We live in an age when a business’s online reputation can either be one of its strongest assets or a major liability. The modern patient has more options than ever when it comes to their healthcare, not to mention a plethora of information at their fingertips at all times. And you can bet they are doing their due diligence before choosing a new doctor.

Not only are prospective patients reading your online reviews (8 out of 10), but they’re reading more than just one or two (more like 10+), and an overwhelming majority (85 percent) trust them as much as personal recommendations.

We all want healthcare providers we can trust. And in 2021, nothing is more powerful in building that trust than positive online word-of-mouth. If your practice has a poor overall review score, it could be driving away hundreds of leads a year into the arms of your competitor.

Aside from attracting new patients, online reviews can also help your practice retain more existing patients, increase patient satisfaction, and improve your Google search rank. Google uses more than 15 percent of review “signals” (i.e., review quantity, velocity, diversity, positive vs. negative sentiment, etc.) as one of the most important local organic search ranking factors. It also displays review information in its listing when someone searches for a specific provider.

So, how do you build and maintain a stellar online reputation? Below are six tips guaranteed to help you obtain more five-star reviews as well as boost the overall credibility and visibility of your brand online.

1. Ask patients for online reviews.

Soliciting patients for reviews makes many healthcare providers uncomfortable. Being open to feedback is essential to building a loyal and satisfied patient base. Patients can provide tremendous insight about your practice and the level of care and service provided. As for the different ways to ask patients to review your practice…

  • Automated emails and/or text messages: In 2021, sending review requests via text or email through your marketing automation software is a must. Not only does it require very little work from you, but it simplifies the process for patients. It’s best to personalize these requests with the patient’s name and send them one to three days following their appointment. Thank them for their visit, let them know how much you value patient feedback, then ask them to share their experience and include a link to one or more of your review websites. To comply with HIPPA when asking patients for reviews, be sure to let them know they can post anonymously and don’t need to include any personal health information or details about their visit.
  • Marketing collateral: Essentially, any materials your practice is already giving or sending patients following appointments are ideal places to ask them for reviews—appointment cards, after-care instructions, letters, postcards, etc. Include instructions on how and where they can review your practice and a link or use a QR code they can scan with their smartphone. Two other great places to request reviews: your newsletter and on flyers throughout your office.
  • On your website: While you want prospects to find your practice on the top review websites they might be checking (more on that later), it’s worth noting that you don’t own any reviews that are posted through a third-party site. Having a landing page on your own website dedicated to patient reviews will ensure you have plenty of great testimonials to use for marketing purposes. You do, however, want to include links to your third-party review sites on that page.
  • On social media: Social media is perfect for sharing all the amazing reviews you receive as well as asking for new ones. You can post the link to your website’s reviews/testimonials page or ask followers to leave a review right there on your Facebook page.
  • Ask during appointments: Over 70 percent of consumers say they’ll leave a business a review when asked. So, directly asking patients face-to-face while they’re in the office could very well be the best strategy if you want your number of online reviews to soar. Have your front office staff mention it to patients on their way out, perhaps while handing them a postcard with instructions. There’s also plenty of ways providers can bring it up casually as they’re wrapping up with patients. Here are two examples:
    • “It was great seeing you today, Suzie! When you get a chance, would you mind leaving the practice a review on our website or Google? A lot of people look at online reviews nowadays and I want to help as many great patients like you as possible.”
    • “In a day or so, you’ll be receiving an email with instructions on how to leave us a review online and I’d appreciate it if you could take a minute to do that because I really value the feedback I receive from patients.”

7 out of 10 people will provide an online review if they are asked

2. Make it easy for patients to leave reviews.

The more options you can give patients on how and where to leave your practice reviews online, the more likely they are to follow through. It should be easy for them to review your practice whenever it’s convenient for them, on any device (smartphone, tablet, or desktop), and on whichever platform they prefer and can easily access at that moment. To decide which of the many review sites you should be on, check which ones your competitors use and ask patients which ones they visit most often. While your website, Google, Facebook, and Healthy Hearing are the top platforms we recommend, others may also be worthwhile—Yelp, Healthgrades, YellowPages, ZocDoc, etc. Google’s algorithm favors businesses that have reviews on multiple, credible third-party sites but looks at the number and quality of the reviews on your Google My Business profile first.

88% of patients use a Google search to find a physician or treatment center while only 30% search directly on a review site

3. Respond to every review—positive or negative.

If a patient takes the time to sing your praises, the polite thing to do is to acknowledge it and thank them. It gives patients the instant gratification of being “seen” and heard online and, more importantly, shows them you value their time and opinion. Your response doesn’t need to be lengthy—a simple, “Thank you for your feedback” or “We’re so happy to hear you had a positive experience at our practice,” will do.

So, what do you do when you receive the dreaded one-star review? Before you respond, take a moment to think back to that patient’s appointment. Maybe even share the review with your staff and have them collectively reflect on every touchpoint they had with that patient. Think about why he/she could have felt compelled to leave such a review. Don’t react right away but do try to respond within 24-48 hours. Also, avoid a generic response that doesn’t address any of the specific complaints/issues raised in the review. When possible, it’s best to personalize your responses by including the person’s name and details about their experience. Apologize then thank them for their feedback and communicate that you plan to make improvements based on their interaction. For example:

  • “We set a high standard for our practice, and we are so sorry that this was not met in your interaction with us.”
  • “We always aim to deliver a great experience, and we are gutted when we don’t meet expectations. Thanks for taking the time to bring this to our attention. We will use your feedback to improve our procedures to ensure this doesn’t happen again.”

Will your response be enough to convince that dissatisfied reviewer to give you a second chance? Maybe. At the very least, it leaves room for the possibility. Whereas an aggressive or insincere response or no response at all almost certainly ensures they’ll be getting their hearing health needs met elsewhere in the future (not to mention potentially turning other potential patients away). Lastly, try not to dwell too much on negative reviews—no business can expect to receive five stars every time. Instead, use them as a learning opportunity and focus on getting more positive reviews.

53% of customers expect businesses to respond to their online review within 7 days and 20% expect a response within 24 hours

4. Share your successes and positive reviews.

Highlighting your expertise and achievements as well as the positive experiences of your patients can do wonders to set your practice apart online. Share rave reviews regularly on your social media pages in addition to displaying them on your website. The same goes for the rest of your successes. Recently received an award or made a local “Best Of” list? Featured in an article or local news broadcast? Celebrating an anniversary or expanding to a new location? Involved in a local organization or cause? Shout it from the rooftops! Don’t be so modest. We all expect businesses to brag from time to time and are instinctively more trusting of businesses with accolades worth bragging about.

94% of consumers say that positive reviews make them trust a local business more

5. Make sure your website is up-to-date and user-friendly.

Simply put: people (as well as Google) are less trusting of businesses that have outdated, messy, and/or poor-performing websites. Today’s consumers expect and demand a seamless browsing experience. That said, you should periodically check to make sure the links on your site work, its pages load fast (under 3 seconds), and the information most visitors are seeking (your contact info, hearing aid information, hearing health tips, etc.) can be found quickly and easily. One of the most important characteristics of a user-friendly website is mobile compatibility/responsiveness. If your practice uses postcards or flyers with QR codes to request and collect online reviews, that means patients will be writing reviews on their mobile devices. Thus, your site needs to be as easy to access and use via smartphone as it is on a desktop.  

60% of consumers read online reviews on their mobile device in 2020

6. Be consistent.

Just because you’ve amassed hundreds of reviews and have a perfect, five-star rating, that doesn’t mean you should take your foot off the gas. While top-rated reviews are great, consumers only look at a business’s most recent reviews. If your best review is from five years ago, it’s not going to be as relevant in their mind (a lot can change in five years!). You want to make sure you always have a consistent flow of fresh reviews coming in. Fresh reviews provide new content for the search engines to discover, thus helping more potential patients find you. Updating your website and social media pages frequently with new reviews can also increase the number of reviews you receive.

73% of consumers only pay attention to reviews written in the last month

In conclusion, your practice’s online reviews have a direct impact on its bottom line. The easiest and most effective way to gain more reviews and manage your online reputation is to use a review generation tool like Consult’s Online Review Builder. This simple software add-on sends automated review requests and reminders to patients, flags, and filters out negative responses (allowing you to respond to them discreetly), gathers reviews from several popular websites, and displays them on your website’s reviews page. Talk to your digital partner—even if it’s not us, chances are they have a similar service that will integrate seamlessly with your existing software and systems. Lastly, make sure you know what people are saying about your practice online. It only takes a few minutes but by ignoring your reviews, you could be missing out on hundreds of new patients every year.

Find out how Consult’s in-house marketing agency can take your digital marketing to the next level!

About the Author

Genevieve Amabile joined Consult YHN in 2019 and serves as a Marketing Account Coordinator. Prior to Consult YHN, she worked as a Social Media Coordinator for a staffing agency and interned with Seven Mile Publishing & Creative in Avalon, NJ. Genevieve graduated from Pennsylvania State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Communications in 2018. In her free time, she enjoys baking, reading, and listening to her favorite true crime podcasts.