Using online reviews as an opportunity to demonstrate your clinic’s commitment to excellence
The old saying, “You can’t please all the people all the time,” is true. Even the best clinic can experience a dissatisfied client who leaves a bad online review. It can trigger a surprisingly emotional response and cause a lot of stress, but there are measures we can take to handle the situation constructively.
Protect your clinic against negative reviews by making sure you claim all online business listings from sites such as Google, Facebook, or Yelp. They can collect reviews about your business, even if the listing hasn’t been claimed, but you want to be notified when a review comes in to respond promptly. Proactively collect feedback—good or bad—before clients take it online. Staff can ask for verbal feedback at the conclusion to a consult or transaction. A suggestion box, follow-up email, or automated performance management systems process can make it easy for clients to give feedback.
Design a protocol for dealing with online reviews. Negative reviews tend to fall into a few categories: an emotional outburst after a difficult experience, such as euthanasia; a low rating from someone who isn’t one of your clients; or commonly, complaints about the bill. Make sure staff know how to deal with these types of complaints and when to refer to a manager.
A timely response shows your clients you are attentive and care what they think, but make sure to keep calm. Don’t take the criticism personally, get defensive, or go on the attack. Keep it professional, check your tone, and look for ways to resolve the issue. Approach it empathetically and thank them for sharing their concerns. Remember that your reply is just as much to others reading your response as to the person who has complained.
Politely identify nonclients whose records you don’t have in your system and ask them to get in touch directly. Invite clients to discuss the issue with you offline, where you can have a deeper conversation about their experience and discuss solutions. Avoid justifying your response with a lot of details. Be willing to take responsibility, and always frame your response toward finding a constructive resolution.
Although negative reviews can be damaging to your business, they also give you the opportunity to demonstrate your commitment to your clients’ experience. A Harvard Business School study1 found that what customers really want is a simple, quick solution to their problem. A key strategy for gaining customer loyalty is to elicit and use feedback from disgruntled or struggling customers and focus on problem solving. By leaving the review, your client is giving you the chance to resolve the issue, and an unhappy client who has experienced an effective resolution may gain more trust and loyalty for your clinic than someone who has never had a problem. It also gives others the chance to gain confidence in your service if they can see you have successfully resolved a problem.
Make sure your process for complaints also covers negative online reviews, and that there is support for staff involved. Consider a planned public relations strategy to manage the tone of your communications, share positive stories, gain the support of local media, and cultivate a positive online presence for your clinic. Remember that no one is perfect, but feedback from clients allows us to engage and learn and provides the opportunity to improve our practice.
Jenny Langridge is acting-editor of Veterinary Woman, a resource encouraging women to aspire to be leaders in every area of veterinary influence. She also works for Companion Consultancy, a UK-based specialist veterinary PR, marketing and communications company. www.veterinarywoman.co.uk/ www.companionconsultancy.co.uk/
Dixon M, Freeman K, Toman N. Stop trying to delight your customers. Harvard Business Review. Accessed July 11, 2022. https://hbr.org/2010/07/stop-trying-to-delight-your-customers