When someone greets you by saying, “Your reputation proceeds you”, it’s like a punch to the gut. A backhanded compliment. It means they’ve heard things about you – some, not so great.
It takes time to repair your personal reputation based on rumors, gossip, and poor decisions. The good news is, it can be done.
The same holds true for the world of dentistry.
Online reputation management (ORM) is a crucial part of running a successful dental practice. With nearly 80% of people in the U.S. searching the Internet for healthcare providers, your online presence needs to be strong and on point.
A number of things can negatively impact your online reputation from disgruntled employees and bad reviews to an outdated website.
This article will cover everything you need to know about ORM for dentists so you can continue to serve your patients with confidence.
What is Online Reputation Management (ORM)?
Before we discuss the specifics of managing your online reputation as a dentist, it’s important you know exactly what ORM is.
ORM is any strategy used to influence or shape public perception of a business, individual, or organization on the Internet. Online reputation management helps persuade public opinion about your services, and products. ORM is a form of advertising and promotion geared primarily on creating positive buzz around your company.
Similar to your personal reputation, ORM is all about perception. It’s also an ongoing task. ORM isn’t a one-and-done technique for staying in good standing with patients.
You need to actively cultivate, foster, and work to promote your dental practice and put it in a positive light. This is primarily done through online reviews.
While you can’t control how people will rate your practice online, you can take steps to ensure they’re comments and reviews are positive. That’s where ORM comes in.
The Importance of Monitoring and Managing Your Online Reputation
Any good company is constantly trying to improve, grow, and draw in new business. Your dental practice is no different.
If you want to retain your current patients and continue welcoming new ones, it all starts with ORM. Your online reputation speaks volumes for the type of business you run and how people perceive you.
The truth is, online reviews can make or break your practice – even if they’re not accurate. That’s what makes online reputation management so important.
You need to constantly be on the offense and defense. Your ORM strategy should be proactive. You need to meet adversity and negative reviews head-on.
It’s sometimes tempting to lash out or defend yourself against false claims or unfair reviews but it’s imperative that you keep your cool and handle things tactfully. Whenever possible, respond politely and professionally to any negative feedback posted on your website or other review platforms.
Express sympathy that the patient had a bad experience and offer to make things right. It’s often about being the bigger person and trying to make things right.
Remember, it’s not so much about persuading a dissatisfied patient to return but instead performing damage control for any prospective clients that stumble across a bad review.
Also, avoid the urge to not respond at all. While this may seem like a safe bet, it shows potential patients that you can’t handle feedback. It also makes them wonder if what’s being said about your practice is true.
Legal Action Against False Reviews
There’s a fine-line between public speech and defamation of character.
The First Amendment protects a person’s rights to free speech and press. Unfortunately, this right is often at odds with defamation, which is defined as false statements of fact that harm another person’s reputation.
Both libel and slander fall under the umbrella of defamation. Slander refers to verbal defamation, whereas libel is written, which is more likely what you’ll encounter with false online reviews.
But what legal rights do you have if someone takes to the Internet to make false claims about your practice and badmouth your services?
This is for a court to decide, but the debate generally surrounds whether or not the reviewer is posting information as fact or as their opinion. Everyone is entitled to their opinion and whether or not you agree, these claims are protected under the First Amendment.
On the other hand, if the reviewer states things as facts which are completely false, you may have a legitimate lawsuit on your hands.
For example, if a reviewer writes something like, “Their teeth-whitening service is a joke! My teeth are dirtier now than they were before”, you can’t do much about it. However, if the same reviewer falsely claims that you use dangerous chemicals in your teeth whitening agents which got them sick, you can legally fight these inaccurate statements.
The Desired Effect of Positive Reviews
Even with the Internet boom, word-of-mouth is still a business’ best friend.
Nearly 83% of people admit to making decisions based on recommendations. Another 84% of people trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends and family – and that’s why positive online reviews are so powerful.
The same report showed that 91% of people read online reviews before making a decision. And if those reviews aren’t positive, they likely won’t choose in your favor.
Positive reviews help shed a favorable light on your dental practice. If you have excellent reviews, visitors are more likely to view you as a trusted and reputable company.
People list professionalism, expertise, and reliability as some of the most important characteristics of a business. These factors are even more important when discussing one’s health.
The Effect of Negative Reviews on Your Dental Practice
For every positive, there is a negative. Even the most trusted, well-liked, and reputable companies will face adversity and negativity at one time or another. You simply can’t please everyone.
While the fall-out effects of negative reviews can most definitely impact your business, it’s more about how you react than the reviews themselves.
Sadly, 86% of people are hesitant to choose a business with negative reviews. The good news is, people often use their own judgment and will try to determine the legitimacy of negative claims before completely writing you off.
One of the most important things to remember when doing damage control is to act quickly and consistently. This means closely monitoring all of your company reviews across several platforms.
Don’t let negative reviews sit for too long. This tells prospective clients two things: you don’t monitor your online presence or website and you’re afraid or unwilling to face negativity.
How to Ask Patients for Reviews
The best defense against poor negative reviews is an offense consisting of positive ones. That’s where the dentist-patient relationship comes into play.
Be proactive about your ORM. Don’t be afraid to ask pleased patients to leave you a positive review on your website, Google, Yelp or another online review site. Most patients will be more than happy to speak about their experience in your office.
Before asking, make sure that your patients know that you appreciate them and their support. Make it clear that your top priority is their health and happiness. This shows them that you have their best interest at heart and don’t have an ulterior motive behind asking for a review.
It’s also good practice to keep a running list of which patients you ask so that you don’t ask them again. This small error could make you look desperate.
Understanding Online Review Platforms
The Internet is a wide, vast place filled with plenty of outlets for reviews, comments, and feedback. But there are a few review sites that reign supreme.
Here’s what you need to know about the top three.
The good news is, not only is it easy for you to manage these reviews but it’s even easier for patients to leave a Google review. They simply search for your website and then click the “write a review” link.
The more positive reviews you can get on Google, the better your chances to rank at the top of the SERPs (search engine results page), which is one of the most coveted positions on the Internet.
If Google rules the world of search engines, Facebook is the king of social media platforms. One billion people are currently active on Facebook, which means plenty of opportunities to attract new patients – and plenty of reviews to manage.
If your dental practice has a Facebook account (and it should), users can easily leave a review and share it with whatever audience they choose.
Considering Facebook is one of the top five sites people check before visiting a business, this social media giant should top your list of ORM outlets.
When people think of online reviews, Yelp is usually the first platform that comes to mind. Mostly because Yelp is designed specifically for this reason – it’s a business directory and review forum.
Here, people can rate, review, and share details about their experience with your practice. Another factor that makes this review site so important is that Google places high-priority on reviews found here.
If you want to continue ranking on the first page of Google results, Yelp review management is paramount.
All Your ORM Needs in One Place
Online reputation management is becoming a must-have in the business world. More and more people are consulting the Internet for information, including reviews and recommendations for everything from the best restaurants and hair salons to doctors and, yes, dentists.
If your dental practice needs help in creating an effective ORM strategy, look no further.
Profitable Dentistry specializes in marketing your dental practice and making sure you stay on top of an ever-changing field.
Contact me today and let’s get started!