional and constructive. Include elements like the following.

  • Express genuine regret
  • Acknowledge their issue or concern
  • Provide an explanation
  • Offer a solution or willingness to resolve the issue
  • Invite the person to contact you personally via an office phone number or email address.

Be sure to never divulge any specific patient information or protected health information in your response to remain HIPAA compliant.

Key Takeaways

By taking the conversation offline, it shows viewers that you’re willing to address and attempt to resolve patient complaints or issues. It also signals to patients and prospective patients that your office is responsive and empathetic when trying to overcome patient concerns or misunderstandings. Finally, an apology conveys good will and that patient satisfaction is a priority for your practice that can pay long-term dividends when it comes to patient retention and acquisition.


For more tips on how to manage and respond to social media reviews, download our guide, “Online Reputation Management: Why It’s Essential for Your Practice.”