Social Media Apologies 101 (Part #2)

Posted on Jan 19, 2015 by Solutionreach

Turn negative patient reviews into positive practice marketing.


Marketing Monday Banner Image


Welcome back!

Last Monday, we started discussing how to handle those oh-so-sensitive disgruntled patients when they’ve taken their complaints to the field: that is, on social media.

Everyone can see how you’re handling it, and your approach can mean the difference between terrible publicity and an excellent marketing opportunity.

If you haven’t read Part #1 of Social Media Apologies 101, you can find it here.

We pick back up with…

Lesson #3: Saying the Right Things

Hand draw star-rating

I know, I know; this is the scary part. What do you say? How do you word it? What should you definitely NOT say?

Here are a few tips for what to say–or not say–in your public apology.

  1. DO call out the positives. Most bad star-based ratings include at least one thought that can be considered positive, so bring attention to those aspects before addressing the negative ones.

  2. DON’T make excuses, but DO tell them that a negative experience isn’t typical.

  3. DO apologize. It seems obvious, but it can be easy to respond to reviews without actually saying that you’re sorry.

  4. DON’T argue with them. Even if their complaint is ridiculous, even if it was a complete misunderstanding, even if they are blatantly lying, do not negate their feelings by getting defensive.

  5. DO personalize the response. If character restrictions only allow for you to use their name, that can be good enough. However, if you are responding to a review site like Yelp!, you have a bit more room to show that you remember the patient and care about the relationship you share with them. If possible, mention something positive about their visit or refer to a detail that is unique to them. *Keep In Mind: When personalizing your response, don’t forget to remain compliant with HIPAA regulations. When in doubt, save the personalization for your private response* 

  6. DON’T use too many expletives. Often, when we are trying to convey a feeling, we use too many words to describe them. Especially when you’re trying to keep it short and sweet, go through and consolidate your sentences to get right to the point.

  7. DO tell them that you’ll be reaching out privately. It will reassure them, but it will also show prospective patients that you aren’t all talk. If you don’t have the information you need to get in touch with them, ask for it in your public response.

Remember: If all else fails, just be sincere.

Doctor sitting by a computer

Lesson #4: Resolve Privately

You’ve shown that you care enough to fix it, so now it’s time to follow through.

Apologize. Again.
Reach out to the patient, reiterating your regret that they are unhappy, and ask how you can fix the problem. Give them contact information so that they can reach you personally if they want to talk.

Clear things up.
If you think it was a misunderstanding, now is the time to tell them. Keep in mind, however, that the best way to get into a public war is to privately tell them that they are overreacting.

Let your hair down.
Get personal with them. If you were having a hard day and seemed curt, tell them. People are often inclined to let you off-the-hook once they understand the circumstances. Justify their feelings by admitting that things could have been done better by you or your staff, and they will forgive much more easily.

Keep talking.
Continue communicating back and forth until a resolution has been found. If the patient is unwilling to be talked down, kindly thank them for their insight. Tell them that it can be hard to see how your practice is running from a patient’s perspective, and let them know what you’ve done/will be doing to improve.


Lesson #5: Back to Public

Once everything has been figured out, take the conversation back to a public forum.

Thank them.
Publicly show your appreciation to them for helping you improve your practice.

Show them.
Talk about what you’ve done to ensure that the problem doesn’t arise again. Prospects will see that you value feedback and are willing to make changes to keep patients happy.

Pencil written I'm Sorry

Apologize, again. Again.
If the patient is still upset, tell them publicly that you are sorry you weren’t able to resolve their complaint enough to keep them as a patient. Let them know that you are doing all you can to make the necessary changes, so that–should they want to come visit you again–you will be ready for them.


*If the patient has declined communication, reply to the review again letting them know that you reached out and haven’t heard back (but hope to.)



Course Review

If you take anything away from our lessons, let it be this: Negative online reviews or complaints don’t have to hurt you.

People too often use the internet to gripe about someone they don’t want to confront in person, but you don’t have to let it get you down. Start paying attention to your online reputation:

What are people saying about you?
How can you use their feedback to improve your practice?

And… how can you use their complaint to generate more patients?


(You can add the Solutionreach Facebook, Google+, Twitter, or LinkedIn pages to stay up-to-date on the latest articles and other news.)


Amy LaVange Headshot

About the author:

Amy LaVange is a professional educator for healthcare providers. She specializes in helping practices reduce inefficiencies and lower costs, so providers and their staff can spend less time worrying about their bottom line and more time caring for their patients. She currently manages communications for Solutionreach, where she consults with their clients and creates educational content to help them establish patient-centered practices by utilizing tools and techniques that allow them to streamline their productivity and improve their patient experience.