How to Respond to Negative Audiology Patient Reviews

Picture of happy and sad faces

From an evolutionary standpoint, humans are more likely to focus on the negative than the positive. For survival purposes, we tend to ruminate more intensely on things that go “wrong” than on things that go according to plan. But the science behind this behavior is cold comfort when you’re staring down the barrel of a negative online review. 

Say, for example, you met Gladys last Tuesday. You tested her hearing aid, answered her questions thoughtfully, and felt as though you had a positive connection. You even looked at photos of her Labradoodle! But this morning you woke up to a scathing review where Gladys eviscerated everything from the chairs to the temperature to the artwork in the lobby. Thick-skinned or not, this one stings a little. 

The good news? We humans instinctively know we’re prone to exaggerate an unsatisfactory experience. We also know that some people have a curious overabundance of negative experiences – which is a post for another day! As such, the question is never, Does this practice have negative reviews? The question is, How does this practice respond to negative reviews?

Why Do Patients Leave Bad Reviews?

Psychological motivations aside, there are some common factors that lead to negative audiology practice reviews. Knowing what sets people off can help you avoid less-than-glowing online reviews. 

  • Long wait times: Sometimes, a moderate wait is unavoidable. Acknowledging the wait and offering a sincere apology can go a long way toward making the patient feel seen and valued. 
  • Billing errors: Billing errors equal backlash. Even if the mistake was on the insurance company’s end, your practice may bear the brunt of your patient’s online ire. 
  • Disregard for their feelings: Patients may not have expert knowledge of their condition, but they are experts on their personal experience. One of the most common motivators for a negative online review is that the patient felt disregarded or dismissed during their visit.

Other common reasons for negative reviews from patients include:

  • Canceled appointments
  • Insufficient time with the audiologist (or feeling rushed)
  • Issues with parking
  • Issues with accessibility
  • Issues with the front desk staff

Should You Flag or Report Negative Reviews?

When you receive a negative online review, your first impulse is likely to report, flag, or challenge it. While these reactions are understandable, they aren’t always viable. Most review platforms (such as Google, Healthgrades, or Facebook) have particular – and stringent – rules for removing reviews.

Typically, you can only flag or report a negative review for the following reasons:

  • The author of the review is not your patient. Looking over the review, it’s clear this person has confused you with another audiology practice (or another business altogether).
  • The review is spam or contains irrelevant or off-topic information. For example, If the review concerns parking in a fire zone and receiving a pricey ticket, you have a good case for removal.
  • The review is inappropriate, vulgar, offensive, or includes sensitive personal information about a staff member.

A negative review doesn’t have to spell disaster if it doesn’t meet any of these qualifications. Though it’s no one’s favorite pastime, crafting a thoughtful and professional response is an art – and it can leave a positive impression on potential new patients. 

Before responding to patient reviews, please remember…

  1. 93.5% of patient complaints are a result of a miscommunication. Given that you work with patients who are already under duress, the chances that they didn’t absorb everything you told them or may have forgotten to mention something to you is high. Miscommunication happens all the time. The key is determining the misunderstanding and eliminating the communication gap.
  2. Don’t take complaints personally. Think of them as helpful red flags to remind you to improve your communication systems. Just because you told a patient to do XYZ doesn’t mean they understood. See if getting patients to explain their patient care instructions back to you. This improves compliance and reduces patient problems.
  3. Don’t get defensive or mad When you respond to a patient. That won’t win the patient back or help you attract more patients. When practices allow emotions to take hold when responding to reviews, positive or negative, it’s common to disclose patient information and violate HIPAA.

How to Respond to Negative Reviews

Say you have a negative review that isn’t going anywhere. It happens! The truth is, it’s an opportunity disguised as a threat. That’s because your response has the power to impress, instill trust, and inspire confidence. 

Consider the following when crafting your reply:

  • Don’t give defensiveness a foothold in your response. You may be more than justified, but potential patients want to see you take the high road and exude professionalism. 
  • Write with an empathetic tone. When in doubt, lean even further into empathy. 
  • Don’t be afraid to admit that the feedback represents a growth opportunity. Readers will appreciate your humility, and the reviewer will likely feel the same way. 
  • Make things right where possible. Describe in detail the steps you’ve taken to remedy the situation and invite the reviewer to speak with you further to pursue a resolution. 
  • Thank the reviewer for their feedback. This one might sting a little, but your willingness to acknowledge that all feedback can inspire improvement will make a strong impression.

Friendly reminder: When responding to negative reviews, you’re still bound by HIPAA. Remember to avoid discussing particulars or divulging protected information, even if the patient has already done so. Suggesting the conversation be moved to a more personal format, like a phone call, is never a bad idea.

Review Ignorance Isn’t Bliss

When it comes to negative reviews, an “ignore-it-into-oblivion” approach is tempting. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work. Pain avoidance is natural, but an unanswered negative review causes even greater damage to your online reputation in the long run. 

A good rule of thumb is to reply – and reply promptly – using the tips outlined above. You can close your response by offering to continue the conversation in a more private setting. Often, cooler heads prevail when the discussion transitions from online to in-person or over the phone. 

Negative Review, Positive Results

No one wants a slew of negative reviews. But the occasional complaint can actually improve your online reputation. Here’s how: 

  • Nobody gets things right 100% of the time. Customers know this! That’s why a couple of negative reviews can boost your credibility. There’s nothing more suspicious than a spotless online reputation, and people know it. 
  • A poor review can be an essential wake-up call. That pesky negative review might be just what you need to implement a critical change. One person’s gripe can be the catalyst for better one-on-one connections and a vastly improved patient experience

Lastly, it’s important to remember that negative reviews aren’t always forever. Sometimes, after the patient has taken everything into consideration, they will remove or amend their review. The single greatest determining factor in whether this change of heart occurs? Your response.

Engaging with bad reviews can be distressing, but turning a negative into an opportunity for improvement can also be immensely satisfying. Another aspect of human psychology worth mentioning? Ultimately, people long for cooperation and resolution. Sometimes, they need a little nudge. 

Managing Bad Audiology Patient Reviews: You’re Not Alone

If you’re overwhelmed by the thought of managing bad audiology patient reviews, you’re not alone.  Negative feedback, especially when it feels unwarranted, is disheartening and frustrating. Luckily, professional reputation management can help support your audiology clinic in this uniquely sensitive area. 

MedPB offers reputation management services that automate a good deal of the process, from helping you generate reviews to expertly responding to negative feedback. Please reach out to us today to learn more about how we can help take the sting out of bad reviews and even turn them into a sweet-as-honey opportunity for growth.