Eric D. Garcia
Socially Acceptable columnist Eric D. Garcia is an IT and digital consultant who works exclusively with veterinary practices and speaks at veterinary conferences around the world. He founded Simply Done Tech Solutions to help veterinary practices improve their services and marketing communications efforts. He is a member of VetPartners, an association for veterinary practice development. He was named Practice Management Speaker of the Year at VMX 2020. Learn more at ericgarciafl.com
It’s no longer just younger pet owners who are emailing, texting and using social media to connect online. Now, all generations of pet owners are adapting to digital technology in new and unprecedented ways. In fact, according to The Nielsen Co., the fastest-growing demographic using social media is adults ages 55 or older.
I’ve met practice owners who would rather see the demographic changes go away, since these veterinarians have to dramatically change how they engage with pet owners. But I’ve also seen practices learn to thrive within the digital landscape, leveraging their Google Reviews to engage clients and manage a stellar reputation, driving new business as a direct result.
How do we use Google Reviews and our online presence to find our best brand advocates? And how do we go a step further by rewarding our brand advocates and making sure they know how much we truly appreciate them?
While the world of online reviews can seem overwhelming and maybe impersonal at times, the opposite is true. Each person who leaves a review has taken time to share an opinion and spread awareness about their experience.
Sometimes this means a rave review and other times this means having to deal with a public grievance.
Each review left for your veterinary practice is actually another opportunity to engage with pet owners in a meaningful way and reward clients who share their experience with your practice.
Google Rankings are an increasingly important part of your overall online presence, so receiving a five-star review is a valuable commodity in the digital age. Pet owners are looking higher up in local listings than ever before, typically skimming over veterinary practices with two- or three-star ratings and focusing on four- and five-star practices as top contenders for their business.
A single star can impact your ability to appear in the map section of the first page of a Google search. A huge amount of traffic goes toward the results that appear first, and practices with lower scores will get buried in online search results. This is because Google selectively filters the results of veterinary practices based off the reviews secured online. It’s in Google’s best interest to do this, because providing results of higher-rated practices tends to enhance the search experience for pet owners, who are typically looking for the best resource available in their local area. If a pet owner searches a region and finds veterinary practices with only two- and three-star reviews, the potential client likely keeps looking. Instead, Google wants to deliver the best results possible to the user on the first try.
While traditional word of mouth remains a powerful tool for securing new clients, your online reputation is like digital word of mouth, reverberating far and wide to pet owners searching for reliable care. There’s no ignoring this reality, which leaves a more permanent footprint than traditional word of mouth and can’t be underemphasized in the modern digital age.
Since Google is the majority holder of search engine market share, this puts us in a perfect situation to not only solicit Google Reviews from pleased clients but also thank and reward those who serve as brand advocates by leaving standout reviews.
Our need to express a heartfelt “Thank you” has never been more relevant or imperative than it is now. Despite what you might have been told, this simple phrase is emblematic of a whole lot more. It can make or break a friendship, or even a relationship with your clients.
Veterinary medicine is so dead set on acquiring new clients that we hardly stop to tell existing clients how much we appreciate them. Now, why would we work so hard to build our practice, market effectively and provide stellar service but stop short of giving thanks?
Outstanding client reviews and testimonials can drive new business and increase your Google Ranking.
What You Can Do
Let’s look at how to reward our best brand advocates and show them the love they deserve and consider a strategy for dealing with less-than-stellar reviews.
- Remember that any reviews you receive come from a client who took the time to find you online and share their experience with you and the world. This fact makes it all that more important to acknowledge a positive review and thank the pet owner for both visiting and leaving the review. You can follow up with a phone call, respond directly to the Google Review or even go a step above and beyond.
- Employees at one practice told me they plant a tree for every client who leaves a positive review. A tree? Yes! This is how they show appreciation in a sincere and meaningful way. If this article has a primary takeaway, that’s the one. Support brand advocates in ways that work best for you and your practice. Cookie-cutter techniques fail if they don’t come from the heart, so look holistically at your practice to appreciate your clients in ways that feel right and are in line with your brand.
- While replying to positive reviews is important and an incredible way to show pet owners that you appreciate their feedback, not every client visit will be a smashing success. Sometimes expectations aren’t met, and sometimes clients won’t be satisfied no matter what. If clients are setting unreasonable expectations and leaving an outlandish review, leave it alone. Try to engage offline if you see fit. If the client seems reasonable and has a true grievance, consider calling or responding personally to offer to correct the issue. Sometimes this extra gesture can turn a bad experience into a positive relationship.
Plant a Seed
Love it or hate it, the digital age and our online reputations are here to stay. The faster we adapt and learn to thrive within this landscape, the better off we’ll be and the more opportunities we’ll create to win new business and enhance the veterinary practice in the process.
Supporting your brand advocates, especially clients who take the time to support you publicly, is imperative if you want to bolster your online reputation and create meaningful and lasting relationships with pet owners.
What’s also just as important is to deal gracefully with negative reviews. Learning when to offer to correct the situation and when to ignore a poor client experience is an important distinction.
You don’t have to plant a tree to show your clients that you care about them. A simple “Thank you” or phone call can go a long way. So, next time you see a five-star review with your veterinary practice’s name on it, remember to ask yourself, “Are we showing enough love to our brand advocates?”
As long as you support clients who publicly promote your practice and as long as you attend to reviews with a personalized and intentional response, you’ll continue to thrive no matter what type of review comes your way.