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The make-or-break world of dental reviews

Oct. 26, 2017
Great reviews build trust and position your dental practice to attract more and better patients, while bad reviews can be the kiss of death for a dentist. In this article, Colin Receveur explains how to attract great dental reviews while minimizing the negative ones.

Colin Receveur, CEO, SmartBox

SELF-PROCLAIMED AMAZON NUT HERE. I haven’t gone into a big box store for years, and don’t intend to anytime soon. With Amazon, you have convenience and quality customer care, and you also have a robust online community where users are interacting with each other about products. Nothing goes into my digital cart if it doesn’t have a number of favorable reviews. Most of us make purchases this way. This is called getting the “social proof.”

It’s difficult to compare the business tactics of mega companies like Amazon with private-practice dentists. But you can’t ignore the power of reviews. To get prospects to call your office, you need to show the social proof of why your service is superior to the dental practice down the street.

According to Entrepreneur, more than 60% of people consider online reviews in the purchasing process. Reviews are the new word-of-mouth advertising, and they have the power to make or break your practice. A study by Invespro found that about 90% of consumers read online reviews before walking into a business. The same study found that consumers will spend 31% more with a business that has “excellent” reviews.

You get the point. Great reviews will build trust and position your dental practice to attract more and better patients. Bad reviews can be the kiss of death for a dentist. So let’s look at how to attract those great dental reviews while minimizing those negative reviews.

Power of good reviews

One of the easiest ways to get a great review is to ask. Just ask.

You’d be surprised how many dentists don’t do this. You should train your front-office staff to request positive reviews from patients who have had a great experience at your office. You can send a followup email for the patient, but those emails can be easily ignored. After all, who wants to think about their dentist (or any doctor) when they’re not physically in the office? Also, it occurred to me recently that after the patient has spent a few hours in the chair and is leaving with half their face still numb . . . that's not the best time to ask.

You can make the review management process easier by using software that organizes your practice reviews, such as Birdeye or ReviewTrackers. Your practice should be visible on all major review sites (these include Yelp, Google+, HealthGrades, Angie’s List, LinkedIn, etc.) and you should set up alerts so you know exactly when someone leaves you a review. This way, you can better manage all of your reviews and address negative reviews quickly.

Smart dentists are out there right now compiling as many positive reviews as possible. Your prospects like to hear from multiple sources. I’m a big believer that you can never have too many good reviews and should never stop seeking them out.

Reality of negative reviews

There is one sure-fire way to avoid a bad dental review: close up shop. Stop practicing now and find another career.

I don’t expect you to do this. My point is that no matter how great of a dentist you are, someone will give you a bad review. Maybe the insurance didn’t cover as much of the procedure as the patient expected (all your fault). Maybe the patient ignored your advice and had a major problem down the road (that’s your fault, too.) Or maybe the patient does have a legitimate complaint.

Whatever the basis of the negative review, you have to take ownership and address the problem before it gets permanently attached to your practice. In many cases, your prospects can weed through unfounded bad reviews, but you can’t expect the same grace when the complaint appears to be genuine.

Respond to reviews

Good, bad, or absolutely bizarre, every dental review should get a response. It’s important for dental offices to engage with their patients, online or offline.

Show gratitude for great reviews and respond to bad reviews. Bad reviews can be difficult to read, but you must read them so your office can combat these reviews in a disciplined, nonaggressive manner.

Here’s the most important thing to remember when writing a response to a review: never get defensive or angry with someone who leaves a bad review. They feel justified in their review, and you’ll make the situation worse by writing a comment that attempts to make their concerns seem unfounded—even if they are.

Your goal is to engage the reviewer in a positive way and take the conversation offline. If you can get the reviewer on the phone, it’s possible you can get them to take down their negative review. We’ve all had the experience of being angry at a service provider and then clearing up the issue over the phone with a customer service professional.

When responding to negative comments, remember these four things:

  • Keep your responses short and respectful (maybe two or three sentences). Commenters generally aren’t interested in reading a lengthy, unfocused response.
  • HIPAA is your friend here. Because of HIPAA regulations, you shouldn’t acknowledge a commenter’s patient status or treatment history publicly. This can work in your favor. If a commenter complains about a specific treatment, let them know you can’t discuss their issue in a public forum.
  • Don’t use the practice name or keywords. This will avoid the person’s comment from coming up in future Google searches.
  • Always try to move the conversation offline.

Here is a great example of how to respond to a bad review:

Thank you for your comment. We are dedicated to giving every a great experience at our office. Because of our privacy policies, we can better assist you over the phone, XXX-XXX-XXXX.

Don’t forget the social proof

Dental offices around the country are realizing that online reviews are the new word-of-mouth advertising. Many of these practice are buying software to manage reviews or bundling a review-management plan into their digital marketing campaigns. The next time you review your digital marketing and practice-management plan, make sure you’re collecting the social proof that will encourage prospects to visit your office.

Author's note: Social proof is a major part of my checklist—in my personal life and in my company, SmartBox. To hear more about how you can thrive, visit or call (502) 509-1413.

Colin Receveur, a nationally recognized dental marketing expert and speaker, is the author of several bestselling books on internet marketing. His company, SmartBox, helps more than 550 dentists on three continents get more patients, more profits, and more freedom. Reach him at [email protected].


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Editor's note: This article first appeared in the Apex360 e-newsletter. Apex360 is a DentistryIQ partner publication for dental practitioners and members of the dental industry. Its goal is to provide timely dental information and present it in meaningful context, empowering those in the dental space to make better business decisions.

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