The following InboundMD resource is from guest contributor Jason Brown. Jason is one of our favorite review experts, thanks to his deep knowledge and no-nonsense approach. To learn more about Jason, checkout his bio at the end of the resource.
Every business takes their reputation seriously. Some businesses owners can be so overzealous that they become unhinged over one negative review. I get it, getting a negative review is not a pleasant experience, but it doesn’t need to feel like getting a colonoscopy. I too had been hit with negative Yelp reviews. They were posted as a way to attack and discourage me from battling the fake review industry. It was upsetting, but it didn’t stop me from continuing my work. One negative review shouldn’t suck the life out of you, either. You need to change your focus and see that negative review as a new challenge or opportunity.
The first thing you need to do is to reply to the review in a polite and professional manner. If you cannot remain calm, let someone else reply to it. The reply should start off by being apologetic and then encouraging the user to contact you and your staff privately to address the issue.
In the past, people working in the medical industry felt trapped and unable to respond to negative reviews for fear of violating HIPPA, but this is no longer the case. A simple reply stating “I am sorry you had a bad experience, please call our office at 867 5309 Monday through Friday from 9 to 5 to further address your concerns.”
If you are going to start using pre-written responses to handle negative reviews tactfully, I do recommend that you change it up slightly from time to time since nobody wants to see a business replying to all of the reviews with the same canned reply.
How to Dispute Reviews
If you truly feel that the review needs to be removed, there are ways to flag and report the review. Google and Yelp don’t want to play moderator and don’t care if there is a slight discrepancy in the reviews. For example, if your receptionist raised their voice slightly, but the reviewer exaggerates and says they were yelling, the review won’t get taken down.
Forget looking for loopholes to get the review removed. While your logical argument is valid, it won’t help. They will only look to see if the review contains foul language or otherwise violates their terms of service. Naming employees or staff doesn’t qualify to have the review removed either.
If the reviewer was never a patient of yours, or if it’s clear that they’re a competitor attempting to trash you, you can flag the review. For Yelp reviews, you will need to flag the review and leave a detailed explanation as to why the review needs to be removed. It helps if you click on the profile and see what businesses the reviewer is reviewing. One of my favorite dentists, Dr. Rodney Raanan, was exposed on NBC Los Angeles for having fake reviews, and he continues to engage in review schemes. His reviewers also leave reviews for his dad’s and son’s dental practices. When I flag his reviews, I always make sure to point out how the reviewer couldn’t possibly have seen three dentists from the same family. Yelp typically takes down these particular reviews with that additional information.
To report reviews to Google, don’t even bother contact phone support. They only look at the text of the review and won’t look at the profile. I recommend contacting GMB support directly on either Twitter or via Facebook and create a Google document with all of your evidence and links to corroborate your claims.
For fake reviews on Twitter, start off by following the GMB team so that they can send you direct messages. Next, you can visit the GMB forum and create a new thread by click on the plus sign in the red circle. Keep in mind this is a community-run forum and you are communicating with volunteers and not Google employees. Please remain patient, polite and professional. It can take time to for a Product Expert to see the thread and it can then up to two weeks for Google to take action.
You can also use these same methods to report the Dr. Rodney Raanans of the world too. If your competitor is taking an unfair advantage by engaging in getting fake reviews, you need to report them to Google and Yelp. I also recommend filing complaints to the medical board and your state attorney general. The Hippocratic Oath clear states do no harm and fake reviews are doing harm as they are designed to mislead and persuade patients away from other doctors.
If your competitors are a dentist or perform any form of cosmetic surgery, it may be more likely that you think that they are engaging in some form of illegal review scheme. Online reviews are regulated by the FTC and can cause your practice to be fined or sued by your state attorney general.
FYI, the New York State Attorney General’s office loves to sue businesses with fake reviews. Other states do, too, and I suspect more will be wanting to follow suit shortly.
You Need to Address the Underlying Issues
No amount of positive reviews will fix underlying issues if you don’t address the core issue(s) causing those negative reviews. If the majority of complaints are because of long wait times or your receptionists, those areas need to be addressed or the negative reviews will keep coming.
If you a company calls you up offering to fix your reputation by encouraging more positive reviews, but they are unwilling to help you address the negative reviews, politely say no thank you. These are not the people you want to upset or you will soon see an increase of new negative reviews. I see it more than I should.
Similarly, if your marketing professional encourages you to run review contests, you need to show them to the door.
Those contest are illegal. If and when Google and Yelp find out, they will remove all of your reviews. I just assisted on a thread post on the GMB forum where a dentist lost one hundred and eighteen reviews. All of the recipients kept their give-a-way items and the dental practice is out money with nothing to show for it.
Avoid any review solicitation platform that will only allow positive reviews to be posted online. Google refers to this as review-gating and, when caught, you will lose all of your reviews dating back to April 2018.You will need a review solicitation and monitoring service that help keep you protected online.
Reviews don’t have to be an enigma. If you take time to learn about them, they can be as routine as taking someone’s blood pressure. They are the best way to judge how well a practice is doing or if there are serious underlying issues. In cases where your reviews are actually pointing to a problem within your practice, there are many resources available to assist you in improving your internal processes and customer experience to, in turn, inspire better reviews. Remember: reviews are an extension of your business and not your entire business.
If you have any questions about online reviews, please feel free to contact me anytime on Twitter.