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Why Responding to Patient Reviews Matters to Your Brand

Most consumers expect responses to online reviews within days. Learn how your responsiveness to reviews can impact your brand experience.

Aside from the brand experience itself, 30% of survey respondents in a 2017 BrightLocal survey said that a business’ reply to a review was an important factor in doing future business with that brand.

Why Do Review Responses Matter?

In May 2018, Google made a particularly bold move to alert reviewers of business responses to star ratings and reviews on Google My Business profiles. And recent studies indicate that many users on the web expect a response from an organization or company after leaving a review.

A 2016 survey from GetFiveStars found that more than 50% of consumers expect responses within days of a reviewing a business, and with Google’s recent change that notifies Google reviewers of business replies, this means your brand’s reputation is tied directly to your responsiveness.

Miriam Ellis, a Moz Local team member, said this change “signals a major turning point in consumer expectations,” with Google becoming more interactive in their Google My Business experience than ever before.

Our takeaway? While reviews are still an engine for patients, visitors, and community members to leave feedback for healthcare organizations, they’re also expecting acknowledgment in return. So, from your inside-healthcare-organization perspective, how should you respond?

Respond to the Negative…Always

Reviewers aren’t generally looking for a handout, such as a free night’s stay at a hotel or a free meal at a restaurant. By and large, they just want to be heard. And in healthcare, it’s crucial for reviewers to point out that they felt uncared for in a vulnerable or sensitive time.

It’s best not to fall into the mindset of ignoring negative reviews or assuming a guest or patient is just hard to please.

At the end of the day, it’s important for your patients, visitors, families, and community members to feel heard when they raise the red flag of concern. Acknowledgment of their review and an apology for a less-than-positive experience is a great place to start.

If you have a customer service team available by phone that might be poised to listen to a reviewer who wants to provide detail about their concern, offer a phone number or email address in the reply. You can also reach out via direct message if the feedback came from social media, such as Facebook.

If You Can Offer an Olive Branch, Do It

In healthcare, organizations often don’t have the luxury of providing coupons for a free round of immunizations, but you could offer a discount at the cafeteria or gift shop gift card on their next visit.

But be warned: Only offer something if it’s been agreed upon in your organization as a potential solution. An olive branch is a nice way to keep your brand positive in the eyes of your trusted patients and visitors, but offering coupons or products are only appropriate if that’s the direction your brand wants to take.

Yes, Respond to Your Positive Reviews, Too

Don’t let happy patients and visitors go unnoticed, especially in light of Google’s recent changes.

For anyone who reaches out on Google, Facebook, or other online review methods to send a thank-you for a positive experience, take a moment to thank them for sharing their thoughts. Like the less-than-positive feedback, it’s an opportunity to learn about what you’re doing, and in this case, what you’re doing right.

And don’t forget: It’s also a helpful way to recognize people inside your building who are going above and beyond to provide a great experience and who may be mentioned in these positive reviews. Sharing their story on social media goes a long way in your community and can act as a valuable vehicle for staff recruitment, too.

Great experiences with brands – whether in your building or through a review response — also lead to word-of-mouth recommendations from your patients and visitors. And these folks make great brand ambassadors in your community and online.

Moz’s Ellis recommends that businesses of all kinds increase the number of positive reviews to which to respond. In 2016, she suggested that organizations express gratitude for at least 10% of favorable reviews. But with Google’s recent rollout, she recommends responding to as many as you can.

“As more customers begin to expect responsiveness,” Ellis says, “failure to acknowledge praise could feel uncaring.”

Monitor and Manage What’s Being Said – in Both Directions

Are there recent complaints about the cafeteria food? Does parking always seem to be an issue? Does one facility seem to get more complaints about the check-in process than others? See if there’s a trend in the comments and follow up with the appropriate staff.

The same goes for positive reviews. Do visitors continually feel welcome by a certain front desk volunteer? Reach out and recognize that person for doing a great job.

Noting trending topics – positive or negative – can be a great way to gauge what your organization is doing well – and where you need to improve. The positive notes are also helpful in distinguishing your competitive advantages from other hospitals or systems in the area.

It’s wise, too, to manage your online reputation. Don’t only track what’s being said, but make sure your organization has a strategy for how to respond. You may have the opportunity to create some “standard” replies to reviews that suffice until custom follow up is complete.

Use All Reviews as a Learning Tool

Everyone has heard the adage that “Not everyone is going to like you,” but with user reviews, it’s less about being liked and more about learning what you could improve. Use every review as a learning tool to see what your brand perception is in the community outside of your own walls.

Why Responding to Patient Reviews Matters to Your Brand