How to Respond to Reviews About Your Business

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Have you heard the saying, “What happens on the Internet, stays on the Internet”? It sounds scary, and it’s enough to make most reasonable people think twice about what to post and what to share online.

As a business owner, you already know not to get caught on camera yelling at the referee at your son’s little league game. But what you might not have considered is what people see first when they search Google for a local business.

Reviews are often the first things someone sees when they Google a business. When a patient or client shares a positive or negative experience about your office, what they write is usually there to stay forever.

While protecting your reputation and avoiding negative reviews is a priority, it’s impossible to please everyone all of the time. If you’ve been in business for any length of time, there’s bound to be someone out there who has either left you a bad review or will in the future.

What you might not have realized or considered is that you can respond to your reviews, whether they’re on Google, Yelp, or social media. In fact, you should reply to all of your reviews. Here’s why:

  • You get to share your side of the story
  • It proves that there’s a human element to your business
  • You show future and current patients that you take their feedback seriously
  • It’s the right thing to do, especially if your client or patient has made a valid point

If you haven’t responded to your Google reviews before, you might also be wondering how to do it. Here’s a simple 4-step process:

  1. Sign in to Google My Business at business.google.com
  2. On the left side of the screen, you’ll see a list of menu options.
  3. Click Reviews. You’ll see all of your reviews appear with a Reply button.
  4. Click to reply and type your message.

Most of your reviews are going to be positive, especially if you encourage your satisfied patients to leave a review. We’ll discuss later how to respond to those.

You can learn more about Google Reviews here.

In the meantime, here are our recommendations for responding to reviews from unhappy clients.

How to Respond to Negative Reviews

Think Before You Respond

When you first read a negative review, you’ll probably feel like you’ve been punched in the stomach or had the wind knocked out of you. Once you recover from the shock, the anger is bound to kick in. After all, you and your staff go above and beyond to make every customer feel like a VIP. How could someone say anything to the contrary?

Instead of running over to the keyboard and typing a scathing response to the customer’s complaint, we suggest taking some deep breaths and rereading what your customer said about you or your business. Did they point out something that’s accurate? Did they identify an area where you could improve? Was your office manager simply having a bad day? Or maybe your customer was upset about something else, and you were the most convenient thing to take aim at?

The key takeaway here is to take stock of what the patient has said and look within to see if they’ve identified something that you can improve.

Tip: After you draft your response, walk away from the keyboard for a while. Take a walk or a break. Then, review your wording with a fresh perspective before submitting it. 

Respond Promptly

The longer you wait to acknowledge and reply to the review, the more people are bound to see it and only get one side of the story.

Though we said to think before you respond, that doesn’t mean to take several days to stew over what you’ll say. We recommend drafting and submitting your reply within 24 hours. Not only does that signal to prospective patients that you take any complaints seriously, but it also increases your chances of salvaging the relationship with the patient that left the negative review.

Apologize

We’ve all been taught that the customer is always right. And it’s still true today, even if they aren’t. What we mean by that is even if the customer is being unreasonable or downright mean, there’s still something that happened to them in your office that made them upset.

Though you can’t expect everyone to be pleased all the time, you may be able to sympathetically acknowledge their dissatisfaction and repair the relationship, even if you believe their review isn’t fair.

We recommend drafting each response with the three A’s:

Appreciate: Thank them for bringing the issue to your attention

Acknowledge: Identify what caused the complaint

Apologize: Offer a genuine apology

For example, if a customer left you a negative review because they were kept unattended in the waiting room for several minutes, you could begin your response by saying something like: “Hi, Karen. Thank you for sharing this experience with us. We never like to keep our customers waiting, and I am so sorry that you had to wait longer than normal.”

We’ll also discuss the importance of adding a solution so that patients know your apology isn’t just lip service.

Customize Each Response

If you haven’t replied to your reviews in the past and you have several built up, it can be tempting to draft a single response and copy it. For example, if you were short-staffed for a week and other people besides Karen (in the above example) expressed displeasure about long wait times, resist the urge to copy and paste the response. Instead, treat each situation and review as unique and craft a custom message for each one.

Keep It Short

Depending on the nature of the review, you might have a lot to say. However, we strongly recommend keeping your response to no longer than one paragraph. The main reason for this guideline is that people simply aren’t going to read a long story, especially if they’re searching for an office near them on their mobile phone and they’re skimming reviews.

It’s imperative that potential patients read your responses and keeping them short and to-the-point increases your chances of that happening.

Another reason to avoid a lengthy reply is that it can make your office come across as argumentative. There’s not much that needs to happen in your reply other than acknowledging the issue, apologizing for the person’s experience and offering a solution. If the content of the original review was lengthy and covered a lot of points, you don’t need to address each one.

Instead, we recommend a singular acknowledgment and apology with an offer to make it right. Then include a call to action to contact you directly. That keeps the argument off the internet and invites the patient to speak to you one-on-one or come into your office for an in-person discussion and resolution.

For example, in the case of Karen who’s mad because she had to wait, you could finish your reply to her review by saying something along the lines of, “I’d love to see you in our office again, and I personally promise that you’ll be seen right away. Please call us at 555.123.4567 to schedule your next appointment, and I’ll make sure you have the VIP experience that you deserve.”

Maintain a Professional Tone and Proofread

This one may seem obvious, but in the heat of the moment, we might not realize how our tone sounds in writing. Plus, a typo or misspelling immediately reduces credibility. Before submitting your reply, we suggest having a trusted member of your staff proofread what you’ve written, checking it for any mistakes and giving it a once over to ensure the tone is on par with the message you’ve intended.

It can also help to read your reply aloud to ensure that it makes sense and addresses your patient’s complaint appropriately.

Don’t Make Excuses (or Point Blame)

We are all human, and everyone is entitled to a bad day. If Karen was kept waiting because you had food poisoning, you don’t need to explain that you ate something at lunch that didn’t agree with you and had to spend some extra time in the restroom.

Don’t throw anyone under the proverbial bus in the process, either. Avoid blaming your office staff for not keeping Karen updated about the wait times or not offering coffee, tea or water while she was waiting.

Offer a Solution

Most of the time, when people leave a review, they want to be heard, and they want you to know that they’re unhappy. In an ideal world, the patient would have called your office first to complain and work with you directly on a solution, but at least now that they’ve aired their complaint, they’re giving you a chance to make it right.

According to a Customer Service study conducted by HubSpot, 96% of people will still do business with you if you’re able to successfully resolve their issue. If your patient’s complaint was due to a misunderstanding or a one-time mistake, it should be relatively easy to fix. Again, apologize for what happened and thank the patient for taking the time to share their experience. Then get to work on offering a solution.

Often, the best course of action is to ask them to follow up with you personally so that you can provide them with what they need.

How to Respond to Positive Reviews

So far, we’ve discussed what to do when you get a negative review, but in reality, the overwhelming majority of your reviews are going to be positive. Most business owners don’t think to respond to positive reviews, but if all you do is craft replies to the negative comments, you’re missing out on an opportunity to connect with your satisfied patients. And remember, your happy patients are the ones who will refer new patients to you and also defend you against those who complain.

Also, your review page will look odd if all you do is respond to the complaints!

Positive reviews are worth their weight in gold, and we recommend responding to each and every one of them. Again, keep your replies short and sweet, and follow these guidelines:

Say Thank You

A simple thank you goes a long way. After all, your patients aren’t obligated to review you, so if they took time out of their day to write something positive about you, then they really appreciate you. Show them that the appreciation is mutual.

Acknowledge them by Name

Don’t just say, “Thanks for the review. We appreciate it!” Instead, use their name in their reply and add something personal. If John came in for teeth whitening and left you a positive review, say something like, “Thank you for the kind words, John! Happy to hear that your smile is dazzling everyone you meet!”

Don’t Try to Sell Anything

Some people struggle with compliments. Instead of a simple, “thank you,” they want to shrug off the accolades, or worse, they awkwardly fumble to find something nice to say in return. We see this frequently happens in reviews where a business owner will invite the reviewer back into their office with a coupon for a percentage off a procedure.

Instead, you could consider adding value by sharing some information they might not have known. In the case of John, who was very happy with his teeth whitening, you could remind him that the advanced procedure you used will last an extra three months, and you look forward to seeing him next time.

Conclusion

Reviews are nothing to be afraid of. If you do happen to get a less than glowing review sprinkled in with your five-star reviews from time to time, consider it an opportunity to learn and improve. Chances are that if one person complained about something, you have at least a handful of patients who thought the same thing but didn’t say anything.

By responding promptly and professionally to any complaints, you’ll be able to strengthen your practice, address issues before they become systemic, and show your patients that you’re a human being who is willing to acknowledge a mistake and make things right.

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