12 Jul We have Negative Online Reviews – What Do We Do?

By Terra Shastri, Manager of Business Development – Ontario Veterinary Medical Association

Online reviews come in many different shapes.  Some clients share glowing feedback about you, your staff and their experiences, they feel the need to do something nice in return for your great service; this is referred to as ‘the rule of reciprocity’ in social psychology.  Unfortunately, the opposite is also true. Negative online reviews have become the modern way for clients to yell from the rooftops when they are unhappy with you, your staff and/or their experience at your clinic.  Consumers are often reluctant to share their disappointment in person if they feel it will create an awkward situation to do so, while an online review allows them to vent in anonymity.

When possible, respond to negative reviews because it demonstrates to people that you have nothing to hide, and gives the clinic the opportunity to show they care to make things right. After carefully reviewing the negative feedback, take a step back and consider whether or not there is any validity to the client’s comments, or if they may be overreacting to their situation.  Then, consider the following tips when crafting a response:

  1. The first line of your response should include an apology for their negative experience. This doesn’t mean you have to admit they are right, it means acknowledging that a client had a poor experience and you wish they hadn’t. For example, “I’m so sorry that you did not have an enjoyable experience with us and we want to make it right”. Most often, angry clients are looking for acknowledgement and an apology and that is enough to simmer their emotional upset and prevent them from going to other sites or friends with their story.
  2. Identify if you can improve on something. Review the post with your staff to address areas where you can improve on things and make a note of that in your reply.
  3. If they question certain procedures or recommendations, take the opportunity to educate in your post and explain why something was done. It is important to keep this general so that the client, patient or specifics of the case are kept private. Including phrases such as “In general,…” or “You mention this…, the reason we do this is because….”, helps to keep it broad.  If you feel details are required, indicate in your response that you have contacted the poster directly to rectify the situation and to respect their privacy as a client.  This allows any potential clients to see that you are making an effort to address client concerns.

People reading forums are aware that there are always two sides to every story. It’s important to realize a defensive response can escalate the situation. When a response is logical and kind, qualities that people look for in a veterinarian, it creates a positive impression for potential clients who may be reading your reviews.

For more information on reputation management and cyberbullying, click here.