5 simple secrets to improving dental patient reviews
Like it or not, online reviews are here to stay for dentists, but the reviews don't have to be negative.
Admit it. You love being able to scope out what customers think about a product or service before you pay for it. You type it into the search bar, and bam! instant feedback. As a consumer, that’s great. But when you’re the one being evaluated, the experience may not be quite as enjoyable. Sifting through patient review sites can be nerve wracking, especially when you strive to provide excellent dental care and your search turns up negative reviews. Whether it’s infuriating or not, you still have to do it.
The fact is that almost 90% of people read online reviews before making purchase decisions, so monitoring your online reputation is critical when it comes to generating new patients. “If I’m providing excellent dental care, why am I still finding bad reviews?”
The biggest problem with online patient reviews
Most bad ratings are spurred by complaints that have nothing to do with the actual care an unhappy patient received. There are things that affect patient experience and satisfaction that are often overlooked when you’re spending your time and money doing things behind the scenes. Unfortunately, prospective patients don’t typically investigate why a review is negative, merely that it is.
Fixing negative patient reviews
This isn’t difficult to fix, but you must understand the big players when it comes to patient satisfaction. Here are five of the most “fixable” things that can affect whether or not a patient review is positive. Addressing these simple things with the tricks I’ve compiled will do wonders for improving your patients’ experiences, and your online reputation.
1. Worry about wait times
Sometimes a long wait time is inevitable, but keep in mind that extended waits are often the biggest complaint found in patient reviews. Starting with a long wait tends to set the tone of a patient’s overall experience, making someone especially critical about other things that wouldn’t usually bother them.
- If you’re in the habit of overbooking in case some patients don’t show up, stop. Unpredicted schedule gaps are aggravating, but not allowing a little wiggle room means that just one talkative patient can put you behind for the rest of the day.
- Keep a list at the front desk that estimates the typical length of time for various types of appointments. Ask the person in charge of scheduling to pay close attention to what the patient is being seen for, and to use the list to make sure they block out enough time.
- Late arrivals will throw off your day and increase wait times, so prevent late patients by sending appointment reminder messages a couple of hours before someone is scheduled to be seen.
- Most importantly, if a patient does have to wait longer than a few minutes, don’t ignore it. Acknowledge the wait with a sincere apology, see if you can get the person a drink, and engage in conversation. Patient communication goes a long way!
2. Keep calm
When your office staff is running around like chickens with their heads cut off, patients feel like just another obligation for the overwhelmed staff to worry about. On the other hand, when patients receive attention and care without distraction they feel like the top priority, a huge win when it comes to the patient experience.
- Don’t understaff to reduce overhead. Trust me, it isn’t worth it.
- Clarify which responsibilities belong to whom, and make sure everyone understands his or her responsibilities. Keep one person dedicated to in-office patient engagement at all times.
- Keep communication open between everyone in the office. Make sure you’re all on the same page so things don’t slip through the cracks. Last minute scrambles are obvious to your patients.
- Give your staff the tools they need to work efficiently and effectively. Be open to their requests and suggestions – after all, it’s you they are helping!
3. Understand the importance of a first impression
Though it might not feel like a top priority to you, the appeal of your waiting room has a big affect on the patient experience. Even if it meets sanitary standards, no one wants to spend time sitting in an unappealing office.
- Even an unattractive space can be transformed into a pleasantly stylish room with the right touch. Enlist help if needed, and remember, posters of teeth do not count as decoration.
- Old buildings can look dingy even when they’re spotless, so paint the walls and molding frequently. Get new carpet. Replace things such as doorknobs and blinds.
- Instead of a noisy water cooler, consider a contemporary tray with flowers and a pitcher of fresh water full of fruit slices.
- If all else fails, fall back on technology. Some comfy chairs and a nice television are always crowd pleasers.
Don’t disregard the importance of investing in their comfort to improve patient experience, and, as an added benefit, this goes a long way to ease frustration when patients have to wait longer than they would prefer to.
4. Remember that they’re listening
Just because a patient sits down doesn’t mean that they aren’t paying attention to what is going on behind the counter. In fact, without something to keep them busy, they often notice more when they sit down.
Remaining professional doesn’t mean you or the staff have to be stiff. Cheerful staff chitchat will actually make the office feel more inviting and comfortable. Just be sure to be aware of whether or not staff interactions are detracting from patient attention, and make sure the tones and topics of their discussions aren’t negative or offensive.
5. Let them complain
This is the kicker – if you don’t ask disgruntled patients how they feel, they’ll give their opinion anyway. They just won’t be giving it to you! The best way to avoid a negative review is to address your patients’ complaints before they complain.
- Have someone in charge of catching patients before they leave the office to ask about their experience. Tip: Offering a sticker to little ones allows you a quick moment to touch base with parents. Plus, moms and dads often have a better opinion of people who take time to engage their children.
- Proactively request feedback by sending post-appointment surveys that let patients tell you how their experience was. Customize questions to meet the needs of your practice, and it’s best to keep the number of questions to about 10.
- Post on the social media page for your practice a Contact Us link to reiterate how much patient feedback means to you.
When you come across negative patient reviews, respond to them quickly in a positive, helpful manner. Prospective patients care more about whether or not you have attempted to make things right than they do about the bad rating itself.
Amy LaVange currently manages communications and written content for Solutionreach, the cloud-based platform previously known as Smile Reminder, that enables health-care professionals to engage and communicate with 100% of their patients.