For this week's post, I’ll borrow liberally from one of my favorite movies and discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly of online reviews. While the most popular places for reviews may change over the years, the underlying concept of consumers telling other consumers about their experience is not going to go away. Here are some things that you should be thinking about, focused specifically on veterinary medicine.
Good: Face it: potential clients are probably going to visit your website and your Facebook page before deciding to book an appointment. They may also search a site like Yelp! because companies like Amazon.com have trained us all to “read the reviews” before we make any serious decision or make a big purchase. Whether it’s buying a car, picking a plastic surgeon, or choosing a veterinarian, reviews can be a great marketing tool because they ARE so popular. We trust other consumers more than “experts”, especially in our skeptical age, and since the overwhelming majority of your clients are happy with you, use this to your advantage. What’s especially effective is getting the 10% who absolutely LOVE you to do the talking. Their authenticity and credibility, combined with real stories, tell a powerful story about your brand.
Bad: There’s a couple ways that reviews can hurt you, or at least waste your money. One is obvious and the other, not so much. The obvious one is that a couple of bad reviews can definitely turn people away from you, so you should ideally have dozens, if not hundreds of reviews in order to present a representative view of your practice. You don’t get what you don’t ask for, so ask happy clients to post reviews about your practice!
The less obvious reason is that it’s ideal to concentrate your reviews in one location in order for them to have a cumulative effect: 60 reviews in one spot is better than 15 reviews on each of 4 sites. You can’t really control where people go to review your practice, though you can guide them toward those sites that are most relevant. Google, Yelp!, and Facebook are definitely places you want to push people to….not Intuit (i.e. DemandForce). Why? Because review sites are subject to a “power law”: unless you’re huge, nobody cares.
If you’re using an outside provider to help you with reviews, do this exercise with me.
- Search your practice name on Google.
- Find where your reviews are being shown. If it’s DemandForce, for example, look for the entry with demandforce.com in it.
- If your reviews are not in the top 4 returns, nobody is going to read them.
- Now look and see where Yelp! or Facebook’s entries are. Probably a lot higher, right?
I did this just now with a local practice that uses DemandForce. Their demandforce.com reviews were entry #9 on the very bottom of the page. Their Yelp! reviews were #3. Where would YOU like to be? Remember, in any search the top 3 returns get 80+% of the clicks. Being “below the fold” or, heaven forbid, at the bottom of the page is like being invisible. Stop wasting your money.
Another thing to be cautious about with certain providers is that, if you stop the service, all your reviews disappear. Not true with Yelp! or Facebook or Google. Finally, it might be tempting to want to use a provider that “scrubs” your reviews, but if potential clients see that you have, say, a 99.8% average with no negative reviews, they’ll be skeptical. Wouldn’t you?
Ugly: There are definitely crazy people out there who are disempowered for whatever reason so when they get bent out of shape, they decide to make their voice heard. They can’t just be upset, they want to try and punish you. Sound familiar?
I don’t think you should fear these clients, but you can’t ignore them. As any crisis management expert will tell you, you must get out in front of the issue. Stonewalling is the worst thing you can do. React calmly, quickly, and professionally to anybody who has posted something negative about you or your hospital. Use phrases like, “I’m sorry we didn’t live up to your expectations….” or “We didn’t see it that way and I’m sorry if we upset you….” Whatever you do, don’t get into an argument over email with someone. When it comes to arguing with clients, I’m reminded of the old phrase about wrestling with a pig: you’ll never win, you’ll end up really dirty, and the pig likes it.
In summary, the key to reviews is monitoring and managing them in real-time and, in order to do that, you have to have a tool that makes this easy. BeyondIndigo has a pretty cool dashboard-like product that allows you to keep tabs on what people are saying about you and where they’re saying it. As important as review management is, assign this to one of your teammates as part of their regular job.