Just when you think you’ve got your online review process all sorted out, and things are running hunky dory — BAM! Here comes Google with yet another algorithm curveball to throw your game off balance.

The bad news: medical practices will no longer be able to filter negative reviews from patients on Google and Yelp (without significant risks). The good news: your practice stands to benefit from a more transparent and open online review process.

Research shows that having (some) negative reviews online can help establish authenticity and improve sales. In fact, 82% of consumers specifically seek out negative reviews to develop trust and make sure the business they are dealing with has nothing to hide.

In this week’s podcast, we break down how Google’s new online review policy affects how you manage both positive and negative reviews and spell out how you can leverage the new rules to drive more patients through the front door.

Tune In to Discover:

  • What Google’s new online review policy means to your practice
  • How to use the new rules to your advantage
  • How negative reviews can help you serve your patients better
  • The risks and potential repercussions if you want to continue using gated reviews
  • Powerful (free) resources to help you manage negative reviews


6 Tips to Prevent Negative Reviews

FREE 5-step ORM Quickstart Guide and Checklist

Transcription Notes

Jennifer:             Hey, guys. This is the Dr Marketing Tips Podcast. I’m Jennifer.

Corey:                  I’m Corey.

Jennifer:             And we are here today to talk to you about something that has really hit home with us, and that is online reputation management in a recent policy change with Google. So, for us and for most of our clients, we tackle online reputation management on a daily basis, and what we mean by that is we will get password protected lists of patients from our physician clients. They will send them to us, and we will upload them into a software program that will then text message their patients from the day before and encourage them to leave some feedback. Once the patient clicks on the link provided in their phone, they are taken to a feedback page, and they are presented with three different choices. One is a sad face, one’s a neutral face, and one is a happy face.

                                The sad faces and neutral faces come to us internally in what is referred to as a filtered review so that those filter reviews can then be dealt with internally, and hopefully you’ve provided an opportunity for that patient to get whatever it is off their chest and not go online and leave a review.

                                If it’s a happy face, then what they do is they’re sent automatically to the reputation or the star rating website where that physician might need a little bit of help. Whether it’s Google, Yelp, Healthgrades, RateMDs, Vitals, you name it, it automatically sends it to them.

                                This is how we’ve been doing business for quite a long time, and we have a lot of clients using this. So, to our surprise, in the last couple of weeks we were made aware of a change to the Google algorithm and the Google policies that basically say that gating that your negative reviews will no longer be tolerated. So, what do you say it all that, Corey?

Corey:                  Yeah. So, we … Well, besides that, there was a brief moment of that, but, yeah, we call it filtered reviews. Google calls it review gating, which is to say that the process of filtering out these candidates before asking them to leave you a review is now against their terms of service guidelines.

                                So, like Jen said, normally we do that, we send the customers a text and ask them to leave positive or negative feedback, and then we go ahead and report that back to the client, and the reason that we do this is because we know that reviews matter. In a recent study, 72% of patients say that their first step in finding a new doctor is checking those online reviews, and we know that as single review on Yelp or Google can affect annual income for business by as much as 10%.

Jennifer:             Yeah, and we often will use … So, if we have a practice that’s opening their doors for the first time, we’ve been working a lot with urgent care facilities, and so if we have an urgent care facility that’s opening their doors, one of the first things that we’ll suggest is having them go and really try to get some reviews on Google because that’ll help in their business page, it’ll help them from an SEO standpoint getting their name on the map, and we do this through the filter review process.

                                And so, if we’re not able to do this, we just have to find a workaround moving forward of how we’re going to get those reviews left online.

Corey:                  Yeah, and there’s a couple of reasons that you want to do that. One, because Google loves Google, so if your business listing, your practice listing, has more reviews, then Google looks at that as one of the indicators to show up in search results. So, for example, if a potential patient is saying, “Best urgent care center near me,” Google is going to look at those reviews that are left on the Google My Business page and then present the ones with the highest or the most reviews kind of over the top of other ones with not so stellar reviews or only a handful of reviews.

                                So, our thinking has always been, “Well, let’s help put these practices, help them put their best foot forward,” and we’re still going to do that, absolutely, but the process in which we’re going to do that is now going to have to shift because of this policy change.

Jennifer:             So, if you’re a practice and you are using filter reviews or gated reviews right now, what should you do?

Corey:                  So, if you’re using it right now, specifically on Google and Yelp, you need to turn that off. Just stop the review gating, the filtered sort of process for those because it actually does violate both of their terms.

Jennifer:             So, really you can actually still … So, if it’s being gated, turn off Yelp and Google, but you can still non-gate it, so you can still send text messages out to your patients. You just can’t filter it in between and accept the negatives and then push the positive.

Corey:                  Right, and so that would be our recommendation because it still is important to have reviews on those sites and to show up, and obviously if you just put yourself in the shoes of the patient, if there’s one practice and it’s rated 4.2 stars and then has 300 reviews compared to another practice that’s rated, let’s say 3.9 with three reviews, odds are if you just compare apples to apples, you’re going to trust and go with the one that has more reviews regardless of whether it’s a perfect five star or not.

                                So, yeah, our thought is still definitely ask for that feedback and try and get those reviews, but you don’t necessarily want to try and gate and filter out the negatives there.

Jennifer:             So, let’s say your practice, you’ve been doing this for a while, and you know you’re either not aware of the policy update or you’re willing to take your chances. If you’re willing to take your chances, what are the repercussions?

Corey:                  So, if you decide to review gate regardless of the guidelines, you risk Google taking action and removing the reviews since they changed the policy, which was April-

Jennifer:             12th? I think. Yeah.

Corey:                  … 12th I think. Yeah, April 12th, 2018. So, what they would do is they would just essentially delete all of your reviews from April 18th forward, but they would leave all of the ones prior to that intact because at that point it didn’t violate the policies.

Jennifer:             So, I think for us, moving forward, is for practices is you have to make that decision. Is it worth taking a chance? Do you have an opening or something that you want to really make a push for the Google reviews because they help you from a geo standpoint, or are you going to be safe and pull them down? And with that said, let’s say you’re safe and you pull them down, or you just stop the filtering process. That means that your process or your policy now is to maybe send text messages to your patients, but positive or negative, you’re sending them to these sites for actual reviews, and you’re not capturing the negative.

                                So, with that said, Corey, there has got to be a positive side to negative reviews, and we talk about it all the time. Like sometimes it just means that you need to up your game from a customer service standpoint or an employee engagement standpoint so that you can really lead with your best foot forward.

Corey:                  Absolutely. I think there’s value in negative reviews, certainly, and one thing to know, too, is … and this is a question that’s definitely going to come up is, “Well, how is Google going to catch me? How do they know that I’m doing this or not?”

Jennifer:             Well, I’m going to tell on you.

Corey:                  Yeah. Essentially, yeah, that’s it. Exactly. If you are reported, then it becomes an issue. If you are not reported, then they’ll probably never know, and you can keep filtering, but, again, our advice would be to not do that.

                                But, yeah, like Jen was saying, there’s definitely positives to the negative feedback. Consumers turn to reviews because of their authenticity. So, when someone’s looking to research a product or a business, a service, a physician, you want to hear directly from another person, customer, patient that has dealt with them, so by showing these negative reviews, you’re showing potential customers and patients that your brand and your practice, your business has nothing to hide.

                                So, negative reviews, they really do help patients make smarter decisions, and I’m going to cite a stat that relates to consumers, but I think it applies here, as well, and it says that 82% of consumers specifically seek out negative reviews. So, in addition to establishing trust and authenticity, these negative reviews help consumers determine whether or not a product is the right fit for them. So, just like a potential physician, you want to know if that practice is the right fit for you.

Jennifer:             Oh, absolutely, and I think, also, negative reviews drive sales. According to a recent Northwestern University study, a perfect 5.0 star rating isn’t necessarily the most desirable. Rather, it’s a consumer is more likely to make a purchase of a product when it’s an average star rating, like somewhere between 4.2 and 4.5 stars, and why might that be because we all know that nobody can just have a perfect 5.0 star rating across the board, and that more like a 4, 4.5 is probably realistic, and that’s maybe more transparent, more balanced, and so I don’t know that you just want positive reviews out there.

Corey:                  Yeah, exactly. I mean, I know just from personal experience, if I’m looking up something, even if it’s like a TV I’m going to buy or whatever, and it’s five stars and it has 200 reviews. It’s one of those things where you look at it, and you go, “That’s too good to be true. Like there’s no way that that’s possible.”

Jennifer:             Well, yeah, and even with Yelp, I will go on and look at a restaurant, and five star rating, I’m like, “Well … ” And then I gotta look at the food. Is it the food they’ve staged, or is it the food that people like you and I posted?

Corey:                  The actual pictures, yeah.

Jennifer:             So, there’s something about being transparent as it relates to reviews.

Corey:                  Yeah, I totally agree. And then something that we see all the time and that we use as kind of a teaching tool, I think this is really important for all the practice managers, administrators out there, is that negative reviews can really drive improvement. So, by leveraging these sort of insights from user-generated ratings and patients just being honest, especially when they’re able to be anonymous, you can really shed light on opportunities for the practice to better serve patients. We see all the time that for the most part, the reviews that we get back that are negative, and … And what would you say, Jen? It’s like 85 to 95% are positive?

Jennifer:             Yeah. So, when we’re sending out filtered reviews, we are getting about a 25 to 30% click-through rate of people. So, when we’re sending out text messages, we’re getting about 25 to 30% click-through rate. Of that 25 to 30%, we’re getting about an 85 to 90% positive to about 10 to 15% negative that we have to deal with.

Corey:                  And when they are negative, most of the time, you can identify a common thread-

Jennifer:             Absolutely.

Corey:                  … and typically it’s never the level of care that they’re receiving. It’s all the things that revolve around that care. So, it’s billing. It’s … There’s one practice that we work with; it’s an ENT practice, and consistently at one of their locations, the negative reviews always relate around a front desk person.

Jennifer:             Yep, or we have the orthopedic practice this week who is going to a new EMR, and we are seeing consistently a couple a day negative reviews coming in because of wait times or they don’t have the computer systems up and going, and that’s because they’re doing a transition, and so we’re able to plan for it and make sure the staff prepared for it, so we can overeducate to help alleviate those negative reviews.

Corey:                  Yeah, and that’s a great tool when it comes to do quarterly reviews of employees and just making sure that people are in the right seat on the bus kind of thing. If you want to make sure that your staff is best positioned to treat patients with the very best level of care possible, and negative reviews kind of help you guide that ship, if you will.

Jennifer:             Well, and let’s face it. I mean, we’re not going to be able to get rid of negative reviews, and this change in the policy to Google and Yelp is going to make it harder to filter those out, and so the fact is, once again, the consumers are completely in control. We have no control over what they’re going to say, but we can utilize the tools that are being put in front of us so that we can make adjustments from a customer service standpoint, and like you said, we can use it as a teaching standpoint for getting better employees and making everybody more aware because go back to those statistics is that we know people are going to use these reviews, whether it’s the four star or the five star rating to make healthcare decisions.

Corey:                  Yeah, absolutely. And like you said, when we send out reviews, overwhelmingly they’re positive.

Jennifer:             Of course.

Corey:                  So, there’s no reason to not send them out, and there’s no reason to really be afraid. Yeah, you might have a couple more negatives show up, but for a couple negatives, you get the … Those are opportunities to improve, and then the positives far outweigh those.

                                And one thing that we’re seeing with the software that we use since we’re not going to be able to filter anymore, we’re actually rolling this out to clients. We’re going to start doing it here in the next couple of weeks. It’s natural-language processing, which is really cool, and what’s happening is the software is able to scan the reviews and group responses by key phrases to identify trends. So, basically what’s going to happen is that the dashboard that we report to clients is going to change. So, say you had this many filter reviews to say, “These positive phrases keep showing up in your reviews, and here’s how many and why, and then these negative ones keeps showing up,” and then you almost get a snapshot so you can quickly identify trends at the practice, and you’ll be able to see that trend over time. So, I’m pretty excited about it, seeing that roll out.

Jennifer:             No, I think that’s great stuff, and I think at the end of the day, we just have to elevate our game when it comes to social customer service or customer service and really engaging employees because we find that employees are the ones, the frontline people are the ones that are really impacting the reviews one way or another.

                                So, a couple handy tips that we’ve got available. I know that this week we put on the website, six tips to preventing negative reviews. So, there’s a little bit of customer service employee engagement training that we’ve got up there for free, and I think this week, also, we launched our free five step reputation management quickstart guide and checklist so that if you have a practice, you can go on our website, download this checklist, and understand perfectly how to claim all of your listings on these sites and really get your hands around your reputation to get started on this thing.

Corey:                  Yeah, this is powerful stuff that really not only shapes the way that HR and employee reviews and things like that are done in the very near future, like very near, like right now-

Jennifer:             Like today. Or yesterday.

Corey:                  … but it’s also really powerful just to see how not only the marketing plays into your practice, but how just efficiently the whole practice is running and how you’re viewed in the eyes of patients. And one thing I want to mention, too, is so we talked a lot today about Google and Yelp and not about the physician-specific rating websites, and there’s a reason for that because their policies have not changed yet. So, if you want to continue filtering reviews and then send folks to sites like RateMDs, Healthgrades, Vitals, that’s perfectly fine and still acceptable because they haven’t adjusted their policies yet, but if you had to ask us, within, I don’t know, six months to a year-

Jennifer:             Yeah, I think they’re going to follow. They’re going to follow.

Corey:                  Yeah, they’re just going to do what Google and Yelp do because they’re kind of the industry leaders, so the other review sites are going to fall in line. So, for right now, it’s totally fine. You can still do what you’ve been doing, but expect that change to come sooner rather than later.

                                All right. So, with that, make sure you check out-

Jennifer:             Check out the free resources.

Corey:                  Yeah, and the checklist there, I think, is super helpful for anyone that’s just getting started, and then if you have any questions, as always, feel free to hit us up on Twitter at Dr Marketing Tips, and we’ll get back to you, and I’m Corey.

Jennifer:             And I’m Jennifer.

Corey:                  And we will talk to you next time.

Jennifer:             See you next time.

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