Marketing |3 min read

Turning Lemons Into Lemonade: Responding to Negative Reviews

Real World Insights from AADOM Authors - Lisa Maurer

As an office manager, you may encounter negative patient reviews on sites like Yelp and Google. Seeing negative comments about your practice can be disheartening, but it’s important to handle them professionally and efficiently to maintain your practice’s reputation. Here are some tips on how to do so:

Ignoring negative reviews will only make the situation worse.

Either the unresolved issues in your practice will grow, or you will continue to get more negative reviews online and cause your ratings to decrease. Responding to negative reviews shows that you care about your patients and their experience at your practice. Even if you can’t resolve the issue completely, a simple acknowledgment and an apology can go a long way in making the patient feel heard and respected.

The first thing I do when I see a negative review is investigate.

Many times, the name on the review isn’t the patient’s real name or full name. You can decipher the details as to the approximate date they were in. Maybe they mentioned the names of involved employees or gave a detailed description. Find out who they saw, read clinical notes, and look for anything on the patient’s chart that can corroborate with their review. Ask the staff that was mentioned if they can recall anything happening. Once you have heard the staff’s side of the story, you are ready to contact the patient.

Responding quickly and professionally to negative reviews shows that patient feedback is a top priority at your practice.

Keep your response professional and avoid getting defensive or confrontational. Start by thanking the patient for their feedback and expressing your regret that they had a negative experience. Offer to discuss the issue further via phone and find a resolution that works for them.

Taking the conversation offline and out of the public eye is best.

If you get a hold of the patient, let them know you’re calling regarding their most recent experience in the office. Let them talk without interrupting. Don’t be defensive or argumentative; hearing them out is vital. Let the patient know that you are sorry for the bad experience and will speak with the dentist to see how to fix the situation. Most of the time, you can diffuse the problem and get the patient to update or remove the review. I like to finish these calls by saying that we appreciate reviews like this because they bring to light issues that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.

Be careful not to disclose any confidential patient information in your online response to negative reviews.

It’s important to maintain their privacy and not violate HIPAA. Provide a phone number or email address where the patient can reach you directly to discuss the issue further if you can’t identify them from their review. This will help avoid any miscommunications and resolve the issue more effectively. Here’s an example of a response you could leave, “I am sorry to hear about your experience Mr. No Name; I would love to discuss this with you. You can reach me at (925) 867-5309?”

Negative reviews can be an opportunity to identify areas where your practice can improve.

Use the feedback as constructive criticism and consider changing to increase patient satisfaction. Share the feedback with your team and brainstorm ideas to prevent similar issues from happening in the future. I encourage my team to tell me if they encounter an upset patient, so I can reach out to them before they post a public review. Use negative reviews as an opportunity to grow and improve your practice. Always remember that some people love to complain, and it’s impossible to please everyone!

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About the Author

Headshot of Lisa Maurer

Lisa Maurer is a practice administrator at Walnut Creek Dentists in California, with 24 years in the industry. She’s passionate about dentistry and transforming practices into profitable businesses with a healthy culture. Lisa has been an AADOM member since 2018 and earned her FAADOM in 2020. She and her son live in the Bay Area, where she takes pride in contributing to the local dental community.

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