Whether you know it or not, your practice has public facing profiles which exist online thanks to Google, Facebook, and a whole variety of public directories including Yellow Pages and other related Health Service Portals. Why is this? There are large volumes of consumers searching online, and content providers are trying to sell you advertising to promote your business in places that may generate interest for your services.
This creates a challenge for healthcare providers such as optometry practices because your reputation is now subject to public and often-anonymous commentary which is outside the realm of the typical patient-practitioner relationship. On the positive side, online review sites encourage transparency, authenticity, and a community of openness with regards to user experience and feedback to represent the consumer voice. However, it is much more likely to be used as a platform for an unhappy customer to vent their frustrations, and this has very big implications for the online reputation of your practice.
Word-of-mouth is now online
We have never seen a particularly good way of tracking word-of-mouth via traditional marketing methods. There are new digital marketing tools to track your new patient enquiries which makes online reviews a very powerful amplifier to your practice marketing initiatives. A simple “Like”, “Share” or “Comment” can propel your practice into the newsfeeds of dozens or even hundreds of new potential customers. This is why it is important to have your digital profiles looking their best because this new audience will be quick to evaluate you based on your online presence.
The best safeguard against receiving online reviews which reflect your practice in a negative light is to clearly map out a process to ensure patient satisfaction. We like to be optimistic that all reviews will be inherently positive, but we have observed that far to often a single negative review is the only one that is visible. Give these existing patients a chance to share their dissatisfaction with you before they consider putting in the public forum. A simple post-visit feedback form can open the dialog after the patient has left the practice and give them the chance to express themselves with regards to things needing improvement. A constructive feedback step integrated into your patient journey processes is the easiest way to capture this important feedback early, and even better, take steps to remedy the situation to rebuild the relationship.
There are many unscrupulous types that crawl the internet looking for opportunities. It’s possible that your pages may be targeted with Spam reviews, which may be used to attempt to sell you services to correct or remove them. The major sites Google and Facebook will generally take care of these automatically with their flagging system, so generally just ignore and report any un-authentic reviews related to your practice, and certainly do not engage with any companies offering to “fix” this for you, as it’s part of the scam.
Do not try to fake your reviews
In a similar light, do not try to game the system to make your practice look good with all 5 star ratings. Hiring a company to “get you reviews” will trigger flags with the search engines to penalise you in the search engine rankings
The same applies for staff/friends that review your business with the intention of leaving glowing reviews. Did you know that the big review sites like Google and Facebook track your IP address to know who is submitting the review? If you have multiple reviews being submitted from the same IP address, this is a red-flag for the review providers and means you miss out on the real benefits of being on top of the search engine results.
Getting all 5-star reviews is actually a sign to the search engines that your practice does not yet have enough reviews. If you think about it from the patient’s point of view, you are likely looking for a range of feedback and comments related to a business, not just the glowing generic comments, such as “Fantastic Service”, “Definitely Recommend” and so on… it becomes more about “why”. A score of 4 and above is generally a positive factor in search engine ranking, and paints a much more authentic and credible picture of the service your practice provides.
Aside from the real benefit of capturing patient feedback to help reinforce what your practice does well, and where it can improve, online reviews are very important to rank highly in Google.
A recent change to the Google search algorithm now displays businesses with a good online review rating above other relevant listings. This could make the difference between getting nearly all the new patient enquiries for a local area, versus getting none.
In Australia, there are industry guidelines and codes of conduct for Optometrists as referenced by the AHPRA. You can not use testimonials in your advertising, and hence can not display your patient reviews on your website or other social media pages that you manage. This does not change the importance of implementing patient review processes for your practice, as these reviews will live on whether you use them for your own marketing purposes or not. For Australia – we recommend to focus on Google as the review destination for your happy patients.
For New Zealand, there are no restrictions, and Optometry professionals can embrace the full complement of tools and strategies to position their practice for success in the digital world.
Contact us for any questions relating to Patient Reviews, Patient Feedback Mechanisms, and Practice NPS processes.
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