The ability to acquire new patients will be key to your ongoing success as a dentist and practice owner. In the digital world, online reviews are the new “word of mouth”, representing a key opportunity — and some very real challenges — for patient acquisition. Here’s how students can leverage online reviews to keep new patients coming through the door.
The power of the online review
When choosing a new dental provider, online reviews are increasingly powerful factors in the decision-making process. According to a survey by PatientPop, three in four people turn to the internet to evaluate a potential provider, and 54.6% specifically seek out online reviews. What they find is a dealbreaker for many.
PatientPop reports that 69.9% of people consider a positive reputation to be very or extremely important in their decision. In an earlier BrightLocal survey, also reported by PatientPop, 84% said they trusted an online review as much as a personal recommendation, and 60% said that negative reviews would make them reluctant to use a business at all. This is backed up by reputation.com, who cite research showing that 68% of people will choose one provider over another based on the strength of their reviews.
It’s not just your potential patients keeping a close eye on your reviews. When somebody searches for a local business, Google shows a list of providers alongside a map. Each business has its own Google business listing, featuring things like opening hours, photos and those all-important reviews.
The quality, quantity, frequency and diversity of those reviews help Google to decide how high up in the search results your business appears when somebody searches for, say, “dentist in Savannah”. BrightLocal reports that three quarters of visitors don’t look past the first ten results, so if your business doesn’t rank highly, potential patients won’t even know you exist!
So what can you do to make sure you get a steady stream of great reviews?
How to drive good reviews…
Aside from delivering a stellar service to every patient, there are some key steps dental students can take to keep the good reviews flowing.
1. Claim your business pages
PatientPop says that while Google is the most common place patients look for reviews (48.8%), many will also look to sites like WebMD (32.8%) and Yelp (22.8%), and Facebook (16.8%). Start by taking ownership of your business listing on these sites so that you can monitor and respond to any reviews.
The best way to get online reviews is to simply… ask for them! According to Dental ROI, almost 70% of people leave a review when asked to do so. Make a point of enquiring about the patient’s experience at the end of every session. If the feedback is positive, that’s a great time to ask if they would mind leaving you a review on one of your preferred platforms.
3. Proactively solve problems
If the patient’s feedback is less than glowing, focus instead on addressing their complaints. You may not get a positive review this time, but you can avoid a negative one by showing the patient you take their concerns seriously. Thank them for sharing their feedback, ask them what they would like to see done differently, and then tell them how you plan to act on it. When you do, reach out again to let them know.
4. Thank your reviewers
Most review platforms will allow you to respond to reviews, but many providers only address the negative feedback. Stand out by taking the time to thank people for sharing their experience. Not only will your show of appreciation build goodwill with the reviewer, but it will show anybody else reading that you value your patients.
5. Follow up
A patient can easily forget to leave the review they promised, but follow-up communications are a great way to give them a gentle nudge. This can be in the form of a standalone text or email survey, or as an addendum to any post-appointment communications you already send.
6. Keep asking!
BrightLocal found that the recency of online reviews is an important factor, with 73% of people reporting that they would disregard any review older than three months. That means in order to maintain your stellar online reputation, soliciting reviews should be a permanent and regular part of your marketing strategy.
…And how to handle negative reviews
Despite your best efforts, you can’t please every patient! Here are some steps to take in the unfortunate event of a negative online review.
1. Address the complaint.
When a patient’s negative feedback is addressed by the practice, PatientPop reports that the rate of patient satisfaction doubles. And yet, a shocking 51.8% of negative reviewers told PatientPop that they’d never been contacted by the practice to address their concerns. This is a huge missed opportunity, so be sure to reach out when a patient expresses dissatisfaction online.
2. Don’t be defensive.
From unjustified criticism to personal attacks, there are some reviews that will really push your buttons. As unfair as it feels to let this behavior stand, never be seen to get defensive. Third-party readers will judge your professionalism by your ability to handle such situations, so always take the high road and stick to objective facts.
3. Take the discussion offline.
While it is important to acknowledge negative reviews, the actual resolution should happen offline. Respond publicly and offer to contact the patient to discuss the matter, and then reach out by email or telephone. This shows other potential patients that you care about making things right, while allowing you to handle the issue privately.
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