In this month’s edition of the Economic Journal features a study performed by U.C. Berkeley Professors Michael Anderson and Jeremy Magrude looking at the relationship between online ratings and customers’ purchasing decisions.
The professors studied the effects that positive online reviews had on 300 San Francisco restaurants on Yelp.com.
Their research found that restaurants with higher ratings, or that saw an improvement in a star rating were more likely to be busy at peak dining times. This would only stand to reason, but what they found interesting was that if a restaurant’s rating went up by even half of one star, the restaurant saw in improvement in patron visits.
One restaurant saw a review improvement cause their 7 p.m. reservations to sell out for more than a third of the evenings they were open for dinner. Which meant that many restaurant customers used real-time local search data when deciding where they wanted to eat.
The study points to an ever-increasing fact that more people are using online review sites and the Internet to influence their decisions about where they will spend their money. And if they discover that the online restaurant review was relatable to their experience, then they are more likely to believe subsequent online reviews about other businesses as well, including their local dentist.
A recent German study asked 287 doctors about the Internet’s impact on their practice and their online-connected patients. 80% of the doctor respondents felt that dealing with Internet-informed patients increased their need to be better-informed, Internet savvy doctors as well.
Doctors see that younger patients who access the Internet as part of everything they do in their daily lives are much more involved in their healthcare choices and are generally better informed.
This growing demographic, known as “Generation Y” was born between 1978 and 2000 and places their age in the 12 – 34 range. Their passion for using technology as part of their every waking moment is only going to increase over time as technology advances make this easier and easier to do.
In the past, dental patients gathered all of their information about a local dentist from neighbors, co-workers and Yellow Pages advertisements. They often naturally accepted the idea that their dentist was the best dentist in town — without question.
Now, dental patients can research their local dentist online, explore different dental treatment options, and compare the average cost for those treatments with dentists across the U.S. They can also look up what people are saying about their dentist online — from complete strangers – not just their family and friends and relate that information to the experiences they’ve had with your dental practice.
And as much as some dentists want to resist Internet advances, it is better to accept this ever-increasingly, Internet-savvy next generation and jump into the fray by insuring that you are optimizing all the different social media channels and managing your reputation with online review sites.
I would argue that the main reason dental patients look to the Internet for information is because they are not certain about their decision and are looking for more reliable data. Your dental practice website, your social media presence (especially with Google + Local) and your management of your reputation with online review sites can be the place where they find the information and reassurance they are searching for online.
Don’t leave their decisions to random Internet search results. If patients can go online and find out about their dentist, their symptoms and the information they are searching for from your dental website and various social media channels, then you’ve already developed trust before they pick up the phone to make an appointment.
You’ve made their life easier and you’ve let them know that you are a dentist who is up to date on the latest dental treatments and you are reaching out to where they are hanging out to let them know that you are the best dentist in town.
Economists predict that the availability of healthcare information online will actually cause people to reach out and schedule more health maintenance appointments, which should actually increase the demand for healthcare providers such as dentists.
As this demand continues to grow, dentists should be prudent in their engagement with patients online, providing them with the information they are seeking and establishing that doctor-patient relationship before they ever step into your waiting room.