How to Deal with Upset Patients Online

Posted on Feb 12, 2019 by


If you struggle with how to deal with upset patients online, you’re not alone. This post provides 7 tips to help you validate the patient’s experience while minimizing the negative impact of the situation for all parties.

“The rise of the citizen review site is a sobering development. No longer are you on top of the mountain, blasting your marketing message down to the masses through your megaphone. All of a sudden, the masses are conversing with one another. If your service or product isn’t any good, they’ll out you.” —David Pogue

Conversations surrounding your medical services are going to pop up on your social media platforms.  That is a very good thing, a necessary thing to give you credibility in today’s online marketplace. The problem arises when some of these “conversations” turn south—aka someone leaves you a less than stellar review.  Even a poor review can have its positives for your practice. Think about reviews as another form of data you can utilize to help improve your services can be very helpful for maintaining a positive outlook.

Kristin Smaby, Customer Service Manager at Pivotal Global Support Services shares, “when customers share their story, they’re not just sharing pain points. They’re actually teaching you how to make your product, service, and business better. Your customer service organization should be designed to efficiently communicate those issues.” 

Despite there being some lessons to be learned from upset online customers, having too many poor reviews looks bad for your company.  And as 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses, it’s pretty important to keep your online review sites looking the best they can.

So how do medical practices show their upset patients that they care and simultaneously keep their online presence positive?  Here are the top 7 current best practices on how to deal with upset patients online:

  1. Respond as quickly as possible.   According to Help Scout’s customer service facts, if you’re going to respond to a negative review, reviewers expect you to do it quickly.  A short wait time signals to both the disgruntled customer and to other eyes on the site that your practice cares about your patients–including the ones that complain.  SocialClimb recommends responding with a day at most.
  2. Move the conversation offline.  As quickly as possible move the conversation offline. Having a private conversation is much better than having an angry customer continuing to bash your practice in a public thread.  When moving the conversation offline make sure to do it publicly, and as a response to their initial bad review. This signals to other viewers that you addressed the problem, showing at the very least that you take responsibilities for mishaps within your facility.
  3. Provide both an email and a phone number.  When replying to a poor review make sure to provide both a phone number and an email for the upset patient.  Giving the patient options for contacting you directly in a way that is most convenient for them is important.  You want your unhappy customer to be as comfortable as possible when addressing their poor experience.
  4. If they choose to email be prompt in your response.   According to a recent 2018 study conducted by Toister Performance Solutions, customers expect businesses to respond to their emails within an hour of sending them, with most people’s upper limit of acceptable wait time being a day.  When working with a customer who is already angry, the highest quality of service should be a main priority. A prompt response time is imperative to how more and more people view good customer service in 2019.
  5. Let them vent (and really listen).  Whether it’s over email or the phone, it’s important for the patient’s anger and pain to be released.  Let them speak and share their story without interruption or judgment—even if you know for a fact they’re wrong.  Sometimes all it takes to feel better about something is to vent about it.
  6. Do NOT immediately ask them to remove their negative review.  Even if the issue seems completely resolved, do not immediately ask them to remove their review.  This can make the customer feel like the only reason you helped was to get the review removed. Once an issue is resolved many patients will take down a bad review on their own.  Monitor the review for a week or two and if it’s still not gone reach out again and ask if there’s anything further you can help the customer resolve. Many times this second contact will prompt the reviewer to remove the black mark.
  7. Above all else, be human.  Niceties go a long way in customer service, and online interactions are no different.  It can be hard to come across as warm and caring in online forums and emails. Combat this by using kind language and by crafting well thought out, personalized responses.  The extra effort can make all the difference. Utilize the fact that online situations do not merit a response the second they come through. If a customer is being especially difficult, step away and cool down before responding.  Remember that having a conversation online is similar to being recorded, don’t say anything you would regret later!

You may be interested in a companion blog post, How to Negotiate with Upset Customers and Patients, that highlights seven ways to interact with upset clients to turn negative experiences into positive outcomes. 

Interested in more tips and tricks on how to deal with Negative Reviews? Check out this post

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