Live from CVC San Diego: Managing negative reviews of your veterinary practice

Live from CVC San Diego: Managing negative reviews of your veterinary practice

Dr. Jeff Werber shares strategies for dealing with online complaints.
Oct 28, 2011

If you haven't checked out what people are saying about your practice on the Internet, it's time to start, says communication expert Dr. Jeff Werber.

Dr. Werber, a member of Veterinary Economics' Editorial Advisory Board and owner of Century Veterinary Group in Los Angeles, presented a series of sessions at CVC in San Diego that focused on monitoring and managing your Internet reputation — one of the key marketing efforts for practices in today's web world.

In the past, conventional wisdom said that an angry client would tell 10 people about his or her negative experience. But in the new world, an angry pet owner's negative review of your practice could be seen by thousands of potential clients. This "digital amplification" effect makes management of your online reputation a critical issue.

So what can you do when you find a negative review? Dr. Werber recommends that your first step always be a phone call to the reviewer to resolve the problem, if you can figure out who it is. If you made a mistake, acknowledge it, he says. "The best four words in conflict resolution are these: "I'm sorry. You're right."

If you can't reach the reviewer, respond publicly on the site. "My first instinct used to be to respond privately," Dr. Werber said in his sessions. "But now I respond publicly. I want anyone who sees the negative review to also see how hard I tried to resolve it."

Keep in mind that challenging the reviewer is always a losing proposition. "You want to take the high road," Dr. Werber says. "You want to try to solve the problem. And you want to look like the classy one in the exchange."

When you do reach a negative reviewer and resolve the problem, can you ask him or her to take down the review? No, Dr. Werber says. You don't want it to look like your motivation in resolving the problem was just to get the negative post removed. Down the road, if your relationship with the client stabilizes and the review doesn't disappear, you may be able to bring it up casually. "But I'd still tread softly," he says.

Also, there may be some truth in complaints, so read them with an open mind. You may learn something. Maybe you need to do more staff training. Or maybe you need to rethink a practice policy.

In other cases, though, there's no truth to the complaint and no lesson to be learned. It's a frustrating reality that in today's Web world, anyone can post virtually anything. If you find a review that is clearly grossly inaccurate, you can contact the site and petition for its removal. "However, unlike the poster, you'll be asked to prove that what you say is true," says Dr. Werber. "So be prepared to document your points."