The Future of Online Reviews

Have your patients posted reviews about your practice? A recent American Express Global Customer Service Barometer survey found that customers are telling more people about their service experiences – both good and bad. On average, people tell 15 others about their good experiences (up from 9 in 2011), and 24 about their bad experiences (up from 16 in 2011).

While online reviews have been around for years, dental practices have had the opportunity to be in control (for the most part). Various patient communication systems allowed you to filter survey reviews. If a negative blip did show up you could promptly filter it away, leaving a pristine image of your practice online.

The time has come to understand, and accept, that businesses – dental and healthcare practices included – will not have control of most reviews in the future. As Yelp, Google Plus and the Doctor Oogles of the world continue to grow in popularity, it’s time for us to embrace the fact that a healthy online reputation doesn’t have to mean absolute perfection.

For example, see the results below for one of the most prestigious hotel brands in the world, The Ritz Carlton, San Francisco:

Zagat score: Quality 26 (26-30 considered extraordinary to perfection)

Hmm, notice it’s not a 30 score, not the peak of perfection. In fact, scroll through all of their Google reviews (a part of the Google+ Local Zagat score computation) and you will find scores of “Poor to Fair” among others. Will these imperfect ratings stop you from staying at this hotel? Likely not. Have the Poor to Fair scores devastated the Ritz Carlton brand? No.

See what Trip Advisor has to say about the same hotel. Among rave reviews you will also find the following scores:

Average 57

Poor 24

Terrible 9

Even the most esteemed luxury brands have to deal with the occasional rant or client disappointment. While many practices turn to Ritz Carlton for examples of top-notch customer service, they want nothing to do with their vulnerability when it comes to online reviews.

The next generation of reviews means that all businesses, healthcare included, will need to accept the fact that we no longer have total control. The Ritz Carlton and many other hotel brands have survived, and continue to thrive, despite not being able to please all of the people all of the time.

What to do next? Strive to provide the best care possible for your patients. Continue to educate your team and accept (really accept) the next generation of online reviews. Have a plan in place for how you will react to reviews – both good and bad. Let go of the idea that people expect you to be perfect and rather focus on being the best you can be. This can be liberating. When in doubt, repeat Abe Lincoln’s wise words: “You can please some of the people some of the time. All of the people some of the time. Some of the people all of the time. But you can never please all of the people all of the time.”

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