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Manage Your Practice Image Via Strategic Use of and Response to Online Reviews

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Jul 06, 2011



By Justin Bazan

You can shape how patients view you, and the kind of patients your practice draws, by carefully choosing between online review sites, and strategically responding to criticism.

Make Your Practice a Yelp! Deal of the Day

Yelp! enables you to attract patients with an interest in high-value experiences, rather than those who are solely interested in deep discounts.

Getting started requires a few essential steps:

1. Contact Yelp! sales manager.

2. Work with Yelp! marketing department to create a web page advertising your practice and deal you are offering.

3. Coordinate timing of your practice as Yelp! Deal of the Day to coincide with your other marketing efforts. 

4. Monitor response to adjust how much of an expensive (to your practice) deal you want to offer going forward.

Yelp! Vs. Groupon
When managing your practice image, one of the first things to consider is which online venue is most worth your time and effort. Groupon users, for instance, tend to be most motivated by the search for the best possible deals. Users of the online directory and review site, Yelp!, on the other hand, tend to be motivated by finding quality experiences. Uses of Yelp! also tend not to be as over-run with messaging about businesses as users of Groupon. Unlike Groupon coupons, which users may receive multiple notices about each day, there is only one Yelp! Deal of the Day. For these reasons, I decided to focus my online practice image-making on Yelp! rather than Groupon.

Attract High-Value Patients
Another reason use of Yelp! shapes our practice's patient base more to our liking than Groupon is while Groupon focuses on the deepness of discounts, Yelp! offers credits towards services. For instance, on Yelp!, a consumer can receive a credit towards eyewear, whereas, on Groupon a deal would more likely be offered for, say 30 or 40 percent off eyewear. If the focus is on "discounting" rather than "crediting," you may run into a practice image problem. Discounting your eye exams or optical services down to half-price runs you the risk of attracting patients who don't place a high value on eye health, who are more likely than others to get a prescription from you and get lower-priced eyewear online or elsewhere.  

Respond to Your Reviews
Online sites like Yelp!, give you the ability to "review," or respond to, reviews of your practice. I encourage you to do so--with careful thought. Rather than responding in general to the negative review, try responding in the manner you would in a personal letter to the negative review. In other words, though you are in a public forum, respond directly to the reviewer rather than offering a generalized defense of your practice. In addition, Yelp! enables you to contact the reviewer directly.  Recently, for instance, a critical review was posted by a patient who felt our practice was not attentive enough. Rather than posting a defensive public relations-like statement such as, "Our practice has a policy of treating all our patients with first-class attention and care," I posted a personalized apology, and contacted the reviewer. "I'm sorry, Linda, that you felt overlooked at our practice. That is opposite of the kind of experience we try to give our patients. If you give us another try, I promise that you will be treated like a VIP." Linda was so impressed that I took the time to contact her directly, and offer a personalized response, that she went back into Yelp! and increased her review rating from a 2 to a 4.

Temper Majority of Responses
There is a fine line between apologizing and making right, and sounding slavish. You never want to come across in your review as groveling, defensive or frantic. For instance, you wouldn't want to write: "We always aim to please so I don't know what happened. We feel terrible about it. We all have off days, so maybe you just caught one or two of our staffers on a bad day. I can assure you that your experience is not the experience most of our patients say they have with us. Most of our patients are very pleased with our services." Instead, I would opt for a response that balances apology and dignity: "Ken, I want to apologize to you on behalf of my whole practice. Our goal is to provide every patient with the best possible service, and from your review, I can see that we failed to deliver on that. I hope you will give us a second chance to offer you the kind of high-quality service we're known for."

Decide Which Patients to Let Go
Practice building approaches differ, but there is an advantage to only cultivating patients with the highest regard for eyecare. If that is your approach to practice growth, I recommend using more of a firm, than apologetic, tone when responding to critical reviews. For example, if a patient--as is common--complains about how expensive your practice is, one approach is to avoid apologizing for their disappointment, and instead simply offer a description of all they get for the fee they pay, and point out that quality healthcare is well worth it. Say: "Susan, we only offer the highest quality eyecare and services at Owl Eyes, including a personalized approach to fitting you with prescription eyeglasses and providing superior eye health screenings. We value premium service and products, and hope you do, too." It's a harsh response, but patients who are interested in the quality you seek to deliver in your practice won't be deterred. On the other hand, a response like that may enable you to avoid spending time with patients who are less likely to purchase quality eyewear and follow-through with your other recommendations--those individuals, in other words--who probably will be less loyal to your practice.

Choosing the review site that matches the growth approach of your practice, and then tailoring responses to attract the kind of patients who will invest in their eye health, will garner you a long-lasting, high-value patient base.


Justin Bazan, OD, Park Slope Eye, Brooklyn, NY, started his own practice cold three years ago. He speaks regularly on strategies for marketing your practice via social networks. Contact: 


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