“I got a bad patient review; what do I do?”
Dr. Len Tau hears this question every day. It’s why he’s known as The Reviews Doctor, and created his class “OMG I got a bad review: what do I do?” In his interview on The Margin Line, Dr. Tau shares his tips for handling a bad patient review, why a bad review isn’t the end all, and what dentists can do to prevent them in the future.
Why do patients leave bad reviews?
Most of the time negative reviews are about avoidable areas where the practice can learn and improve from the mistakes made—often covering customer service, finances, or the practice running late.
Patients do not know if a dentist did bad dentistry, and very few reviews are written about the dental experience. If you think about it, one of the only ways a patient knows they got bad dental work is by being told by another dentist.
And while having a positive online reputation is important for dental practices, a perfect, 5-star rating can create credibility issues when patients are searching for a dental practice (a good score is between 4.6 and 4.9). This brings us to our first point:
1. Don’t panic
A bad review is akin to breaking the end of a file during endo—at some point, it just happens. It’s a normal part of running a business, and if you’ve been practicing dentistry long enough, you’re bound to get a negative review. Take a few deep breaths before acting.
2. Don’t respond online
While this decision is certainly up to the dental practice and a case-by-case situation, responding to the review on a public forum has strong risk factors of enhancing the visibility of the issue—such as if the patient reacts negatively to your response. A phone call is private and more personalized.
3. Reach out directly
The dentist themself should reach out to the patient to talk through the issue and help find solutions. This shows the dentist’s investment in the patient’s experience and often helps smooth over any conflicts the patient may have had with the office’s staff or administration.
4. Apologize (yes, apologize!)
The dentist should let the patient know that they are sorry the experience happened, and that they take feedback seriously. Ask them “What can we do to address the issue?” Bad reviews often stem from a desire to be listened to, and most of the time the patients will take the reviews down or better yet, follow-up about the positive response.
5. Learn from the review
Patient reviews can provide an objective observation of how the dental practice is running. Oftentimes a negative review can highlight a real issue taking place within the dental practice. No business is perfect, and it’s integral to keep learning about your patients as you continue to grow your dental practice.
How can your dental practice avoid negative reviews?
In order to stay ahead of negative reviews, it’s important to build a “reputation culture” within the dental practice, where the staff knows that every single patient is encouraged to rank their experience. When the staff is invested in their dental practice’s reputation, and are aware that they are being graded, they are more likely to perform with their best foot forward. And the patient knows they are being heard in the chair and needn’t complain in a public forum for attention.