Socially Acceptable columnist Caitlin DeWilde, DVM, is the founder of The Social DVM, a consulting firm helping veterinary professionals learn to manage and grow their social media, online reputation and marketing strategies. She earned her DVM from the University of Illinois and is a recipient of its Outstanding Young Alumni Award. Before stepping back to focus on her marketing passion, she served as medical director for a large hospital in St. Louis. Today, she divides her time between practice, consulting and writing. She is the author of the “Social Media and Marketing for Veterinary Professionals” textbook.Read Articles Written by Caitlin DeWilde
Veterinary professionals spend a ton of time dealing with online reviews — specifically, deciding how to respond to negative comments — and practice leaders worry about how a particularly negative review looks to clients. The topic regularly shows up in veterinary Facebook groups and practice manager forums. A recent well-being survey cited stress caused by online reviews as a top concern.
While these concerns are valid and veterinary practices need a strategy for handling negative reviews, hospital teams should emphasize building a library of positive reviews. Think how much stronger our reputations would be if we spent just as much energy eliciting positive feedback from the pet owners who support us, continue to visit and likely will advocate for our practices. A one-star review doesn’t sting so bad or hurt the practice’s overall rating when it floats in a sea of four- and five-star reviews.
Positive reviews are positive all the way around. Not only do they bolster our reputation and earn clients’ trust, but they also:
- Help us attract new clients and the type of clients we actually want.
- Reinforce our ideals.
- Provide feedback on what’s working well.
- Brighten our spirits and help our teams recall why we do what we do.
So, why aren’t we trying to cultivate the posting of great responses? Here are six ways to get your practice on the path to more client reviews.
1. Embrace the Review Sites
Some veterinarians dislike online review sites as much as they like trimming a pug’s nails. You need to realize three important things about Facebook, Google, Yelp and Nextdoor.
- If your practice doesn’t claim your review sites, they’re up for grabs. Don’t let a crazy client, disgruntled employee or unscrupulous competing practice scoop up your listings.
- Not claiming these sites doesn’t mean clients can’t leave reviews. They can and will, and then you have no control over how your profile appears publicly, no way of responding and no way of being automatically notified that someone posted a review.
- Your online absence limits the possibility of good reviews.
So, take possession of your review sites, fill them with photos and information that cast your clinic in a glowing light, and be notified of reviews.
2. Activate Them
Here’s how to create your pages.
- Facebook for Business: bit.ly/3iSDmd6. Tip: Make sure to enable reviews through the settings.
- Google Business: google.com/business. Tip: Look for the “Share Review Form” box. Click it to get your short code, which is a direct link to your review site. Don’t see the box? Make sure you completed “Profile Short Name” in the Info section.
- Yelp: business.yelp.com.
- Nextdoor: bit.ly/3vGnMUq. Tip: Click the “Your Reputation” tab on your business listing, and then click “Share Page” to copy the link to your profile.
3. Ask Nicely
If you’re not requesting online client feedback, you’re much less likely to get it. A face-to-face invitation might seem awkward, but you can elicit feedback indirectly. Here are a few ideas:
- Incorporate a “Would you be willing to share your feedback?” option into post-visit emails or texts.
- Add a “We’d love your support” option using clickable links in your digital newsletters. Try alternating the review site to which you direct clients.
- Share on your Facebook page’s timeline the five-star reviews posted on Facebook, Google, Yelp and Nextdoor. Thank the individual reviewer, and ask others to share their feedback, too.
Be careful not to incentivize reviews or overtly tell clients that you need reviews. Doing that can violate the terms of service on some platforms, especially Yelp.
4. Don’t Forget Visual Reminders
Here are other ways to raise client awareness about your review sites:
- Get a “Find us on Yelp” window cling by requesting one from Yelp.
- Download and print table tents and actual reviews from Small Thanks with Google and place them in your exam rooms or lobby. (Learn more at marketingkit.withgoogle.com.)
- Create a screenshot of recent reviews and incorporate them into computer or TV slideshows in your exam rooms or lobby.
- Add review links to your email signature.
- Print at the bottom of receipts a message such as “Please share your experience with us on Yelp!” or “We’d love your feedback on Google!”
5. Follow Through
Nurturing connections with your clients and online community takes work. Here’s how:
- Respond to all reviews, not just the bad ones.
- Thank clients for their feedback, and personalize the messages whenever possible.
- Share the love by reviewing other local businesses. Companies that have symbiotic relationships help each other with client referrals.
6. Celebrate the Victories
It’s not enough to rack up five-star online reviews. Veterinary teams need to be told about client gratitude for the hard work they do. Here are a few ways to make sure the entire team knows what’s working in your practice:
- Share all positive reviews through your team’s private Facebook group or Slack channel.
- Print all good reviews and display them in the breakroom.
- Reveal the top reviews and overall ratings at your next team meeting.
When clinics shift their review mindsets from reactive to proactive, the number and quality of positive reviews increases and the stress caused by negative reviews plummets. Here’s to your next five-star review.
Author and psychotherapist Amy Morin advises businesses not to fear bad reviews. “Don’t delete reviews because they’re negative,” she wrote in a Forbes online article (bit.ly/3wFdky7). “Instead, keep in mind that a few negative reviews can make your business look better in the long run.”