Over the past few months, I have read an increasing number of articles describing a new trend in which businesses sue customers for posting negative online reviews. Whether the plaintiffs are hoping to win damages or simply silence their critics, it seems to me that these businesses have a gross misunderstanding about the value of customer reviews (and the importance of listening to customers).
For the most part, the articles I have seen have not mentioned the healthcare industry – that is, until I came across a story about a San Francisco Doctor who sued his patient for posting a negative online review on Yelp. The doctor claimed the review was libelous and caused him to suffer “loss of reputation, shame, mortification, and hurt feelings” and “injury to his business and profession.” Rather than attempting to rectify the problem and make future improvements, the physician tried to censor his patient.
Physicians, practice managers, marketers….healthcare professionals, listen up. Trying to silence negative reviews misses a valuable opportunity for us to connect with patients. It sends the message that you are more interested in covering up negative feedback than addressing it and improving your practice.
The best way to combat the power of negative reviews is to actively encourage patients who have had positive experiences to post on various social media platforms and review sites. Some practices even provide patients with detailed instructions for doing so. That way, any negative comments – though valuable – will seem inconsequential compared to the dozens of positive reviews.
Unfortunately, some negative reviews are inevitable. When you see one, resist the urge to get defensive or delete it. Instead, address the reviewer’s concerns with professionalism and kindness. Try to move the conversation offline as soon as possible. You might leave a comment on the review thanking them for taking the time to leave a review, and encouraging them to contact the office so you can hear more about their experience and learn from it in the future. Publicly acknowledging feedback shows your potential customers not only that you listen, you are eager to improve patient experience.