Are your patients’ online reviews of your dental practice putting your reputation at risk? Even if you’re not actively encouraging online reviews (or even aware that you have them), potential patients are. It doesn’t take many poor reviews to damage a prospective patient’s opinion of your practice. For example, if there are only two or three reviews of your practice on a particular dental directory site, but one is extremely negative, many patients will be afraid to use your services.
Taking steps to clean up your dental office’s online reputation can help you attract more patients in 2019. Follow these simple steps to encourage new reviews, keep reviews coming in steadily and deal with negative reviews.
Step 1: Track down all of your online listings
Do you even know all the places where your practice pops up online? Do a quick Google search and what you find may surprise you. Many online directories automatically populate their listings with your practice name, address and other publicly available information, even if you don’t create the listing yourself.
In addition to Google, Yelp! and Bing, other places to search for listings for your practice include:
- Location-specific directories such as Local.com or CitySearch.com
- Dental provider or medical provider directories: There are dozens of such directories; DentistDirectory.com, The Dentist Hub, Dentists.com and the National Directory of Dentists are just a few
- Dental insurance plans: Plans you are affiliated with have their own dental provider directories; these may or may not include or link to patient reviews and ratings.
Make a list of what you find. As part of the new patient registration process, ask new patients how they heard about your practice. This will alert you to directories where your practice is listed and reveal which directories drive the largest number of new patients to your office.
Step 2. Develop and promote a consistent brand identity for your practice
With so many places for patients to review your practice, focus on improving your Google listing first, since that’s where the majority of people start their search for a new dental provider. Next, move to Yelp and then to dental insurance plan directories. Finally, do a Google search and note any other directories where a listing for your practice pops up. Target these directories in order that they show up in search results. In general, most people don’t go beyond the first page of search results when looking for a business, so cleaning up the listings that show on the first page will make a big difference in your online reputation. For each directory, claim your listing and fill in as many details as possible, being sure to promote a consistent brand identity throughout.
Your dental practice might be listed by different names in different directories. For example, if the name of your practice is South Coast Smiles and the primary dentist is Susan Smith, DDS, there may be listings under both of those names.
This inconsistency fragments your online identity and creates confusion about your dental practice. Patients may not know that South Coast Smiles and Susan Smith, DDS, are the same practice. If Susan Smith gets a five-star rating, that same rating may not show up for South Coast Smiles. In fact, your listing needs to be identical across all review sites, down to the last detail. Search engines can’t tell the difference between:
South Coast Smiles, 115 Sunny Street, Beachtown, CA 90000
South Coast Smiles,115 Sunny St., Beachtown, CA 90000
Select a uniform format for your practice name, address and phone number, and use it across all of your online listings. Use the same brand identity offline (on your business cards, letterhead, signage, etc.).
Make sure your online listings are kept current with an accurate address, phone number, office hours and website URL. If a new patient goes to an outdated address, they’re not going to give you a good review.
Step 3: Clean up your online ratings and reviews
Start by going through your existing reviews. Here are some factors to consider:
- How old are the reviews? You can have a five-star average, but if all of those reviews are from five years ago, people will wonder what happened since then. Did your practice go out of business or suffer a slump in quality? It’s important to maintain a steady stream of reviews so that new patients can feel confident your practice is rated highly now.
- How many reviews are there? Most dentists can’t expect to garner hundreds of reviews the way a popular restaurant might. However, obtaining a critical mass of reviews can make a big difference. The average consumer reads 10 reviews before deciding to trust a business. Build up to at least 10 reviews and then keep adding to them on a regular basis. A few new reviews a month are enough to keep your online ratings fresh without going overboard.
- How detailed are the reviews? Reviews that consist of a star rating and “Good dentist” don’t inspire much confidence. Encourage customers to provide specifics and details in their reviews.
Patient reviews are a valuable learning tool to help you improve your practice. Give your staff feedback from reviews. For example, if a specific dental technician or front office employee gets praise online, let them know about it. By the same token, if you get a negative review, don’t just brush it off: Dig deeper by talking to employees to get to the bottom of the situation.
When you do get a negative review, reply to the reviewer as soon as possible. Don’t be defensive: Apologize for the issue and ask them to contact you in person to discuss it further. Avoid starting a discussion online: Other potential patients can read it, so if the discussion goes south, your reputation will be hurt.
One-on-one, do your best to make the patient happy. Once you’re resolved the issues, ask if they’re willing to update their review to let others know how the problem was settled. (You can get better reviews by brushing up on how to deal with difficult patients and how to make a great impression on new patients.)
Reviews aren’t the only influence on your practice’s online reputation, but they are an important factor. Gather positive reviews, respond to negative ones and keep your rating and review listings up to date. Then burnish your online reputation even more by promoting your practice on social media.
Lighthouse 360 automatically collects reviews from happy patients and posts them to all the top online review sites, such as Yelp and Google. You also get your own page on RateABiz.com to showcase reviews and help boost your practice’s rank in search results. You can even add reviews to Facebook right from the Lighthouse 360 portal. Learn more about how Lighthouse 360 can help improve your practice’s online reputation.