Dentists, orthodontists, and other oral healthcare providers need to manage their online reputations just like any other business. Here's how to do it.
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.
Open Up (Your Browser)
Online reviews translate into real-world results. You probably know that from your own life. Have you ever compared Yelp ratings when picking out a restaurant or steered clear of a handyman because his Angie's List page is littered with complaints?
Nearly all of your potential patients do the exact same thing with dentists, orthodontists and other oral health professionals.
Reviews are especially important for people who lack dental insurance and therefore don't have a list of in-network dentists to choose from.
Most cities have tons of dentists, and the average person doesn't know what makes Pete's Teeth & Stuff better than Betty's Brushing Buddies.
Enter online reviews. They're what make up the bulk of your online reputation. Most American consumers consider them when making decisions about where to shop, whom to hire and what medical practice to visit.
Plenty of research confirms that online reviews can make or break a business. A recent survey found that:
- 97% of American consumers read online reviews at least occasionally.
- 73% of people surveyed trust a business more if it has positive reviews.
- 85% trust reviews as much as they trust personal recommendations.
- Respondents read an average of 7 reviews before deciding to trust a business.
- Healthcare is one of the industries in which customers care most about reputation.
Getting online reviews has benefits beyond these. Having an active online presence helps you rank highly in local search engine results.
And strange as it may seem, some of your patients will share the Google or Facebook reviews they write with all of their social networks, extending your reach to hundreds or even thousands of people each time.
So, yeah, online reviews have tremendous influence on the way your patients think about you and your business. But what if you don't have any reviews, or the ones you do have are negative?
Worry not: managing your online reputation is far easier than getting a cranky child to open up wide.
Part One: Adopt a Good Chairside Manner
Some business owners, recognizing the power of online reviews, attempt to game the system by flooding their own Yelp page with reviews they've written themselves, or exchange free services or discounts for positive reviews.
Those shortcuts are easy in the short run but potentially disastrous in the long run, because your page may get flagged or banned if you're caught posting fake reviews or breaking a review site's rules about incentives.
Sure, earning your good reputation is harder than buying it. But remembering to floss is hard too, and you still expect people to do that. So don't expect to get glowing online reviews without earning them.
Treating your patients with respect, setting fair prices, hiring a competent staff and providing attentive service to every patient is the real building block of your reputation.
Part Two: Get Those Reviews
Okay, so you're giving your patients the kind of service that warrants a positive review. Some of them still refuse to floss (seriously, how are you supposed to remember?), but they should be mostly happy with your practice.
They'll write reviews if you ask them to. In the survey above, 68% of consumers said they had written a review when asked. Your patients will do the same.
First, make sure you're ready to accept those reviews. Patients don't need your premission to review you online, but claiming and optimizing your business page on sites like Yelp, Facebook, HealthGrades and ZocDoc allows you to update your information and respond to reviews if you'd like to. (Although you should be mindful to not give out any private information about your patients in your responses.)
Next, start asking. You could threaten to withhold the anesthetic until they agree to review you... but it's probably not the best idea. Instead, use an automated system like ReputationStacker to reach out to them.
ReputationStacker will automatically send your patients a single-question survey, identifying the ones who are satisfied with your service and directing them to the review site of your choice to post a positive review. The dissatisfied patients are directed back to you, so you can address their concerns before they post a negative review.
Rinse and Spit
Those pesky teeth aren't going to fix themselves, so you don't have the time to spend hours each day trying to shape your own online reputation.
Focus on giving your patients great service and let ReputationStacker take care of the rest. It encourages your happy patients to review you online, which is one of the simplest things you can do to grow your business.
Plus it's a heck of a lot easier than convincing people to floss.