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A Step-by-Step Guide to Managing Your Dental Practice’s Online Reputation

Whether you like it or not, your patients are leaving reviews about your dental practice online.

You can either stick your head in the sand and imagine it isn’t happening or take an active approach to managing reviews.

It doesn’t take a lot of time to take control of your online reputation. Just follow this simple five-step process and you’ll be well on your way to growing your practice via online referrals.

Step 1: Assess Your Current Standing

It only takes a few minutes to find out what someone researching your practice will find online. Simply Google your name and the name of your practice, brace yourself and read through every review linked on the first few pages of search results. You might be shocked to find out that you’ve been reviewed on sites that you didn’t even know existed!

But the general idea here is to figure out how your reputation stands right now. Based off what you’ve read, would you book an appointment at your practice?

If yes, that’s great. If no, you’ll need to figure out immediately why patients are leaving you poor reviews. Are you simply not pushing for enough positive reviews, or are there legitimate issues that need to be addressed? Look for patterns and do some soul searching to determine whether some of the complaints are legitimate and need to be addressed.

Step 2: Claim & Complete Business Pages

Fortunately or unfortunately, depending on your point of view, your most relevant reviews will be concentrated on just a few portals. Yelp currently dominates the local review market, so the bulk of your efforts should be concentrated there.

Be sure to claim your Yelp Business Page and flesh out your listing. Fill up the description fields and add plenty of great photos. Do the same for Google My Business.

Claiming your pages gives you more control over what prospective patients read when researching your practice and improves the search rankings for your review pages.

If you’re active on Facebook or have a large social media following elsewhere, you’ll want to actively manage reviews on those platforms, too.

Step 3: Respond to All Reviews

One of the biggest mistakes dental offices make when dealing with reviews is only focusing on damage control. Responding to positive reviews is just as effective at improving your online reputation as it’s essentially free advertising and works to build patient loyalty.

How to respond to positive reviews:

  • Always thank patients for taking the time to write a review.
  • Highlight one or two positive comments to reinforce these points: We’re glad to hear that you had a pain free experience and that you appreciated the free WiFi in the waiting room!
  • Do NOT cut and paste responses. Write a personal note to every patient.

How to respond to negative reviews:

  • Never get on the defensive, even if the complaint is simply not true.
  • Be sympathetic and courteous, and thank them for the feedback.
  • Suggest that the reviewer call you directly to discuss their dissatisfaction.
  • Offer a solution that will prevent problem issues from happening in the future: Thank you for letting us know that our wait times are unreasonable. We understand this inconvenience and are installing new booking software to improve our scheduling efficiency.

Important: Remember that a dental practice is different from a standard business. You are legally required to protect all patients’ identities, and posting anonymously online does not constitute a waiving of these rights. Never post any personal details when responding to a review.

Step 4: Drive More Positive Reviews

The reality of working with the public means that some negative reviews will come in no matter what you do. Instead of attempting the impossible, point your efforts towards encouraging more happy customers to leave a review:

  • Simply ask. Thank you so much for choosing XYZ Dental, if you had a positive experience today with us we’d really appreciate a review online.
  • Send a link to preferred review sites via follow-up email.
  • Add a call to action [Review Us Online!] button to your website.
  • Periodically post a link to your review page on social media. Sharing positive reviews via social media is another great way to subtly remind happy customers that you really do care about those reviews!

Step 5: Train Staff to Nip Complaints in the Bud

Not to pass the buck here, but most negative dental reviews cover issues that happen outside of your chair. Train your staff to notice the early signs that a patient may be frustrated, angry or scared. Often a simple, “You look upset, can I help you with something?” goes a long ways towards avoiding a negative review. Even in cases where your staff can’t solve the problem, showing concern and compassion can deescalate the situation.

Pro Tip: The ADA sells a dentistry-specific Practical Guide to Internet Marketing. When you’re ready to up your game, consider purchasing a copy.