Why client reviews matter at your veterinary practice


Learn how one bad apple can spoil your clinic's business.

My client, Dr. Caring (not his real name), was alarmed at the significant decrease in new-client numbers at his practice. As a practice that had enjoyed a fair amount of success previously, he wasn't sure what to make of these numbers. So he sent a questionnaire to his current client base to sniff out the problem. Everything appeared normal.

Baffled, he hired a mystery shopper to investigate further. The practice passed with flying colors. He asked area practices whether they were experiencing low new-client numbers as well. No, they said.

The mystery continued, until one day an employee stumbled onto an online review naming one of Dr. Caring's associates "the worst veterinarian I have ever visited." The scathing review listed details of a situation that rang a bell with no one in the practice. Lo and behold, the author of the post was actually a disgruntled former employee. That one scathing review was single-handedly bringing about the demise of the practice.

The practice contacted the employee and threatened to sue for defamation of character if she did not remove the posting. She refused. After contacting the website asking for the post to be removed, it finally happened—two months and much damage later.

People put a lot of faith in online reviews. According to Nielsen's latest Global Trust in Advertising report, which surveyed more than 28,000 Internet respondents in 56 countries, online consumer reviews are the second-most trusted source of brand information and messaging, with 70 percent of global consumers trusting online reviews. That's an increase of 15 percent in just four years.

A different study from Maritz Research shows that 75 percent of survey respondents think online reviews are generally fair. Sixteen percent say the reviews are overly negative, and 9 percent think they are overly positive.

It might be hard to believe that people put such stock in reviews, but have you ever looked up the ratings for a hotel or restaurant before making a reservation? Do you research contractors before hiring? Of course, almost all of us do. We want to know what we're getting into. But we also know enough to realize that not everything posted online is true. We're cautious, but negative reviews can stain a business reputation anyway.

Your first defense against negative reviews is to know when people are talking about you. Use these sites to your advantage. An easy way to do this is to set up a Google alert. At google.com/alerts you can set the alert to let you know when people are talking online about you, your doctors, your practice or any number of related key words. The system isn't 100 percent reliable, but it's a free step in the right direction. And, you'll enjoy the ego boost as well when you receive alerts that people are saying nice things about you. Let's hope those alerts far outnumber the negative.

If you're in business, you can pretty much be assured that, sooner or later, you will get a negative review. As the saying goes, "You can please some of the people some of the time, but you can never please all of the people all of the time." Don't bury your head in the sand and hope reviews go away. In today's business environment, you must be more aware and more Internet savvy and communicate more than ever.

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