Dental Marketing: A Guide for Avoiding Negative Online Reviews

dentists negative online reviewsIn customer service it used to be said that an unhappy customer would tell nine to fifteen other people about their negative opinions.

Today an unhappy dental patient can influence hundreds of people by leaving a negative review on an online review website, in their Facebook stream or on Google Places.

Negative reviews can be painful, but is there a way to avoid a dental marketing disaster?

Mike Blumenthal of the Rapid Web Division of Blumenthals.com advises the following for avoiding negative reviews — I’ve adapted them for dentistry.

1- Do your follow-up.
Follow up with patients immediately after the completion of treatment with a call and/or an email to be sure that all went as planned. Identify problems early on in the cycle so that you can correct them before they become complaints.

2- Make complaining easy.
Build a culture that is truly ready to receive the complaint at every level of your practice, from the front desk to the doctor. Train your staff and train them well to not be defensive and to solve most problems immediately.

3- Respond quickly to complaints.
When you do receive a complaint, follow up quickly and try to resolve it. Nothing rankles like a dental patient stewing about your bad service like waiting for a return phone call.

4-Respond to negative reviews online.
Once the issue is resolved, circle back with the patient about the review. A recent survey has shown that an appropriate response to a negative can get the negative review removed in a third of the cases. A roughly an equal number of consumers posted a positive review after receiving a response to their bad review. Having a plan and responding appropriately to a negative review is critical to this process.

5-Never fake reviews or enter them on behalf of your patients.
It is imperative that you not provide reviewers with any trace that you are abusing your review corpus. Getting slammed by a patient review that questions your ethics calls into question your trustworthiness and integrity. It is the most difficult type of negative review to deal with, even if it is not true. Responding online to the question, “Do you beat your wife with a stick or a club?” creates a no-win situation.

6- Communicate with your local competitors.
Competitor spam reviews are becoming more common than ever. If you are on speaking terms with them, you are much less likely to fall victim to a puerile spam review attack. The reality is that other similar local practices are not the long-term determinant of your success, nor really your major competition.

Just remember that when you are dealing with a negative review, it’s important to avoid appearing sarcastic and placing blame on the patient.   Try and find out what may have set this dental patient off and see if you can prevent this from happening again in the future.

There may be a hidden opportunity in a negative review — if you handle it right — it can become a dental marketing opportunity

There is a story about an Italian restaurant that received an online negative review about their spaghetti. This lead to another negative review, and another, until the owner sat down one night and ate a plate of his spaghetti. He had to agree that his spaghetti was awful, and here he was running an Italian restaurant.

He decided to run a contest inviting people to taste different spaghetti recipes at his restaurant and vote on the one they liked best. The promotion ended up being a big success, and his restaurant ended up with a new, improved spaghetti recipe that customers loved.

He then went on to promote his restaurant as one that actively listens to what the customer wants. He turned a negative into a money-making positive, and past customers are coming back to his restaurant too.

How would you handle a negative online review?

Dental Marketing: Lawsuit Looks at Slander in Negative Online Reviews

Dental Marketing: Lawsuit Looks at Slander in Negative Online ReviewsDentists, just when you thought there was no hope for combating negative online reviews, Virginia contractor, Christopher Dietz is suing a former customer, Jane Perez for a negative online reviews she wrote on Yelp and Angie’s list.

What makes this case encouraging is that the judge has already granted Dietz a temporary injunction against Perez and has ordered the ex-client to change her online reviews.

Perez had written online that the contractor not only performed shoddy workmanship, but some of her jewelry had also disappeared. She further wrote, “Bottom line do not put yourself through this nightmare of a contractor.”

Dietz didn’t take her negative posts lightly, and sued Perez, stating that not only had he completed the job as contracted, but performed more work than was agreed upon and still has not been paid.

Deitz further contends that the negative online reviews have cost him about $350,000.00 in business.

Slander is a legal term for stating a falsehood and presenting it as true which could harm the reputation of a person or business. In the case of Perez, if contractor Dietz did not steal any jewelry (and apparently there is no police report stating that he did) then Perez could be found libel for defamation of character and Dietz would be able to collect damages.

Some might argue that the lawsuit seeks to squash Perez’s right to free speech, but freedom of speech does not protect you from the consequences of free speech.

Perez can offer an opinion like, “I was not happy with the quality of work.” But she cannot say things like “He is a ripoff artist who steals from his clients.” One statement is an opinion based on feelings the other is a statement that she’d have to provide proof that he is a “ripoff artist who has been convicted of stealing from clients.” Technically, you can’t bear false witness, so when leaving an online review, the review must stick to the facts, like “I had to wait two hours for my appointment,” or “My steak was medium when I asked for rare,” or “The toy broke the minute my son picked it up,” and so forth.

It’s been difficult for dentists, as well as business owners to get used to the idea that a dental patient or a patron can complain about their business in such a permanent, public way and the courts are scrambling to legally catch up to this new technology.

And lawsuits themselves can bring more unwanted negative publicity.

Deciding to sue can paint a dentist into a more negative light with the general public than the damage done by the negative review, but what does a dentist do if the online review is truly defamatory?

Hiring an attorney to manage the process of suing the reviewer in court can be extremely costly, so a dentist would need to weigh the costs against any revenue loss directly attributed to the negative review.

The Wealthy Dentist has advised dentists to instead use the money to initiate an aggressive Internet dental marketing campaign to counter the review. Immediately addressing the review in a calm manner can also help quickly counter what the reviewer has said.

Typically the general public does not search past page two of online search results and this is where a dental practice’s online engagement can help bury a negative review. Facebook Pages, Twitter pages, YouTube videos, and Pinterest pages all show up high in search.

If a dental practice has taken the time to develop an internet dental marketing plan for their online presence (using the dentist’s name and the dental practice name) they can fill the first page of Google with their own social media presence.

Regularly updating a blog and writing press releases can also help control what dental patients find when they search for a dental practice online.

If need be, dentists can use the money they would spend on an attorney to buy Google ad space for their dental practice covering the dental practice name, the dentist’s name and a geo-targeted search term like “North Beach dentist.” This will place the dental practice at the very top of search for a period of time. If a dental practice can push the negative review site from the first page of search with content and social media they’ve created specifically for dental patients, they can begin to counter the damage caused by a negative online review.

Recent publicity surrounding negative online review sites and their vulnerability to false negative reviews by competition, or personal vendettas have caused people to question the validity and trustworthiness of consumer review sites. Parodies like Joe Plummer’s “Real Actors Read Yelp Reviews” have further shown just how ridiculous online reviews can be and the lack of oversight by the review sites themselves.

Bodyform even got into the act by responding to a Facebook rant with a video parody making fun of the cliches surrounding women’s use of their feminine products while directly answering the review. Their humorous video response quickly went viral.

Keep in mind that a negative online review can add validity to the positive online reviews. It can make a dental practice appear more balanced and one negative online review in the mix will make most people think it was a difficult dental patient instead of a bad dental practice.

But no business should have to deal with slanderous, vindictive reviews and eventually online review sites are going to have to figure out a way to deal with the libelous reviews, regardless of anti-SLAPP. Eventually a business owner will win big over a slanderous review and online review sites will be forced to set stricter review guidelines.

Would you have sued if a dental patient made the same type of claims against your dental practice that Perez made about Deitz?

To read more about contractor Deitz’s lawsuit see: Virginia Contractor Sues Woman for $750,000 for Bad Yelp Review.

Dental Marketing: Negative Online Review Appears as a Facebook Page

negative dental page on FacebookIn the past The Wealthy Dentist has written about negative online reviews in such articles as Appeals Court Says Yes to Dentist Lawsuit Against Patient for Online Review andWhen a Dentist’s Relationship Goes Bad on the Internet — both stories about harmful dental critiques posted on review sites like Yelp and Angie’s List.

But in August of this year, Chris Cook of Bakersfield, CA, pushed negative online reviews to a new level.

It was reported in dental news site DrBicuspid.com that Mr.  Cook took his 5-year-old son to see Bakersfield pediatric dentist Edward Dove, DDS, for a tooth extraction. Mr. Cook claims Dr. Dove mistreated his son during that visit by extracting a tooth before the child was adequately sedated.

According to DrBiCuspid.com, Cook stated that his son vomited up most of the sedative, screamed, and urinated on himself while allegedly being held down by three dental assistants during the procedure.  Allegations Dr. Dove vehemently denies.

Chris Cook decided to take matters into his own hands and created the “I Hate Dr. Dove of Bakersfield” page on Facebook, attracting more than 200 members in its first 48 hours.

Luckily for Dr. Dove, Facebook does have a policy for pages with the word “hate” and considers them in strict violation of their terms of service.  They swiftly moved to shut down the dental hate page.

Cook was undaunted by the Facebook boot, turned around and created a second Facebook group page, “Bakersfield dentist DOES NOT ROCK!!!!!!!!!” which is still up and active.

Dr. Dove has handled the situation by defending his treatment in the press and pointing to his 23 years in practice without a single disciplinary action. He has chosen not to engage with Chris Cook on his Facebook page, and was quoted in Dr Bicuspid as saying, “I think my reputation will be hurt a little bit, but right now I just want to calm down,” Dr. Dove said, “This guy is going ballistic, he’s trying to smear me, and I’m getting bullied.”

But should Dr. Dove be more concerned?

Just how significant are bad reviews for the future of your dental practice?

A new survey by market analysis firm Cone, Inc., found that four out of five consumers have reversed purchase decisions based on negative reviews found on the Internet. Another survey by Ratepoint found that 40 percent of consumers indicated they are more likely to consider a local business when they respond to a negative online review.

In the case of a Facebook page being dedicated to hating a dental practice, a dentist has little recourse since the unhappy page creator would have to allow the dentist to join the group page in order to issue a response.

Dentists have had little luck in defamation lawsuits when it comes to negative online reviews since the courts tend to look upon unhappy reviews as free speech. In a recent defamation case in California, a dentist has been ordered to pay $80,000 in attorney fees to the parents who posted a negative online review.

So how do you combat something like a negative Facebook page?

By making sure your dental practice has more than one website that appears on the top pages of Google when your business (and personal) name is searched online. Also have your own Facebook page, or pages for each type of treatment you offer. Have a Twitter page and make sure your practice is listed in as many dental directories as you can find. The idea is to control what appears on the first page of Google about your dental practice. Regular press releases help with this too.

For solutions to multiple name search and directory listing go to: www.InternetDentalAlliance.com.

For more on this story see: Facebook Pulls Plug on Angry Dad’s Antidentist Page

Dental Marketing Gone Bad: Dentist Threatens Lawsuit for Negative Review

Dental Marketing Gone Bad: Dentist Threatens Lawsuit for Negative ReviewThe most costly dental marketing mistake could be threatening to sue your dental patients.  And once again, a dentist is making front-page news with her challenge against a negative dental review on Yelp.

ABC News is reporting that Stacy Makhnevich, DDS, threatened to sue dental patient Robert Allen Lee for posting critical comments about Dr. Makhnevich on Yelp and DoctorBase.

According to ABC News the problem began in 2010, when Robert Lee went into Dr. Makhnevich’s office for a scheduled dentist’s appointment. Lee claims he was in excruciating pain when he was told he had to sign a Mutual Agreement to Maintain Privacy form, before being treated. The privacy form required that Lee agree not to publish any commentary or write anything disparaging about his experience online.

Lee further states that although he was hesitant to sign this form, he was desperate to receive treatment and gave in to agreeing to sign the form.

Lee became unhappy when there was a mishap with billing his insurance company and he couldn’t get Dr. Makhnevich’s office to rectify the situation to his satisfaction, Lee wrote negative reviews about Dr. Makhnevich and her practice on Yelp and DoctorBase.

Both ABC News and Public Citizen are reporting that Makhnevich sent a letter to Lee demanding that he delete the negative posts, warning him that he violated the agreement he signed and threatened to sue him for breach of contract. Dr. Makhnevich also contacted the review sites and asked for Lee’s negative comments to be removed.

Both Yelp.com and DoctorBase refused to take down the negative reviews, but Makhneich reportedly claimed that a copyright clause gave her ownership of the negative comments. She then went on to send Lee an invoice for $100 for each day the negative remarks remained online.

Lee has now taken legal action against the doctor by filing a lawsuit in the US District Court of the Southern District of New York, accusing Stacy Makhnevich, DDS, of violating his rights as a patient by threatening him with a lawsuit for posting negative comments online.

As we have reported here on The Wealthy Dentist in the past, dentists have not been successful in court when suing patients directly for their negative online reviews. Recently in California a dentist who sued a patient now has to pay $80,000 in legal fees, not just to the patient who posted the review, but also to Yelp itself.

In the article, Dental Marketing: A Guide for Avoiding Negative Online Reviews, The Wealthy Dentist has offered dentists advice on how to handle a negative online review — and threatening to sue the patient was not listed as a viable dental marketing option.

What are your thoughts on negative online reviews and the sites that allow them?

For more on this story see: Dentist Threatens to Sue Patient for Negative Yelp Review and Doc Sued Over Attempts to Prohibit Patients From Writing Online Reviews.

Dentists Feel Online Reviews Are Extortion to Defend Reputation

Dentists Feel Online Reviews Are Extortion to Defend ReputationNegative online reviews have made headlines in the past few weeks with patients suing doctors and doctors suing Google.

It’s a hot topic among dentists who feel they have little recourse when an unflattering review is posted on sites like Yelp or DoctorBase.

The Wealthy Dentist conducted a survey asking dentists if they have experienced a negative online review.

66% of the dentist respondents answered yes to receiving a negative review with half of those experiencing a bad review more than once.

34% said they have not yet received a negative online review.

Here’s what dentists had to say about negative online reviews —

“It has become extortion to defend your reputation on line. It is too easy for your competitors to place negative postings about you.” (California dentist)

“I think this can be very detrimental to a practice.” (North Carolina dentist)

“They should not be anonymous. It wouldn’t take much for me to post negative reviews of my colleagues either representing myself as a patient, and I don’t know whether or not they have done such a thing. A completely anonymous person could completely irreparably ruin someones career with a negative post quite easily. People are extremely upset, impatient and oftentimes unrealistic these days so it could be very easy to unintentionally “tick someone off” while attempting to do the best for them. I anesthetized a gentleman yesterday who was in a great deal of pain so he could hear and understand that I could not extract his badly impacted wisdom tooth. After carefully explaining it to him after he visibly felt better, he asked “can’t you just yank it out?” This happens quite often, so if someone is going to post something negative they should put on their big boy pants and own up to it. Apparently I have someone floating around out there faceless that I will never be able to engage in any kind of problem solving.” (Florida dentist)

“I simply do not see how first amendment rights trump was is obviously extortion via slander. That is why we have small claims courts. If someone wants their money back for what was perceived as poor service, utilize the justice system. These online review websites allow the individual to be judge, jury, and executioner without fear of rebuke. Why someone would want to intentionally harm a doctor and “put them out of business” is beyond me. You think it is funny or unfortunate until it happens to you. I never in a million years would have thought being moral, ethical and always doing the right thing would bring me 2 negative reviews: one of them for telling the patient the truth and returning her money. There needs to be legislation against this. We need to act as a profession before the profession is completely destroyed.” (Suburban orthodontist)

“They are nothing more then gossips, and should be treated a such. The loyal patients, the ‘Last of the Mohicans,’ would never compromise the good name of their doctor.” (Illinois dentist)

“It’s BS because you can’t argue your case without revealing confidential patient information.” (Georgia dentist)

YELP seems to play favorites with businesses. They called me to see if I wanted to advertise. After saying no, 10 of the 12 reviews were hidden from the public. Coincidental? You decide. All 10 of these reviews were 4 and 5 stars (out of 5).” (California dentist)

“I have new patients sign a paper that they need your permission to write anything about you.” (General dentist)

“I do not like them because it is very hard to rebuke.” (Florida dentist)

“There should be some way to control this. Patients can easily post a negative review simply because you take them to collections.” (Pennsylvania dentist)

“They’re a bugger and they can’t be removed…only buried…that costs $$.” (General dentist)

“I think we should be able to see who it was who gave us the negative review and have an option to deal with the situation and have the review removed.” (Utah dentist)

“I am not too concerned by an occasional bad contact. I try to make it an opportunity to get people to call or come into the office.” (Texas dentist)

“I hate the anonymity!” (Urban orthodontist)

We also asked dentists if they answered yes to receiving a negative online review, how they handled the situation. Here’s what they said —

“I replied to it, but so far it has not be removed.” (General dentist)

“I posted a very positive response. However, I found out recently there are HIPAA issues I did not even think about in the response that I could be sued for.” (Suburban orthodontist)

“The site it appeared on allowed you to write a rebuttal. I invited people concerned by what they read to call or come by the office to discuss their concerns, meet the office team and tour the facility.” (Texas dentist)

“I added explanation to it.” (California dentist)

“I responded to patient’s review online. Patient responded and 1 star was upgraded to 3 stars. I refunded money on dissatisfied service.” (California dentist)

“I just got it. I have not yet responded. She only visited my office two times and gave me all A’s initially, but changed them 10 months later for no reason that I am aware of. Got some recommendations?” (Florida dentist)

“I didn’t know about until about 8 months later so decided to ignore it at that point.” (General dentist)

“I consulted with an attorney and wanted to claim a defamation of character lawsuit. My attorney advised me that it was not worth the effort to fight. The negative postings were on Yelp. There were two negative “Yelps” posted by two different persons, but it is fairly obvious that it is the same person posting the negative Yelp. In the end, I am doing nothing against these two negative Yelps.” (California dentist)

“I responded to the review. The person sent me an email saying a filling had fallen out — one that was done 3 months earlier at another DDS. I was out of town. Apparently this person expected me to be there for them. Not even a patient of record? (California dentist)

“I’ve ignored it. The review was so obviously not about me but a different dentist instead. I did write to the website requesting it be removed but did not receive a response. Instead I asked people to post favorable reviews about me to balance it out.” (New York dentist)

“We asked our best patients to go in and review us which sent that one bad review to the bottom of the list.” (Utah dentist)

“It was false and posted on Yelp. I called and requested it be removed. I even threatened legal action but to no avail. (General dentist)

What are your thoughts on negative online reviews? How would you handle them?

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