It should be reassuring, as more and more industries outsource work and move their processes online, to know that you’ll never be replaced by a virtual dentist.
No telemedicine service will be able to undercut your prices for root canals. No self-driving robot will make house calls to tighten braces… at least, not for another few decades.
But while so many parts of the dental field remain firmly rooted (tooth pun!) in the brick-and-mortar world, your reputation has moved. It now exists almost entirely online. If you want to shape it and make sure it’s as solid and positive a reputation as you deserve, you’re going to have to get online too.
If you could go back in time and talk to shopkeepers and handymen of yore about “online reputation management,” you would quickly earn a reputation of your own: as the town crazy person.
But even if you went back 10 years, people probably still wouldn’t know what you were talking about.
Until fairly recently, online reputation management was an umbrella term that could include any number of shady practices: Bribing bloggers to write about you, paying SEO companies to manipulate your website’s ranking or bury negative feedback, buying fake reviews for your Yelp page: businesses tried them all in the Wild West era of internet commerce (aka the ’00s).
But as consumers and search engine designers have gotten savvier, those questionable practices don’t work so well anymore. Today, it’s nearly impossible to hide or cover up a bad reputation.
Your success – your ability to pay your employees, feed your family, keep the Netflix coming – all hinges on the whims of your customers. If they don’t show up every day, willing to exchange their hard-earned money for your services, you’ve got nothing but a bunch of office supplies you don’t need.
So even when those customers are pushy, demanding and insist on texting while you’re trying to talk to them, you need them.
And while you may not personally like every person who walks through the doors (we’re talking about you, Karen), you should appreciate each and every one. Every one of those customers has something valuable to give you: feedback.
Maybe it was Matlock who inspired you. Maybe when “A Few Good Men” came out you spent weeks daydreaming about hissing “You can’t HANDLE the truth!” across a crowded courtroom. Or maybe it was the gentle and honorable Atticus Finch who influenced your career path.
Or maybe you just liked the idea of practicing law. Whatever propelled you to become a lawyer, it probably wasn’t the vision of a perfect Yelp rating.
So we get it: online reviews probably seem completely irrelevant to your practice. They might even seem frivolous compared to the work that you do.
It doesn’t matter what you think about online reviews, though. They matter to your current clients and prospective clients, and anyone who does a cursory Google search of your name can access them.
Imagine, if you will, a website. It belongs to local burger joint Pete’s Burger Barn. Pete wants your opinion about a few different web page options. He’s got one page that includes a high-quality video of himself leading a tour of the Barn and introducing the smiling, visor-wearing high-schoolers who work the register.
Then Pete shows you a second website page. It’s loaded with excerpts of customer reviews. Each customer’s name has a link that leads you to the exact Yelp or Google review from which the quote was taken.
Now, Pete wants your opinion: Which website page is more likely to convince you to visit his restaurant?
Although the video may be more impressive-looking, it doesn’t actually tell you what you want to know: what it’s like to be a customer at Pete’s. The second page, the one that’s loaded with customer testimonials, however? That’s really convincing.
If only you got $100 every time a patient mentioned the words “WebMD” and “cancer” in the same sentence, you could afford to leave your office, move to the woods and never hear about patients diagnosing themselves online again.
Of course, that’s not how the world works. Doctors know better than anyone how much the Internet has changed the medical profession, in both good and bad ways.
Telehealth for rural or disabled patients? Helpful. Self-diagnosing every canker sore as a fatal disease? Not so helpful. Online reviews on sites like Healthgrades? It depends…
It is a truth universally acknowledged that everyone has a favorite pizza place.
Maybe you’re a Pete’s person, while your spouse swears that Jimbo’s has the superior sauce. Maybe you prefer a chain over local spots, or you hold the (mistaken) belief that frozen pizza is the best. But if you eat pizza, you probably have preferences about where to go for it.
Online review sites are the same way. Just like pizza places, everyone has individual preferences. These sites are hugely influential for your customers, so you have to know your way around the big ones.