You bust your hump every day to have an award-worthy dental practice and spend significant funds to market it online. You’re even going out of your way to get more reviews for your dental practice. Then what happens? With a few keystrokes, an online troll dumps a devastating negative review on one of your profiles that threatens to wipe out all of your efforts. Ouch! Don’t panic! All businesses will get negative reviews- especially ones who are winning the marketing game. Here’s what to do next.

Key Points to Remember

How should dentists respond to a negative review? Remember these key points:

  • All great businesses get some negative reviews. Don’t panic.
  • Usually, you want to respond to reviews.
  • Your cool, collected response makes the reviewer sound crazy.
  • Respond to positive reviews, first personally and then online.
  • Don’t cross HIPAA lines.
  • We are here to help!

Where the review popped up and what was said will dictate what you can and should do in response to the review. You cannot take the same approach on each platform since they all have different standards, processes, and online cultures attached to them.

animated troll laughing at computer

Inaction is Inadvisable

In all but the rarest circumstances, it’s best to respond to an online review. People who look at reviews are used to seeing negative reviews. By responding, you show these prospective patients that you care about how your patients feel about their experience at your office.

However, if the review is off-the-rails crazy, on some platforms (especially Yelp) you may actually make things worse by responding because it will give the review more credibility and visibility. We will help you to identify the reviews that are okay to leave alone.

Be Cool
It’s incredibly difficult, but you have to try to leave emotions at the door. If you’re the doctor, you shouldn’t be responding to your own reviews. It’s almost impossible to resist fighting back online when you feel attacked. Let someone else (like your online reputation management team at Pro Impressions Marketing ) respond for you.

Most of these REVIEWS HAVE ALL CAPS and lots of exclamation marks!!!!!! They are posted by emotionally compromised individuals who are venting. You have an opportunity to be calm and collects and let the rage-fueled unhinged tone of the review make you look like a true professional.

Report Inappropriate or Fraudulent Reviews

If a review is posted that you can’t tie to an actual patient of record, depending on the platform, we may be able to report the review as fraudulent or containing a conflict of interest. This doesn’t usually get the review taken down.

If the review contains inappropriate language or hate speech we can usually get the review taken down.

If you feel that a review can be reported, do not respond to the review until we have flagged the review on the platform and given the review company enough time to review our claim. Responding to the review too early may make the review more likely to stick.

Pick Up the Phone

If you know who posted the review, after a cooldown period of 5-7 days, it’s okay to call the patient. The cooldown period provides you and the patient some time to let emotions settle so that the conversation is more productive. It may be better to have someone other than the doctor call, but having the doctor call can be more effective because reviews are usually criticisms of the doctor. When confronted with the human who they criticized, patients frequently choose to remove their review once they know that the doctor is aware of the situation.

Call and, if they have the guts to answer your call, use an inquisitive approach to seek to understand why they would say what they said. Let your tone communicate that the words were very hurtful. Bring to light any inaccuracies, half-truths, and all-out lies but do so without invalidating their emotions. Perception is a reality for the patient.

Be sure to speak accurately with incontrovertible statements. Instead of inflammatory emotional responses like, “You’re a damn liar!”, favor statements like, “ I feel like your review is libelous and that you’re hurting my online reputation with baseless accusations.” No one can say that you don’t feel what you say you’re feeling but they can say, “No, I’m not a liar!”

Explain that you want to do everything within your power to make the situation right (within reason, whatever you feel is appropriate). Close the conversation with a polite request that the patient removes the online review but do not make threats that will inflame the situation further.

Responding Online and Turn the Negative into a Positive

Again, all dentists will eventually get negative reviews, especially if they are being aggressive in their marketing and getting a lot of exposure online and higher new patient volume. When a negative review pops up, we can turn this negative outcome into a positive by turning our response into a cleverly crafted marketing message.

Each negative point in the review is a marketing opportunity. Here an example:

Rating: 1 out 5 ⭐

I had a lot of pain in my mouth and went to see this office in January. The doctor said the pain was due to TMJ and recommended an upper mouth splint for $2600 and the office visit was $300 after insurance. I agreed to pre-pay for it set up an appt for the following week to get it done. Over the weekend my pain got a lot worse and I could barely eat. I went to get a second opinion the other dentist said I had an infection in one tooth and a tiny crack in another tooth so I had to get an emergency root canal. After that, my pain went away so I called this dentist to cancel my appointment and get a refund for my treatment. They said they didn’t misdiagnose anything and would only refund me part of the fee. The other dentist I saw was very skeptical that just a TMJ splint was $2900 after insurance. Do not trust this dentist. The staff was nice so I don’t blame them but don’t get anything done here.

Here’s how I would respond:

Thank you for your review. We love to help patients identify the cause of jaw pain and dysfunction in their bite that can cause the issues described in this review. A bad bite can weaken teeth, cause cracks that eventually become painful, and require a root canal or even extraction if the tooth is so far gone and bone loss has occurred. This doesn’t have to be the case for the rest of the teeth! We protect teeth by treating the source of the dysfunction. This eliminates jaw pain, headaches and migraines, neck pain, and other TMD symptoms and also prevents damage to teeth and bone loss in the jaw. Not all dentists have the focused training and experience that we do which allows us to provide the treatments we offer. Many of our patients see a dentist for their hygiene appointments and the occasional filling but trust their TMJ care to our doctor. They love the results! It’s sad that we did not have the opportunity to do that in this case. Please contact our office so that we can help you protect your oral health.

See how I went item by item and addressed the attacks in a way that was informative and professional?

  • Don’t trust this dentist? > Well, hundreds of people trust us!
  • Another dentist said I am getting ripped off? > We are a different kind of office and provide services that you can’t get anywhere else!

I didn’t get into the details of the refund because that would only turn the situation into a he-said, she-said story that would not enhance my marketing and online reputation.

HIPAA Concerns

There are different schools of thought on what you can and can’t say online. You certainly don’t want to disclose details of a patient’s care, especially if they aren’t details that the patient didn’t mention in their review. Instead, you can reply to reviews with a general approach, saying what is typical in your care and the types of symptoms that you see on a regular basis. Some people feel that you shouldn’t even respond to reviews because it acknowledges that the individual came to your office and therefore you’re disclosing that they are a patient. I don’t believe that this would EVER hold up in court and is unlikely to generate a claim of a HIPAA breach on its own. Just keep your nose clean in the other areas of your response and you should be okay. You may want to run this article by your attorney if you’re still concerned.

You Can Do This And We Are Here To Help!

You have probably received notifications about negative reviews. Or perhaps you found us by other means. In either case, you can track your reviews and respond to them on Google and other platforms. Whenever possible, we want to help you respond to these reviews so that you don’t have to. We help our online reputation management clients respond to reviews all the time, but you can do it yourself too. To whatever extent you need help, we love to help dentists respond to both positive and negative reviews. These responses show the search engines and prospective patients that your office is a trustworthy, active, savvy business that cares about the people who you serve. We are honored to be part of this effort!

If you’re a dentist, consider the membership options available to you in our marketing packages here. We’re ready to help you stop wasting time and money on marketing that doesn’t work, and that includes the headaches that can come with negative reviews! Schedule a consultation or call us at (970) 672-1212.