Making a better situation from a negative review

Making a better situation from a negative review

Date: July 01, 2021

Author: Mandy Dennis, RDH

It's very common for patients to look online when they are looking for a new dental office. People tend to look at the reviews of others as they look for something which could help them feel directed to a specific location. Most people want to feel that they will connect with an office, before they actually go and one bad review can have a negative impact. While many of us may say they try not to take it personally, it hurts to think someone may not like the care we provided or our office. It's important to separate the situation and not take it personally, but we can instead elect to learn from it.

We should've expected it

I had a patient a few years ago leave a bad review after coming into our office. The patient was frustrated about not getting a "cleaning." She had come into the office as a new patient and, as many patients do, expected to get the cleaning the insurance paid for. The patient posted that on coming into the office for a cleaning, all she got was X-rays and an exam. The patient needed periodontal therapy after not having received any preventive care in about 13 years. Time had been spent communicating and advising that the patient needed a more thorough type of treatment and how a cleaning wouldn't be enough to care for her. Intraoral photographs had also been taken and shown to the patient, but the patient left the office angry. I'm pretty sure we expected the review.

Why do they leave the review?

Many times patients leave a bad review because they actually want a situation or business to be better, but are unable to articulate it in person. It could also be that the patient is just wanting to be heard or it could out of frustration. A negative review can be a quick response to irritation or anger and an easy way out. We can use the bad review to take a look at what's going on in the office. Was the review validated? In my specific situation, did we actually communicate the need for their care clearly? What could we have done differently?

How do we respond?

There are several things to keep in mind when responding to an online review.

1. Respond. Don't react. It's common to feel frustrated when someone chooses to leave a bad review. Reacting to the situation can make it worse. Make sure that you take a moment before clicking away on the keyboard and reacting to the negativity with negativity.

2. Respond generically. HIPAA protects the patient's privacy. Do not address specific information online. It's OK to respond to the patient in a way such as, "We would love to speak with you about your experience. Due to HIPAA and patient confidentiality, we will protect your privacy and won't discuss it in an open forum. Please call us at 123-456-7890 to further discuss how we can make this a better experience for you."

3. Reach out personally. Most people want to be heard. Calling the patient directly can help diffuse anger and frustration. Taking the time to listen and diving into the real reason behind the review could further produce a positive review if there was miscommunication.

What did we do?

In our situation, we reached out to the patient to ask more questions about what the miscommunication was. We reminded the patient we wanted to do a cleaning and we could polish their teeth, however it wouldn't be therapeutic care and we would be short-changing them by just polishing the front of the teeth. We needed to address the infection. After hearing this again, the patient was more receptive. The bad review wasn't removed, however we did keep the patient.


- Don't take the bad review personally.

- Use a negative review as an opportunity to grow professionally and personally.

- Remember why you chose to get into our profession.

We want to help people. Sometimes it takes a little more time and lot more patience.

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