How to Deal with Negative Online Reviews (5 Tips for Vet Practices)

6 min read
J'accuse what's the worst you've ever read?

One star does happen!

You’ve been extremely happy with the way your promotional efforts have spread the word about your veterinary practice. In fact, the bell on the practice door has been ringing seemingly nonstop with new clients coming in.

While it may be all the glowing online reviews that have these new clients completely ‘star struck’ with your business, your great service has backed that online reputation.

Learn how you can grow your veterinary practice with online reviews.

Suddenly, among all of those four and five stars, a one-star review rears its ugly head. If you’re like most veterinarians or practice owners, the law of averages doesn’t apply. One bad review definitely outweighs all of those positive ones, even if your average barely suffers.

How you handle that bad review may influence how prospective clients view your veterinary practice, as well as how many more negative reviews find their way in.

With that said, here are some tips to help you better deal with negative online reviews (should you ever need them):

1. Take a timeout

When faced with a negative review, the initial step in handling it is first to catch your breath. Believe me; it’s probably going to take you back a little bit, especially if you’re used to only reading praise on your review page. Before you decide when and how to respond to this negative comment, you need to get into a relaxed headspace.

No one wants to read the angry rants of a bitter practice owner that just received some nasty news, let’s leave that for daytime television.

Give yourself some time to get over the initial shock and anger and into a better temperament where you can address this client’s complaints head-on, yet rationally.

While it is definitely important to respond to reviews as quickly as possible, a little delay will be worth the wait if you come back with a cool head and are able to respond like your back’s not against the wall.

What’s the worst review you’ve ever seen? Take a look at this one.

2. Respond publicly then move offline

Once the redness has faded from your face and your body temperature has dropped back to 98.6, respond directly to that neegative review, right there on the review site on which it was posted. Apologize to the reviewer that their experience was less than what they considered ideal.

Hold off on apologizing directly for whatever it is that you are accused of.

Ask that reviewer to kindly contact you privately at their earliest convenience, providing contact information, including the name of a specific practice representative, if possible. And then sit back with your fingers crossed that they do return the call.

The reasoning behind moving the solving of negative reviews offline is simple. Trying to fix everything in one electronic response can often do more harm than good.

Even if you never hear from this person again, you have let other potential clients know that you care about your client’s experience when they use your veterinary services and that you want to investigate their case in further detail to make things right.

3. Remember the “client is always right”

If you get a private response from that reviewer, then it’s time to mend some fences.

Even if you believe the client to be in the wrong, remember that the “client is always right” in services businesses, and reputation is everything, so guard it!

Apologize to the client for their unpleasant experience, calmly address their concerns and offer a solution to their problem. Depending on the situation, you may want to explain practice policies or procedures that may have caused this experience to occur.

In most cases, an apology, explanation or solution to the initial issue will be enough to satisfy a disgruntled client. But not in all cases.

Even if you believe the client to be in the wrong, stay calm and professional and let them know that they’re being listened to. As long as you show effort and desire to resolve issues, most clients will be appreciative and feel well looked after.

4. Offer something complimentary

There will always be cases of “difficult” reviewers that are not satisfied despite your best efforts to apologize and address their concerns.

Some will even persist to leave negative review after negative review on various channels to display their anger.

While it is something that you may not necessarily want to do for every dissatisfied client, offering a complimentary item or service is a great way to show how “sorry” you are and how seriously you take their complaint.

Perhaps it’s a discount off their next vaccination or a free toy for their furry friend, a giving gesture can go a long way to converting a potential detractor into a loyal evangelist. Who knows, they may even refer their friends and family to your practice, generative a huge return on your “complimentary” investment.

5. Revisit the review

In general, speaking directly to these negative reviewers will appease their displeasure and maybe even get them to remove the review. And with any luck, you will even retain them as a client (if you want to, that is!).

Even if they don’t remove the negative review, you can revisit it and update other readers that an agreement was reached with this client and the seas are calm once again.

In a perfect world, all interactions would turn out this way, but let’s get real. Sometimes there will be no amicable conversation and no agreement. Instead, there may be an already upset client that remains that way and takes their business elsewhere.

You can either let the review stand or you can revisit it and give others a little insight into the situation.

I’m not saying to make it a full disclosure explanation, rather provide a brief description of the misunderstanding, again, without placing blame. You may express your displeasure on the inability to reconcile as long as you can keep it professional.

Summary

Don’t let negative reviews force you into a dark hole of self-pity, instead use them as a springboard that launches even more new clients toward your veterinary practice.

First and foremost, respond to them. Don’t let them sit on your review page like a scarlet letter. Always maintain your professionalism and your cool when responding to these reviews.

You want to appease this client, but you always want to appeal to prospective clients with your compassion for the work that you do and your practice’s reputation.

No veterinary practice is going to maintain a perfect five-star average for long, so use those negative reviews to bolster your business rather than stain your status.