For a few years now, dentists have heard that positive online reviews of their practice are an excellent way to support their online marketing efforts and give their practice a leg up against competition. And they are! Thousands of people search sites like Yelp.com and Angie’s List for user recommendations on services like which restaurant to take their family to and which dentist to book their next appointment. But, along with the benefits that a positive online review can give a dental practice, many dentists are wary because with the prospect of glowing reviews, there is also the threat of scathing reviews. Negative reviews can be damaging to a dental practice, can live on indefinitely and have the potential to reach many potential patients.
Whether it’s warranted or not, people just seem to want to take to the masses (which these days, is online review sites and social media), and shout it from the mountain tops that they’ve been wronged. It seems that the power is all in the hands of the patient, right? For the majority, yes it still is, but based on a few recent legal cases, the tide may be turning in your favor, dentists. Here’s why:
- In a recent Virginia appeals court ruling, Yelp.com was ordered to reveal the identities of seven users who wrote negative reviews of a local carpet cleaning business. While Yelp and several First Amendment advocated didn’t like this ruling, it may set precedent that disallows anonymity in online reviews, which could curb instances of wrongful, false or inaccurate bad reviews.
- In Arizona, 2 surgeons recently won a $12 million lawsuit against a patient who created an entire website of bad reviews about them.
What this means for dental practices, is you may not be at the total mercy of a patient’s online review. In the unfortunate event that you do receive an unfair negative review, litigation is probably a bad route to go and we certainly don’t recommend it. But, what the carpet cleaning and surgeon cases tell us, is that the courts may not believe the customer is always right and be open to giving some online reputation protection to business owners, and consumers should “Yelp” at their own risk.
What’s next for Dentists?
While this aggressive stance against wrongful negative reviews is a good start, dentists must still have a strong, proactive online reputation management plan in place for their practice. Why? Because whether they are warranted or not, online reviews have incredible capability to influence the opinions of your potential and current patients – even those that are referred to you. Consider this statistic – a 2013 survey found that nearly 80% of people trust online reviews as much as a personal recommendation. Plain and simple, online reviews have power.
To protect yourself and your practice, here are two simple steps our reputation management team recommends a dentist do on their own:
- Google your name and your practice name on a regular basis. If negative reviews exist, they’ll more than likely pop up in a Google search. Ignorance is not bliss and you should know what’s being said about you online.
- If you do have a negative review, consider responding to it. Just remember to answer calmly and always take the high road. Remember, your responses are public, so represent yourself well.
To really give your practice protection against online defamation, consider enrolling in a comprehensive online reputation program. Our protection team will not only monitor your reputation, but proactively put measures in place so if a negative review happens, the collateral damage is minimal. As a dentist, your reputation is everything, so contact our team today to find out how we can help.