Business coach and author Alan Adams discusses how clinic owners can utilise positive patient reviews and maximise them as part of a continued growth strategy
Running a clinic can be challenging, demanding and tiring at times, but when you’ve been able to deliver brilliant results for your patients and turn them into flag flyers for your business, the hard work and long hours you’ve put in instantly become worthwhile.
There are many ways in which you can leverage successes to attract and retain patients so they continue their journey with you. In this article, I will discuss the importance of clinic reviews that are published on third-party websites; detailing how to obtain them and how you can best utilise reviews as a powerful marketing tool. Before we discuss this further, I think it is important to decipher the difference between testimonials and reviews. Testimonials are generated and managed by the business offering that particular service, whereas reviews, generally speaking, are managed by a third party.1
With the increasing popularity of review sites, including Facebook pages, Google My Business, TripAdvisor and Manta,2 securing positive reviews and ensuring they are kept up-to-date can make a huge difference to the lead conversion rate of potential patients seeking services that you offer. In BrightLocal’s Local Consumer Review Survey 2018, it was reported that 86% of consumers read reviews for local businesses. The survey found that an average of 10 online reviews are read before a consumer feels able to trust a local business, and 43% of consumers said they read reviews for the medical/healthcare sectors.3 When reading reviews of your clinic, searchers may come across mentions of friendliness of staff, attentiveness, price, quality of service, treatment results and location – all of which are wants and needs that many of your prospective patients might be searching for. This may well be the decider that will lead them to book an appointment, or at the other end of the scale, may put them off from finding out any more.
In my opinion, reviews are an absolute must if you’re committed to growing your clinic and turnover. Star rating is commonly used as a rating scale and, according to digital software company Vendesta, it is the number one factor used by consumers to judge a business.4 It has been reported that 57% of consumers will only use a business if it has four or more stars, and this rises to 61% of consumers over 55 years old.5 Reviews can be displayed as quotes and/ or star ratings. They also can be collated to create statistics.
There are several ways that you can encourage a customer to leave you a review, but it will depend on how you communicate with your patients the most. You could ask them face-to-face whilst in clinic whether they’d like to write a review or leave you a star rating on a third party website of your choice. You could also make a request within your general marketing emails or via a personalised follow-up email to check they were happy with your services.
For example, ‘We hope you loved your treatment. If you have a few spare minutes, could you rate your experience out of 5?’. You should then include a hyperlink straight to your Google My Business or Facebook page to make it easier for the review to be posted. If you’re looking to boost your volume of positive reviews online, you could also set yourself (and your team) a target to work towards, such as to have 10 new reviews on Google, Facebook or Yelp in the next three months. As a bit of friendly competition, and to encourage your team to seek reviews from their loyal patients, you could also enter your team members into an internal prize draw with a reward of your choosing.
It has been reported that 57% of consumers will only use a business if it has four or more stars, and this rises to 61% of consumers over 55 years old
The power of reciprocity
According to marketing and psychology university professor Dr Robert Cialdini’s Six Principles of Persuasion, reciprocity is when a person responds to a positive action with another positive action.6 In this case for example, offering loyal patient’s a gift or reward that will hopefully make them feel more inclined to do something for you in return. This small gesture aims to encourage patients to spare the time to write and leave you a review, rather than influencing the content of it. Dr Cialdini’s contrast theory is another highly effective technique and works by asking someone for something which requires more effort, for example a two-page case study (or anything that you think they will turn down). Rather than retreating and accepting the no (which he calls the ‘rejection then retreat’ technique7), he recommends responding with another, smaller request – one which you were really interested in all along – such as a quote for an online review.
According to Dr Cialdini, this works because the person you’ve asked feels like they’ve successfully influenced you to do less.
Star ratings and quotes can be used within your wider marketing and sales funnels, such as within brochures, leaflets, on your website, and within newsletters and follow-up communications. For example, on your website, you could say ‘10 out of 10 people recommend [Clinic Name] to others’.
Whilst you are legally able to lift reviews from third party websites, it’s important to note that you don’t ‘own’ these reviews, even though they are related to your business.8 As they are published on an external website, they are technically not your content.8 You should, in this case, always credit where the reviews came from. Adding reviews from such websites onto your own platform can be great for your conversion rates, however they will not impact your search engine optimisation. In order to do this you would need to ‘embed’ reviews that you have obtained, which is a topic to be explored outside of this article.8
According to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA), marketers must hold documentary evidence that a testimonial or endorsement used in a marketing communication is genuine and hold contact details for the person who, or organisation that, gives it. So, if you have asked your patient if you can reuse a quote they’ve left you on Facebook, for example, you should also ask if they’re happy for their name to be used. Each case may be different – some may not want their name included, and some may not want you to reuse it at all. You should always check their preference beforehand. Again, you should ensure you have this question and answer in written form. If concerned about approvals, I’d recommend reading the ASA guidelines.9
Surprisingly, some brands still choose to avoid social media due to the risk of the unknown and receiving negative reviews, but simply staying clear doesn’t mean that these won’t appear at all
So, a potential patient has read a positive review on your Facebook business page about treatments that you offer with a mention of friendly and well-educated staff, and they have now clicked onto your website, what next? They are more than likely exploring your site and forming their opinions about you, while seeking materials to help them decide whether to get in touch or not. You can’t control the reviews other people leave online, but on your website you can use your case studies as another type of review to fully leverage opportunities.
It is vital that you obtain written consent from the patient for publication of case studies, and any testimonials.10 The most important part of the process is making sure that they’re happy with anything you’ve put together before it gets issued or used, and that they have the opportunity to make any tweaks if needed. This is more likely to be relevant for a case study, which you’ll be responsible for drafting or having a third-party agency put together.
Using something that’s not been fully approved, whether it be photos of a patient without their consent or a full name associated with a written testimonial, means you run the risk of damaging the relationship you have, potentially losing them as loyal patients altogether, or breaching confidentiality.10
I find that many practitioners are slightly nervous about promoting their presence online in case they are opening themselves up to negative reviews and comments. In such a socially connected world, negative reviews and comments cannot always be prevented and they can appear whether you’re present online or not.
They can be left on any of the aforementioned websites such as Google My Business or Facebook, and, in the case of the latter, if you don’t have a Facebook page but patients are regularly using your business’s name to review it or tag your name, a page will be automatically generated for it.11 If you’re actively choosing not to be online, you might not even know what reviews are being left for you and could potentially be losing out on potential patients because of it.
Surprisingly, some brands still choose to avoid social media due to the risk of the unknown and receiving negative reviews, but simply staying clear doesn’t mean that these won’t appear at all. In fact, in my opinion, negative reviews can improve a brand’s reputation if the response to such criticism is managed well.
Take one of the best loved clothes retailers, H&M, as an example. One of its customers shared a post about their inaccurate and disheartening clothing sizes, which later went viral and rallied consumer support across the UK and beyond. So much so that the brand actively pledged to make improvements to its sizing.12
Dealing with a negative review effectively can actually help to improve your brand’s image, services and offerings. If you’ve received a bad review, it’s always good to respond to it in a timely and professional manner.
For example, ‘Thank you for your feedback and bringing this to our attention. We’d love the opportunity to put this right — could you email us on firstname.lastname@example.org with further details so that we can help?’
Always remember that other people will be able to see your response, so you shouldn’t go into specific details on the post about anything personal, or defend your services and/or actions. Any issues you’re trying to resolve or respond to should be taken off the review site itself and done privately and in a professional manner.
It may sound like a lot of work while you’re in a full-time business, but quite often search results and the accompanying reviews are the first thing a prospective patient will come across or seek out about your brand. So why not take full advantage of these tools, promote what your patients already love about you, and enhance your online reputation amongst new patients?