Review Acquisition Strategies for Dentists
What is the Importance of Dental Office Reviews?
When someone is seeking a new dentist in town, that person will likely want recommendations from other people in the community—and will likely want them now. In the past, they might have asked friends or family members for suggestions and, while they may still do that, internet searches now also play a significant role.
At a time when more than 75% of people in the US own a smartphone, people seeking a new dentist will likely read through local reviews to find a highly-recommended provider. If they scrolled through today and saw the name of your dental office, what would they read? Would those reviews cause more clients to contact you for services? Why or why not?
Online Reviews and Their Importance
According to a survey about the importance of dental office reviews, nearly 63% found them to be critical in their decision making. Critical. Although this study focused on people looking for cosmetic dental procedures, this industry-specific data confirms what less industry-specific ones have shown: that reviews are a critical element in selecting a provider. Although we’ll get into more detail about specific review sites later, for now, we’ll just note that people seeking these dentistry services considered Google reviews to be the most important, with Healthgrades taking second place.
Here’s more general data that also indicates how heavily people rely upon internet searches to find service providers. According to BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey for 2018;
- 86% of consumers read reviews of local businesses
- 57% of consumers stated they would only use businesses with 4 star (or higher) ratings
In an Inc.com post, they discuss research that shows how:
- 91% of people regularly or occasionally read online reviews
- 84 percent trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation
- 68 percent form an opinion after reading between one and six online reviews
Now, let’s return to specific review sites that deserve your time and attention.
Best Review Sites for Dental Practices
As the data in the dental survey shows, when you think about which review sites are important for your practice, it makes sense to think about must-have general sites as well as industry-specific ones. The data also showed that the most important review site for the dental-service seekers is Google.
Google/Google My Business — So, if you need to start with a focus on just one review site, Google My Business is the logical choice. This is the most heavily used search engine in our country today, something that’s been true for many years. Google provides the highest online visibility and, when using this search engine, 46% of users are looking for local companies. So, when thinking about reviews that a potential new client might see, having strong reviews here is crucial.
Facebook — People use Facebook for numerous purposes, from sharing events that people can attend, to socializing, to debating topics—and also to ask for and receive recommendations for service providers. Right now, when someone offers a recommendation for a dentist office, the site tries to link directly to that practice’s business page and show its rating. So, although Google may be more powerful than Facebook, overall ignore this social media site at your peril. Our recommendation is make sure your ratings are high on this site
Healthgrades —Numerous sites around the internet point out how more than 100 million people use Healthgrades when seeking doctors, dentists, and hospitals. This site contains data on more than three million healthcare providers in the United States alone; so, not surprisingly, when someone uses Google to search for a dentist, reviews found on this site often appear on the first page of search engine results. If your practice claims your profile, you can add information and photos, including about the education of dentists at your practice, their specialities, how a patient can schedule an appointment, and so forth. Patients can then complete satisfaction surveys (AKA reviews!) in a user-friendly way. You can respond, in general, about the surveys, but you can’t specifically reply to a survey with a low grade.
Yelp — Users have contributed about 244 million reviews to this site as of December 31, 2021, with 9% of them falling under the “health” category. Although 8% may sound small, it’s definitely not when the total number is rapidly approach 200 million reviews!
There are also dental-specific review sites to consider, such as these these:
1-800-Dentist—To receive a recommendation, this site has visitors respond to five questions and then they each receive a customized recommendation. Afterwards, the site asks patients to provide a review of the dentist after his or her appointment.
Dentistry—This site contains plenty of dental office reviews, as well as an appointment booking tool.
Primer for Generating Positive Reviews
On the one hand, getting positive reviews, even outstanding ones, is straightforward. Dentists get good reviews by providing their patients with quality services in an office that provides quality customer service. Up the ante in each of these areas, and you’ll improve your chances of getting reviews that competitively position you as an excellent choice for people in your community.
This won’t, by itself, magically generate reviews, but it does create a solid baseline for your review acquisition strategy.
Role of reviews in Google rankings
There are approximately 200 ranking signals in Google’s algorithm and, although the search engine giant won’t disclose specific details, they have acknowledged how review counts and ratings are factored into the local ranking algorithm. Although they won’t describe, to the exact degree, the importance of reviews (or any other ranking factor, for that matter), we can test ranking factors and assert generally-accepted principles through the use of correlative analysis.
Through that process, we can confidently state that online reviews are a top ranking signal, one of the largest local, competitive difference makers. To further solidify this position, consider how, in the past, Google has stated that it works to algorithmically demote sites with poor reviews/customer experience problems.
Also carefully consider our recommendation. Regularly get reviews, doing all you can at your practice to ensure they’re positive reviews.
Dental Office Reviews: How to Respond
Respond to ALL Reviews — Positive and Negative
One important part of your review acquisition strategy, of course, is finding ways to boost the number of reviews being posted. And, as this part of your strategy becomes more successful, you’ll naturally have more of them to respond to. This can, at times, feel tedious, but it’s crucial to promptly respond if you want to optimize value received from online reviews.
It may seem counterintuitive to respond to both positive and negative reviews alike, but a Harvard Business Review study found that, when businesses do so, their ratings and number of reviews increase:
“Overall, these analyses suggested that improved ratings can be directly linked to management responses. And, perhaps surprisingly, we also found that when managers respond to positive reviews, it has the same benefits as when they respond to negative reviews.”
Reviews in this study weren’t about dental practices. Instead, the focus was on reviews of hotels, but there is no reason why this same concept wouldn’t hold true for the dental industry.
Assign the right person to respond to reviews
Because review management is such an important part of cultivating new patients, you’ll want to assign this responsibility to a trusted employee at your practice, giving him or her enough time to do the job well. To benefit from reviews, its management shouldn’t be an add-on or afterthought. Instead, it should be strategically handled by someone at your practice who has the necessary knowledge to respond to reviews, with the authority to speak on behalf of the practice. In other words, don’t assign this task to the new person on the team who is still learning the office ropes.
Professionally handle negative reviews
Although nobody likes to receive a negative review, this happens to virtually every practice. When it happens to yours, stay calm and reason out a professional response, keeping the following idea front of mind. Specifically, you’re responding to the person who posted a negative review; more broadly, though, you’re publicly responding to everyone who will read this review, both now and in the days, months, and years to come.
When you receive a negative online review:
Think before responding. We’ve all been in conversations with a friend or family member where it starts to turn heated. It can then become pretty tempting to respond emotionally, but a defensive response typically makes a tense situation even worse, perhaps turning it into an actual argument.
This is also true with negative reviews, especially if a posted comment is clearly unfair. It’s tempting to debate with the person, but it’s more productive to take some deep breaths and then professionally respond. Sometimes, this can diffuse the overall situation. And, whether it does or doesn’t, other readers can see your mature response.
Gather facts first. Make sure that you gather all pertinent facts about the situation that upset the reviewer first, so you can factually address concerns and issues.
Acknowledge issues and state facts. Nobody likes feeling like people aren’t listening and, often, people who leave negative reviews are in that situation. Sometimes, their feelings of being slighted are reasonable. Other times, it’s not so easy to understand where they’re coming from. No matter what, though, simply acknowledging the reviewer can often help to calm the situation down. So can providing relevant information as unemotionally as possible, using an empathetic, customer-service-first mindset. This won’t always solve the problem, but it will help to position your dental practice as one that’s professional. What doesn’t help: acting like a prosecutor grilling a defendant.
Be succinct. In general, stick to a three- to four-sentence response that focuses on the main points. There is typically no need to provide a lengthy dissertation, or make comments or ask questions that will lengthen this conversation.
Moving the conversation offline is ideal. You can provide a good contact number or email and ask the reviewer to talk to you offline, which would provide you with an opportunity to turn a potentially-charged public conversation into one you can have in private.
Don’t ask anyone to change or remove a review. Don’t offer incentives for anyone to do so.
Instead, have the person in charge of managing reviews talk to the person who posted a negative review in a professional way that could cause him or her to upgrade the review. Hey, we’ve seen that happen! Seriously.
Know that some people can’t be satisfied. The reviewer may be bored, looking for someone who will debate issues. The reviewer may be someone who is happy only when there is a reason to be unhappy. You just can’t please trolls, so don’t try. If you recognize that someone’s goal is be negative online, professionally acknowledge the review and move on.
How to improve overall ratings
Boost the number of 4- and 5-star reviews — To significantly increase your star ratings, overall, you’ll need to boost the number of highly-rated ones. It’s just mathematically the case. So, remember to focus on getting as many quality reviews as you can, especially important if you’ve just launched your strategic plan to manage your ratings.
After a patient appointment, include a way to solicit review. Review acquisition truly needs to be part of your routine if you want to maximize benefits of your online reviews. So, use your judgment about when it makes sense to solicit a review right after an appointment has ended and when it makes sense to follow up after the patient’s mouth isn’t numb.
However you time your request, ask patients to review your practice. You can create a simple postcard that you could hand them as they leave your office after an appointment, including review-posting instructions. You can also provide these instructions on your dental practice website. Note that Yelp does not permit companies to solicit reviews.
Provide excellent customer service. Or, if you’re ready to up the ante even more, provide exceptional service. This is one of the best ways to ensure positive reviews, overall, and will also help to reduce the likelihood of receiving negative ones.
Here’s the bottom line:
- People leave online reviews often.
- Other people read these reviews when looking for a new provider, including dentists.
- The more quickly and thoroughly your practice creates and implements a review acquisition strategy, the more easily you can differentiate your practice from the competition.
Why wait? By successfully managing your online reviews, you can transform a former hassle into one of your practice’s biggest assets.