By Nancy Rausman
Managing Editor, EyeCarePro
March 23, 2016
Word-of-mouth has always been a critical factor in new patient acquisition and today’s word of mouth happens through online reviews. In fact, online reviews are one of the biggest influences on a new patient’s decision to come to your practice.
According to research compiled by Invesp, 90 percent of customers read online reviews before visiting a business, and 88 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Even when it comes to healthcare, research from a study from January 2015 shows that one-in-five users seeks online reviews, or rankings, before choosing a healthcare professional.
It’s clear that whether it is for medical eyecare, or for your optical, potential patients and customers are checking you out online before making a decision to visit your practice. To establish a positive reputation you need a lot of reviews from happy customers.
The problem with reviews is that it’s up to your patients to post them, and posting a review of your practice is not on the mind of a significant portion of your patients. So, what can you do to generate reviews, and positive ones at that?
Practices that are successful at getting reviews are those that have a system in place for asking for them. Many practices institute a quota to make sure that a certain number of patients are asked to review them each week. Even though only a small percentage of those you ask will actually go ahead and write a review, if you don’t ask, you can be sure that most of them won’t–except maybe the really unhappy ones.
Use the Power of Suggestion
Reinforce the importance that reviews have to your practice by placing “Review Us Online” posters around the office. You can use this same graphic to promote online via e-mail or social media. Often all it takes is a simple suggestion for a patient to act. Here is an example of a graphic that includes a QR code that links directly to the review sites:
Send Home a Reminder
Create business-sized reminder cards with the information needed to help patients easily leave a review. This is a great tool to hand out to patients that express their satisfaction: “I’m so happy you had a great experience. It would really help us out if you could write a review on Yelp. Here is a card that shows you exactly how to do that…”
Make Every Touch Point Count
Include a “Review Us Online” suggestion on every touch point with patients whether it is in person, on your business cards, promotional items such as magnets or giveaways, postcards, e-mails or social media (any digital channel should have direct links). You can create one graphic and use it on every channel.
Use Your Web Site
Create a “Review Us” page on your web site with direct links to your business page on the top review sites. Add a clear call to action on your homepage that brings visitors to this page. You can also run a campaign with an interstitial pop-up ad or a hello bar on the top of your web site to encourage web site visitors to leave a review. Here is a great example of a practice web page that helps patients leave reviews:
Create an E-Mail Template and Campaign
If your practice uses e-mail to communicate with patients, create a permanent signature template that you can add to your e-mails with links to your practice review pages. You can also run periodic “Review Us” campaigns in which the subject of your e-mail is a request for reviews.
What Do I Do If Negative Reviews Are Generated?
When it comes to building a strong online reputation for your practice, you have to start by being informed. The very first step is to make sure that you claim, or verify, your business listings on major review sites like Yelp, Google My Business, Superpages, and any other local directories, and that you check in regularly to see what is being said.
Negative reviews happen, and while you can’t do much to prevent them, there are some effective ways to prevent them from damaging your practice reputation.
Respond to negative reviews in a polite and honest manner ASAP! Don’t get overly defensive. The best strategy is to show that you care about customer satisfaction, and that you are trying to fix the situation. A satisfactory response to a bad review can diffuse the negative impact it has on the reader, and sometimes even turn around a disgruntled customer.
Get more positive reviews. Eighty-nine percent of consumers say they read more than two reviews before making a consumer decision. The more reviews they read, the more they trust what is said. In essence, the key to a good online reputation is accumulating more positive reviews. This will keep any negative reviews from having a lasting impact on your practice reputation.
What About HIPAA Compliance?
It is important to respond to negative reviews in order to protect your practice reputation, but you have to be careful to avoid any potential HIPAA violations. Here are some general guidelines about how to respond.
Never reveal any protected health information. In fact, even though the reviewer has admitted that they are a patient and, possibly, therefore, waives their HIPAA protection, we advise that you be extra cautious and not acknowledge the person is a patient without express authorization, including a signed HIPAA Marketing Authorization form.
The best way to respond would be to speak in generalities, citing the need to maintain confidentiality. Here is an example of a HIPAA-compliant response that still shows a strong concern for customer satisfaction:
“We’re always sorry to hear of any inconvenience faced by any of our patients. We respect our patients’ privacy, so it’s our policy to deal directly with patient issues, by calling the patient involved and resolving their issues in person, rather than responding on a public forum. We’re committed to providing outstanding service to our patients and would love the opportunity to show all patients a quality and caring eyecare experience.”
When it comes to building a strong online reputation for your practice, you have to start by being informed.
Building and maintaining a strong online reputation takes continual effort, but in this digital age, it is well worth the investment.
Nancy Rausman is the managing editor at EyeCarePro. Nancy is responsible for providing ECPs with educational content that helps them advance their practices through technology, management strategies and digital marketing. EyeCarePro is one of the leading providers of online marketing and practice improvement services in the industry. EyeCarePro serves both industry and practices and is the only company of its kind solely focused on the optometric space. To contact: firstname.lastname@example.org