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How Dentists can Profit from Review Culture

The internet’s feedback culture has turned us all into critics. But how does one handle numerous poor reviews? Read what Shaz Memon has to say concerning the current status of reviews and what they really mean.

You already know the internet is one huge, unstoppable force. It’s essentially a never-ending source of both fact and fiction, and it continues to grow as it’s being fed with more data around the clock. We all crave the ease and convenience of having instant access to answers to all our questions, so the beast continues to feed.

When barricades to accessing this information arise, such as lack of Wi-Fi, broken pages, or forgotten passwords, the condemnation of these despicable barriers is usually met with the relative fierceness of other first world problems. Society, in this day and age of digital communication, does not allow tech failure.

Since it’s well known that most reviews are only written by jilted customers who wish to communicate their not-so-good experiences, online reviews become the weapon of choice when one wishes to really “stick it to” a particular company. It becomes a game of revenge.

In Understanding Customers, Ruby Newell-Legner states that one requires 12 genuinely positive experiences to compensate for the damage done by a single negative one, particularly an experience that’s not been resolved to the satisfaction of the customer. In turn, the bad press that is received by a small business, such as a dental practice, can have a huge impact.

The Dental Law Partnership, which is the UK’s leading Specialist Dental Negligence solicitor, profits from the representation of unhappy patients whose dental experiences have been less than ideal. They state there’s never a fee unless they win their case.

This high-publicity method recently garnered some heavy criticism, particularly by Raj Ratan, who is dental director of Dental Protection. He suggests Dental Law Partnership’s publicity machine not only provides unsavoury fodder for the media but also shapes public opinion within a profession that’s already villainised due to its unique set of intrinsic challenges.

In early 2018, a survey by YouGov revealed that 23% of the population would favour taking legal action in a situation where their dental visit may have caused complications or problems. This was likely spurred by the fact there’s been a marked increase in awareness by the public of these ‘no win no fee’ marketing drives.

Rattan further commented on the impact of a negative claim for a dentist and how the related media reporting can risk impacting the good reputation of not only the dental practice but the profession when claims are settled.

The public demands highly satisfactory dental treatment much more now than they did even ten years ago. It, therefore, remains in the best interests of the dental profession to do everything it can to minimise risks by encouraging honest and open communication by whatever delivery mode is chosen.

But what happens when a patient’s negative online review is their first feedback? Generally, our decisions are at least in part shaped by others. Our purchases are made by group consensus of the public as to quality. Therefore, one cannot underestimate the immense power of the online review. It can make or break a business or product.

Consider Amazon in this example. Essentially, Amazon is the digital equivalent of what Woolworth’s used to be before the iconic High Street staple shut down and was relegated to the history books. Woolworth’s once fulfilled a wide variety of our shopping needs.

But there is one big difference. Amazon allows us first to research the product experiences of other purchasers. This tremendous value-add allows us to make instant purchasing decisions without risking a wrong choice or having to rely solely on the opinions of friends and family.

Therefore, in today’s digital world, the independent voice has been superseded by the culture of online reviews. While it is useful, it is arguably unfair, since they prove impossible to resist to value-obsessed buyers and impossibly restrictive to small businesses who rely on reviews consisting entirely (or at least mostly) of the five-star variety.

As the owner of a small car hire company in Norwich, Steve Dennis is proud of the thriving business he’s overseen since its inception in 2009. In a recent LinkedIn article, he bemoans the fact that consumers only ever post reviews when they have a negative experience, leaving better experiences unknown and unreported. He feels this skews the performance profile of a business.

He spoke of a recent experience where his business received a one-star review. In the review, the customer stated that after several years of fantastic service, they were dismayed to have a terrible experience. However, during those few years, this one-star review was the only review left by the customer. He doesn’t see the balance in this and wonders whether reviews are really serving the purpose to which they were originally intended.

His point is a valid one. Whatever service is offered, consumers should be giving credit where it is due. This virtual pat on the back is beneficial and reassuring to everyone involved.

So where is your dental practice’s place in all of this? Dental marketing pertains as much to dealing with negatives as promoting positives. Practice owners, therefore, need not fret when the business receives a seemingly unfair amount of bad reviews.

Sadly, people’s complaints are not always delivered in person. The dental profession’s means of satisfactorily handling complaints has become increasingly more difficult as the digital age progresses and people choose to take their perceived slights to the wide audience of the internet versus the more suitable and intimate audience of the practice.

You may find it prudent to aim towards reaching out and speaking with the upset patient if they’ve given you no previous indication of being unhappy with the treatment they received. Obviously, it is also very useful when websites that process and display poor reviews have a mechanism where the practice owner can reply both publicly and quickly.

It is encouraged that you pre-empt potentially poor reviews by inviting feedback on a personal rather than digital level. By adopting a proactive approach and presenting patients with the opportunity to openly voice their opinion of their personal experience with your dental team, you can reduce or eliminate unfavourable reviews before the customer leaves the practice. It’s also been proven to be much more difficult to refuse a face-to-face feedback opportunity than it is to ignore follow-up emails requesting feedback. One idea to make it simple for customers to present feedback is to provide an iPad for this purpose at the receptionist’s desk.

By making use of the customer’s data that is collected on the office feedback form, you could also challenge any future unfounded negative review. However, be sure to obtain your customers’ explicit consent before utilising their data in a marketing campaign.

By soliciting reviews, you could also limit potential damage if a patient leaves your facility with a complaint. With the means to immediately identify a disgruntled patient, your practice could reduce the chance of a negative matter being created online with no expiration date.

By targeting specific patients, you also get the full spectrum of various demographics as well as the treatments your customers receive. Present closed questions as well. Questions such as, “Did Dr. X do anything to make your office experience special today?” or “Is there anything we could do to enhance your experience at our dental practice?” Patients could then create their own five-star review using direct evidence of their individual experiences, which could then be used to shape service in the future.

Remember that something as seemingly small as a follow-up telephone call on the day after each customer’s appointment can work wonders in the building of trust and the cementing of customer relationships.

Remember also that a listening ear, empathy, a remembered name, and a friendly smile can go a long way. Make yourself accessible to your patients and quickly respond to their Facebook and other social media posts. Being ignored invites customer complacency and can even breed contempt.

Unfortunately, negative online reviews are an inevitable part of doing business in today’s world. Dental practices, unsurprisingly, are no exception. Very few of us get things right each and every time. Feedback is essential in helping you shape future outcomes. And who knows–your biggest critic may end up being your practice’s ‘best friend.’

Through the marketing of an open and honest approach, as well as inviting the feedback of your patients, common problems can be avoided, and you can swiftly react to negative responses while addressing key issues with a positive tone.

Not everybody’s feedback will be positive. And no, peoples’ inherent propensity to offer complaints rather than congratulations probably isn’t going away any time soon either.

This shouldn’t stop you from actively resolving any complaints you receive. You need to demonstrate your penchant for taking feedback seriously. By quickly reflecting upon and handling valid negative feedback, as well as supporting your dental practice with positive reviews using your dental practice website design, it’s much easier to counter any effects of poor testimonials you might receive elsewhere.

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