Negative Online Reviews - How to deal with (and learn from) them

Practice Momentum - Healthcare Marketing Solutions
Negative Online Reviews - How to deal with (and learn from) them

Negative online reviews are almost inevitable at some point in your private practice journey. Getting one can feel like a real body blow, but I believe that understanding what to do about negative online reviews can alleviate a lot of the stress for health practitioners. It's not complicated to understand or difficult to take the right action – it just might require a shift in your thinking.



The Power of Online Reviews

Online reviews on Google, Facebook, Yelp, or Trustpilot, are driving patient behavior. A study of patient behaviour showed that 90% of patients use online reviews to evaluate practices, and almost three quarters (71%) of surveyed patients use online reviews as the very first step to finding a new healthcare professional (Software Advice).

These online reviews give potential patients a feel for your practice from the viewpoint of actual patients, which is where the power lies. We can all write lovely things on our websites about our practices, but hearing the opinion of a real fee-paying patient gives a more authentic and trusted perspective, so online reviews are here to stay, whether your professional body allows you to actively use them in your marketing or not. They are part of modern culture and modern healthcare marketing.


"S%^t we've got a negative review"

The influence of online reviews on patient behaviour, can lead to practices becoming very concerned about anything short of a 5-star review, and from conversations I've had I know practices worry about negative reviews, including those being left by competitors, someone they fell out with, or even complete strangers.

In this blog post I want to put your mind at ease around negative online reviews and teach you what to do about them.

The first thing to understand is that the law in many countries, gives people the right to speak freely. So if a patient leaves a negative but honest review about their genuine experience with your practice, even if their viewpoint is just an opinion rather than hard fact, there is nothing legally you can do about removing those kinds of reviews from your online profiles. Nor should you want to - I'll come on to how you address these reviews in a minute. 

However, the law in many countries (and thankfully many review platforms) draws a line between real reviews and straight-up malicious works of fiction. So while you're stuck with any legitimately negative patient reviews, you may be able to get fake or malicious reviews taken down.

Let's start there.


Dealing with Malicious Online Reviews


Firstly - BREATHE !!

Sadly it's a fact of business malicious reviews do happen from time to time, like people:

  • Leaving a scathing review for a practice they've never actually been a patient of
  • Saying something very misleading in their review, that bends the truth of a situation
  • Going on a hate rant because they've got a personal vendetta against your practice, like a fired employee

You can't just block or delete any online review about your practice that isn't a glowing recommendation but you can deal with these kinds of malicious reviews.


Dealing with these reviews has three phases.

1. Request the hosting platform remove the review (although it may not always be successful). You can do this via their official complaints page. 

Here are some useful links that will help if you wish to try:

Most of these platforms take fake reviews seriously and a pretty proactive about removing them.

2. Contact the person who posted the fake review and request that they remove it

3. If you can identify the person who posted the review, get a solicitor to write to them threatening formal defamation action against them - actually taking action can be very costly, and winning such a case requires very strong evidence of direct financial loss, but the threat of action may be enough to get the desired response.

OK so now we've addressed the dreaded fake reviews let's look at real negative reviews.


Shifting Your Perspective on Negative Online Reviews 


As much as they may hurt, genuine negative reviews are people's real perceived experiences of you and your practice. If someone who has been to see you as a paying patient is feeling unhappy about the experience, you need to listen. These reviews are an opportunity to learn and improve, not a threat.

The positives from negative online reviews

Paying attention to these genuine negative reviews is going to actually support your practice in 3 ways:

  1. They shine a light on something you may not have realised was happening in the practice, giving you the opportunity to make improvements, and upgrading your patient experience.
  2. By replying quickly and fairly to negative reviews you can demonstrate your caring and understanding nature, and willingness to quickly rectify any issues your patients may have with your service.
  3. The odd less than perfect review helps people see that your reviews and business are authentic. Who trusts a business with 100's of 5-star reviews and no 4 or 3-star ones? 

 Hopefully, that helps ease your concern around receiving the odd less than glowing review. Next, let's look at how you should deal with these legitimate negative reviews.


How to Respond to Negative Online Reviews

When you receive a negative online review you need to respond quickly and kindly. Don't ponder for days or weeks, pause for a moment to gather your facts, and also so you're not angry or defensive, but don't wait too long to reply. 

  1. Respond professionally and address the issue directly in the review section online. Thank the reviewer for their feedback, and if their complaint is valid, apologize and explain how you plan to improve.
  2. Don't get defensive or confrontational. Remain calm and respectful, even if the review seems unfair.
  3. Take the conversation offline if necessary. If it is a sensitive matter or the reviewer gets agitated, offer to discuss the matter further privately to resolve the issue.
  4. Encourage satisfied patients to leave positive reviews (if permitted by the relevant platform). This can help balance out any negative reviews and showcase your commitment to quality, effective care.

 It really is that simple - don't overthink it.

Respond, learn, and move on.



Taking Control of Negative Reviews

Hopefully from this, you can see how to manage any negative online reviews that you get, and that getting negative reviews is not a nail in the coffin for your healthcare practice.

What it does take, though, is for you to be proactive about managing them when they arise, and not just being a passive panicker.

The more reviews you get, the higher the chance that you will get some negative reviews. That's just life. You need to accept it as just one of those things and not obsess over it. There are things you can do to take them as positives and mitigate the chances of the same complaint cropping up again, and there are things you can do to deal with really malicious or totally fake reviews.

Having activity on an ongoing basis on your online reviews is also great for your online presence and reputation, so getting reviews is not just directly good for business. If, on an ongoing basis, you actively encourage patients to leave reviews, review platforms will see your practice as active and engaged, which can boost your visibility.


Conclusion: Embrace Reviews and Manage Them Proactively


Dealing with negative online reviews doesn't have to be a nightmare for healthcare practices. By understanding the power of reviews and taking a proactive approach, you can turn perceived negatives into positives.

While the possibility of receiving fake or malicious reviews can be unsettling, it's important to keep things in perspective. These types of reviews are relatively rare occurrences, and most review platforms have measures in place to detect and remove them if reported. The vast majority of reviews, even negative ones, tend to be genuine feedback from actual patients. By focusing on providing excellent service and actively managing your online presence, you can minimise the impact of any malicious attempts and maintain a strong, positive reputation for your healthcare practice.

Remember these key takeaways:

  1. Online reviews significantly influence potential patient's buying decisions, so having an active review presence is crucial for practices.
  2. Not all negative reviews are malicious – some provide genuine feedback to improve your services.
  3. Respond professionally, take valid critiques constructively, and resolve issues offline when appropriate.
  4. Encourage satisfied patients to leave positive reviews to balance out negative ones.
  5. For fake or malicious reviews, follow the proper reporting channels to request removal.
  6. Be proactive in gaining reviews and managing your online reputation.

With the right mindset and strategies, you can handle negative online reviews while showcasing your practice's strengths and commitment to quality care. Embrace the review process as a tool for growth and continued excellence in your patient experience delivery.

There you have it, a simple guide to dealing with negative online reviews.


I'm curious to know what you are going to do differently as a result of being here.
I'd love to know - so please leave me a note in the comment section at the bottom of this page.

Thanks for your time today and I hope you found this post inspiring.

Until next time . . . . stay curious.


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