A 2015 survey by community health online reviews firm, Software Advice, suggests that only 6 percent of patients leave negative reviews of physicians, but 60 percent feel it’s important for physicians to respond to reviews online.
But simply responding to a negative review isn’t enough. To effectively address a patient’s issue, you must keep several things in mind as you formulate your response, including your organization’s brand, your patients’ rights, and your digital reputation.
Use these guidelines to draft sincere, succinct responses when patients post negative reviews.
What to include when you address negative reviews
- Acknowledge the issue. Even if you don’t agree with a patient’s negative review, it’s important—and a good customer service practice—to acknowledge how he or she feels about the situation. Sometimes this is all it takes to satisfy a disgruntled patient who just wants to be heard.
- Be genuine. While it’s a good idea to use a script as an outline, you want to sound like a human, not a robot. Show reviewers and people who read those reviews that you care with a thoughtful choice of words. Avoid giving the impression that you are obligated to respond.
- Opportunity to take the conversation offline. Provide your phone number and invite the patient to call you at his or her convenience to discuss his or her concern. Offering this personal extension of customer service potentially can help prevent additional negativity on your physician’s profile page.
- Positivity. Apologize for the experience, but take it one step further. Reassure the patient that your organization typically is known for better experiences and let the patient know that you are going to make things right by taking his or her feedback and resolving the issue.
What to avoid in your response to a negative review
- Patient identifiers and HIPAA information. Never mention a patient’s condition or private health information, contact information, or other details that could constitute a HIPAA violation. Even if the patient mentions these details him- or herself, that doesn’t put you at liberty to also discuss these topics.
- An angry or frustrated tone. You may be livid about a patient’s negative review, but you must check your attitude and put yourself in the patient’s shoes. Remember—everything you post is on a public forum. What you say in response to a negative review is a representation of how potential patients will assume you’ll treat them.
- Overdoing it. Keep your response short and sweet. A good rule of thumb is three sentences: Acknowledge, sympathize, and request that the reviewer contact you offline at his or her convenience.
- Bonus tip: For SEO reasons, avoid using your organization’s name, relevant keywords, or search terms in your response. You don’t want your good name attached to and sullied by a negative reviewer who cannot be consoled.
3 scripts you can use
We don’t recommend that your team memorizes and posts these negative-response scripts word for word. Rather, scripts should be used as a guideline for length and a reminder of what to include and avoid in the response.
These three scripts are pooled from best practices and our industry research:
Script 1: Dear patient, We would love the chance to talk with you directly about your experience. If interested, please contact us at (###) ###-####. Sincerely, Name
Script 2: Our practice would love the opportunity to discuss your concerns further. If interested, please contact us directly at (###) ###-####. Sincerely, Name
Script 3: I’m sorry you had this experience. Please contact me directly at (###) ###-#### to find a solution and prevent this from happening again. Sincerely, Name
When a patient posts a negative review, that person is upset and wants resolution. Respond to his or her concerns using the tips and scripts we’ve outlined above to turn negative encounters into positive experiences. Doing so can repair or improve your relationship with patients who leave reviews and can also demonstrate your organization’s level of customer service to potential patients who read the conversation.