Your Online Reputation May Be Killing You Softly
The percentage of people in the U.S. who are influenced by online reviews in choosing healthcare providers and institutions has skyrocketed in just the past few years. By “killing you softly,” I mean that your online reviews from your patients directly and adversely affects your business but you can’t see what you are NOT getting as a result of a poor online reputation.
Everyone who is aware of online reviews (and who isn’t?) knows that the majority of these reviews are negative for most businesses. This is particularly true in the healthcare industry for many reasons. So what can you really do about negative reviews?
The Problem and The Reasons
To really tackle this problem effectively, it’s important to understand human nature.
Long before the Internet became a dominant force in our lives, we all knew that bad word-of-mouth occurs at a rate of at least 10 to 1 compared to positive word-of-mouth. The most fundamental reason for this behavior is that we are generally much more emotional about our bad experiences than our good ones. Pain as a motivator is far more powerful than pleasure.
We rarely require motivation to vent and share our negative life experiences with others, even those we don’t know. Conversely, we may be perfectly happy with other experiences and rarely talk about those positive experiences unless we have such a “wow” experience that we can’t stop talking about it to anyone who will listen. But those wow experiences are increasingly rare.
Add to this natural and predictable human behavior the inescapable reality that healthcare experiences are often viewed negatively because people who are ill, injured or in pain aren’t in a good mood when they seek out healthcare. It doesn’t take much to put them in a worse mood as a result of their healthcare encounters.
Solutions for Negative Online Reviews and Poor Online Reputation
Craft positive patient experiences.
This is really where the rubber meets the road. It’s easy to talk about and generally very challenging to achieve. Another aspect of human nature is that when we are surrounded by unhappy people, we tend to become unhappy as well. And people who are on the front lines of healthcare are surrounded by unhappy patients every day.
This dynamic makes healthcare a very challenging customer service environment. But without a concerted and continuous effort to focus on patients as customers and not as electronic health records, none of the other solutions for negative reviews and poor online reputation will matter. (I will write in more depth on this topic in a future post.)
Maintain an active and real-time patient feedback loop.
Patient feedback needs to be solicited and encouraged in real time (at the end or very shortly after each patient encounter) so that the organization identifies and can immediately address any negative patient experiences or concerns. This is not about issuing patient satisfaction or feedback surveys to fulfill requirements affecting reimbursement rates. That is a separate strategy.
This is about fixing a problem by nipping it in the bud before the issue festers in the mind of the patient and may translate into a negative posting online. Most people will not volunteer their frustrations to you about negative experiences. They will just fume about it and then tell everyone they know that you are terrible – including total strangers through the process of negative online reviews.
Make it easy for happy patients to post positive feedback.
You need a very user-friendly system to identify, encourage and help happy patients share their experiences online. Your system needs to be user-friendly not just for the patients but also for your staff. There are some very good automated systems for capturing real-time patient feedback and making it easy for happy patients to post online reviews.
You will never be able to eliminate all negative reviews but you do need a system to ensure that the number of positive reviews dwarfs the number of negative reviews. Most people instinctively expect to see some negative reviews for a business but they will often discount a few negative posts if the vast majority of posts are positive. In fact, many people are skeptical of businesses that show only positive reviews.
Contact me if you want more information on sources for automating the process of real-time patient feedback and positive online reviews from your patients.