Did you know that 71% of patients research online reviews as the first step when searching for a provider?
Now more than ever, maintaining an active and robust online reputation is critical to your overall marketing strategy. However, if adding yet another task to the list seems unmanageable or you’re just not sure where to start, follow along as we walk through four key areas you can focus your attention and make the most of your efforts for a successful online reputation.
Welcome back and happy holidays, it’s Ryan Miller with Etna Interactive. Now I think if most of you are like us, you’re starting to think about your planning for the next year. The ideas, the initiatives that will be pervasive as you provide new guidance and leadership for your team. If we’re looking ahead and asking the question honestly, where could the typical practice invest some effort, some attention, and perhaps a little money to drive some big improvements in the next calendar year, well I think online reputation is a great place to start. Let me explain why and then we’re going to get into 4 steps you can take to do online reputation better in 2021 than you did in 2020.
Let’s look way back, RealSelf did some research back in 2016 and it turns out that for many clinic owners the biggest concerns that they have online all relate to reputation. We see in the chart here it’s things like getting patients to leave reviews and dealing with negative reviews when they do show up. It’s easy to understand why so many clinic owners are concerned about online reputation.
We see that for the majority of patients, in this particular study 71%, that online reviews are the first thing they see when they are researching providers. It’s a major influence in the first impression they get of you and your clinic. Perhaps more importantly we see that online reviews are also a major driver in connecting with patients. Online reviews being one of the major factors that influences how high and how often you show up in those Google map-based search results.
When we reflect on how many clinic leaders approach online reputation unfortunately, I think very often, it’s clouded by personal preference or judgement. If you ask most clinic owners you’ll hear, ‘I hate Yelp, it’s a horrible place to be’ and it may be a difficult environment to navigate but what we know is it’s one of the most popular online rating and review platforms, and that about 92% of the people who use Yelp to research a service then go on almost immediately to schedule or make a purchase with one of the providers they reviewed on Yelp. So our personal preferences may not be the best thing to influence our choices about where we choose to focus on cultivating a positive reputation online.
More than that, a lot of consumers where they understand about the importance or impact that reviews have for them, have made the decision that anything older than 3 months may be too stale to accurately reflect the experience that they might get with this provider today.
A one and done approach to online reputation that we pay a little bit of attention to at the beginning of the year and then forget about it as the year goes on, simply will not serve. What we know from, and the research that’s been done about the star ratings and how the influence consumer perception, is that nearly half of consumers won’t even bother with a business that has fewer than 4 stars.
Once those reviews are deposited, can you neglect them, can we let the challenges associate with HIPAA, can they stall us from engaging in a conversation online? Well what we do know from research that was specifically done with patient populations that more than 60% find it at least somewhat important that clinic owners and doctors are responding to their online reviews.
We know it’s important. We know that we need to have recent reviews. We know that we need to have a star rating over 4. We know that we need to participate in the conversation, but operationally speaking how do we make that happen? Let’s go through a quick checklist, these are four areas where you can focus in the new year to really master your online reputation.
1. Optimize Patient Experience
The first thing is, we have to acknowledge, great reviews come for practices who deliver great customer service and a great overall experience. This is going to be the year where you want to focus on a few key areas that are really going to drive an appreciation for the experience that you’re delivering to your customers. We’ve studied it and we know that there are two main areas where customers get concerns and run into problems. Those are around customer service and the politeness of your team, and time management and the management of expectations around how a patient is going to move through the flow of their treatment.
Take the time now to put new emphasis on customer service, to provide your team with the tools and training to excel. Make sure that they have specifically training in scheduling effectively, that was a major area that we found over and over again voiced in complaints and concerns online. We want to make sure that we minimize wait times, and whenever possible that you’re not rushing appointments because that makes patients feel unappreciated.
2. Listen For Feedback
You need to make sure that you have systems in place so that you’re hearing feedback as fast as it arrives. Monitoring software today is really the only way to do this effectively for the majority of sites. But for those of you that are also active on insurance platforms and portals, much of the monitoring software won’t be able to get past the password protection that restricts access to provider directories. So those few sites you may need to list for manual monitoring.
3. Have A Ready Response
Now the third area where you need to be focused is really about having a ready response. A specific defined team member and approach in case a negative review appears. Figure out who in your office is going to be that online reputation champion, the person who’s job it is to pay attention to the reports that come in and to guide the practice’s response whether it’s to a positive or negative review.
You want to make sure that you respond in a way that protects patient privacy, whether you’re in the U.S. or Canada that’s always a consideration, and figure out who you’re going to turn to. Who are your expert advisors that can help you in the crisis situation. We’re very often called in for our clients to help them deal with responding to negative reviews, but you should also look to make sure that you have legal counsel identified that you can turn to in a pinch.
4. Cultivate Reviews Ethically
The fourth and final area where you need to stay focused is really cultivating those online reviews. How exactly are we going to go about getting patients who are already happy with you to share that experience online. First and foremost, it’s important especially if you have more than one provider or more than one location, that you identify your profile strategy. It’s important that you concentrate as many reviews as possible on a single profile, rather than distributing them over many different profiles online.
You want to make sure that you have software in place that will make the process of asking for reviews more sustainable. Today it’s really common to use tools that will send out SMS or text messages prompting patients for their review, or email software that will send more subtle reminders that they can use to click and review the next time they’re online.
We want to make sure that you avoid the illegal patient incentives, we can’t pay patients for reviews and we actually recommend instead that you pivot to thinking about staff incentives. How do I reward the team when positive reviews are deposited online?
The bottom line is that mastering your online reputation, we get it it’s not easy, but it’s made much easier when you have the right tools. If you’re not sure how to get the right tools or operational protocols defined, remember for Etna clients you can reach out to your account executive, we’ll be able to provide you with some great guidance there. Of course as always, we look forward to connecting with you online, and of course if you have questions reach out to us.