Exactly what to do when you get a negative online review
No dental practice is perfect. When you get a negative review, take this strategic approach to show patients that you can handle criticism responsibly.
YOU CAN’T PLEASE EVERYBODY, and there’s no better evidence of that than online review sites. Nearly anyone who works with the public has, at some point, had to deal with a bad review of their business.
And suffice it to say, we all deal with these reviews in our own ways.
Recently, a Manhattan woman posted scathing reviews of gynecologist Joon Song, MD, on sites like Healthgrades, Yelp, and Zocdoc. Her reviews leaned toward exaggeration and generalizations. They accused the doc of “very poor and crooked business practice.”1 Not taking this sitting down, Dr. Song turned around and sued her for around $1 million in damages plus legal fees, even after she removed the reviews.1
In my opinion, this is a terrible way to handle a bad review. It can do permanent damage to your brand that could prevent you from selling your practice in the future. It’s just a bad way to handle it when there are much better options available. For the less litigious among us, let’s talk about other ways to handle a negative review.
The very first thing you should do . . .
OK, so you’ve seen a negative review pop up—and it’s bad. The reviewer rants, raves, and maybe even takes some cheap shots. What’s the first thing you should do?
In my recent chat with Joshua Austin, DDS, in our Beyond the Chair series, his biggest recommendation is to “not take it personally. Then, just wait.”
We’re all human. It’s natural to feel insulted, attacked, angry, and humiliated from a bad review. After all, this is somebody commenting in a public forum. So, take some time and get some space. Dr. Austin recommends 24–48 hours to get past that initial reaction and regain a larger perspective. Then, go back and reread the review. What’s the fundamental message behind it? Did the person feel mistreated or ignored? Did he or she have a legitimate complaint that could—and should—be addressed?
Contact the patient and open a dialogue
If there is an issue that should be addressed, consider contacting the patient to start a dialogue. You’re not calling to apologize, necessarily, but rather to politely address the problem. Start by listening to what the patient has to say. Acknowledge the patient’s feelings.
Most issues can be handled by letting the other side express what caused the problem. Try to turn a negative into a positive and, if possible, offer a remedy.
“Let crazy be crazy”
The thing about review sites is that some people are just miserable and unhappy and looking for a place to dump. Unfortunately, sometimes you, your staff, and your practice are the target. Dr. Austin’s response to this? “Let crazy be crazy.” Simply let that reviewer say what he or she has to say. Then take the high road. Leave a response that’s not based in anger or retaliation. Write something that displays (especially to others who would read the response) that you’re a reasonable and respectable service provider. Show that the reviewer is the one who’s not to be trusted.
Should I ask a patient to delete a review?
Probably not. Do your best to provide solutions and create a dialogue. When patients truly feel listened to, they will likely adjust their reviews on their own. If they don’t, you have the option to petition the site owner to remove it on the basis that it violates the site’s terms of service.
No matter what road you take, remember that a few bad online reviews that are set against a sea of positive ones will fade into the background. Most of the time, they add validity to the hundreds of positive reviews. Patients understand everyone can have a bad day. That’s what makes us human. Focus on providing a positive experience to your patients, and this will come through in the reviews.
Author’s note: It’s in your best interest to encourage patients to leave positive reviews on your Google business page, but there’s a right way to do it. To learn how, watch our Beyond the Chair video series, produced in conjunction with Dental Economics and featuring Chris Salierno, DDS, and Joshua Austin, DDS. Find it at localsearchfordentists.com/beyondthechairseries.
1. Doctor sues patient for $1 million for posting negative reviews online. CBS News website. https://www.cbsnews.com/news/doctor-sues-patient-for-1-million-for-posting-negative-reviews-online/. Published May 30, 2018.
Graig Presti is founder and CEO of four-time Inc. 500/5000-recognized company Local Search for Dentists (LSFD). Located in Austin, Texas, LSFD helps dentists all over the world gain dominance in their local markets through the company’s proprietary dental marketing systems. LSFD’s systems have helped dentists achieve more freedom, greater new patient numbers, and the ability to reach their income goals. Learn more at