In addition to staying in touch with family and friends, your patients (and prospective patients) are using social media to research companies with which to conduct business and leave online reviews. Since some social networks such as Yelp and Twitter make it easy for people to set up fake profiles, the anonymity factor contributes to users being rude and flat-out mean. But don’t give up participating in social media. The best way to respond online is to “kill ’em with kindness.”

Reacting and responding quickly to negative comments is important. Everyone makes mistakes and no one expects your practice to be perfect. Startlingly, only 4% of dissatisfied customers actually complain. Of this percentage, 19 out of 20 unhappy customers will do business with the company again if their concerns are handled quickly and properly. A simple response can actually turn an angry customer into an appreciative promoter of your business. This is called being “FLAWesome.”

If someone leaves a negative review, it’s visible to that person’s network and anyone searching for information about your practice. By not responding to negative reviews, a small comment can spiral out of control due to lack of attention. Always respond as quickly as you can, admit mistakes, and share how you’re going to fix it. Respond publicly first, and then send a private message so you can chat with them over email or by phone to further solve their complaint. Explain that you would like to discuss it in a way that offers a more personal experience.

It doesn’t matter if their complaint is warranted. Always start with an apology. It doesn’t make sense to argue over a complaint online, and others reading the review will respect you for apologizing up front. If the comment is blatantly offensive, ask the commenter how you can help make the situation better. The person will either reply with something you can do to fix it, or will be so surprised you replied that they have nothing more to say. Either way, you will have responded tactfully.

Lastly, pick your battles. Some reviewers post negative comments meant only to get a rise out of you. Know when it’s appropriate to step back instead of adding fuel to the fire. More than likely, if the patient you’re dealing with is complaining over something silly, others will realize it, too, and won’t think anything of it.

Samantha Toth is the resident Marketing Rockstar for Innereactive Media, a full-service marketing company specializing in the optical industry, in Grand Rapids, MI.

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