Your email alert dings. You’ve Got Mail! (remember when that was a thing?)
Ah look at this! A new Google review.
Let’s open it right up and see what praises someone has digitally heaped upon us…
You click the message, and much to your horror, you see one single, glaring star almost glowing on your screen.
Someone has bestowed you with one of the greatest insults in the history of the internet – the infamous one-star review. What in the heck-fire is happening here?
Yeah it’s frustrating. Of course you don’t want it. BUT here’s the thing – Bad Reviews aren’t the worst thing in the world. In fact, there are actually some benefits to having some bad reviews.
“So you’re saying I should be happy about 1-star reviews, Troy?! That’s bananas!” Of course it’s bananas. B-A-N-A-N-A-S. And no, that’s not what I’m saying.
In fact, if your review average drops to the mid-4s or below, you have serious problems.
That said, let’s talk about three ways bad reviews actually help your practice. Seriously.
1. Bad Reviews Make You Look Legit
Patients want to see a perfect 5-star review record, right?
Actually, no. According to research, a 5-star average is actually less believable than something in the 4.5 – 4.9 range.
Think about it: If you go to research a product or service, and you see nothing but glowing reviews, you might become suspicious. Why? Because it seems too good to be true.
Today’s consumers are more educated (and thus more cynical) than ever before. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
“Troy, I don’t care what the data says, I want a 5-star average no matter what. Stop being ridiculous.” Hey, I hear you.
To be clear – this doesn’t mean you should go out looking for bad reviews. And it also doesn’t mean that legitimate bad reviews should go unaddressed (we’ll get to that later). But if you get one, and your review average drops from perfect 5 to 4.9, research says that can actually work in your favor.
2. Bad Reviews Give You A Chance to Reframe
I had a client who not long ago received a 1-star review from someone who wasn’t even a patient. It was actually the driver of a patient on surgery day.
This person left the negative review on the practice’s Google page, something like “I returned at the time they told me, but they made me wait another 45 minutes before I could drive my friend home.”
At face value, that sounds bad. It sounds like the practice doesn’t value people’s time, and that they don’t keep a tight schedule.
This is where the reframing comes in.
Thankfully with most review platforms, you can respond to your reviews, positive or negative. (You should respond to both for a host of reasons that I won’t get into today).
If you take one nugget away from this essay, remember this one:
When you reply to a negative review, script the reply for everyone else who will see the review, not the reviewer.
☝️ Reread that so you don’t forget it.
Remember, if the negative review stays (meaning if the reviewer doesn’t remove it, or if you appeal and the platform doesn’t remove it), thousands of people will see the review (and its reply) over the next few years.
So it’s very important that you create context and reframe the review into a positive light.
Here’s how we did it for this particular reviewer:
> “Sally, we understand how delays can be frustrating.
> “Patient care is our top priority, and this is extremely important on surgery day. What this means is never rushing any part of the process, and taking careful time and consideration through each step of the procedure and immediate post-operative period.
> “For this reason, brief delays do occur from time to time. We appreciate your patience and apologize for any inconvenience.”
Now if someone reads the review and the response, what might they be thinking?
> “Yeah, it’s kind of lame to have to wait extra time. But I do appreciate a place that puts a big emphasis on patient care and isn’t rushing people in and out at a breakneck pace.
> “We’re talking about my eyes here, so what’s an extra few minutes of that means they’re taking all the steps necessary to make sure I’m good to go?”
This is an example of scripting the reply for public consumption. And now you’ve turned a negative review into a positive message about your practice.
3. Bad Reviews Online Tell You What’s Happening Offline
You run a busy practice and can’t know about every single patient interaction that takes place each day.
As lame as bad reviews are, sometimes they shed light on under-the-radar issues with an employee or a process that you would not have otherwise known.
Maybe patients feel rushed with a certain doctor. Or they receive a cold reception from certain team members. Bad reviews can help you better understand issues in your practice and rectify them.
Here we’re talking about legitimate bad reviews and complaints. Not a random 1-star review without comment, not the goofy driver review I discussed in the last section.
This is the type of negative review that is not good for public consumption, and they can be difficult to reframe. You want these reviews removed. So how do you do that?
This answer may seem obvious to you, but I visit with at least a practice a month that hasn’t even considered it:
Reach out to the reviewer.
If you know who the person is (which you do in many cases), have your practice administrator give them a call. Apologize. Make it right.
Better yet, you call the patient, doc. You might think you have higher value things to do. You don’t.
Some of the biggest patient evangelists are those who felt slighted, but then the practice shows they care enough to make it right. Because so many businesses won’t do this, when you do, you look like an absolute rockstar.
And once you address the situation to the patient’s satisfaction, here’s another maybe-not-so-obvious tip:
Ask them to remove (or update) the negative review.
Going back to Point 2, this allows the public to see how much you care about making things right with your patients.
In Conclusion: Don’t Feel Helpless When You Get a 1-Star Review.
You have options. You have ways to address and reframe dumb 1-star reviews. You have the power to be proactive and turn negative experiences into positive ones.
Now be like Nike, and Just Do It.
We actually have a software our clients use that helps capture negative feedback before it can turn into a negative review. This is super helpful when a patient is experiencing the type of frustration described on Point 3. Find out more here.