Just when you think you’ve finally gotten your head around why you need to be on social media (because it’s one of the most cost-effective ways to reach new patients and engage with current ones in case you need the reminder), and what you need to be doing on Facebook and Twitter (sharing, educating, interacting with followers, etc.), the rules go and change again.

That’s right, social media is evolving yet again, and it’s imperative for you to keep up with the times by putting your best foot forward with social customer service.

So, what is social customer service? Consider it like a marriage – the joining together of social media and customer service (without the tax benefits). It’s a perfect union.  Not only are your patients able to ‘Like’ you on Facebook, but now they’re encouraged to share everything they may dislike about you as well. Oh, and the offspring of this perfect union?

Your online reputation.  

Still not convinced this might be a marriage made in heaven? According to a McKinsey study, companies that improve their customer experience from average to ‘wow’ can see a 30-50% improvement in key measures (that means more happy customers, many of which will then share their positive experience online).

What You’ll Find in this Article

In this article we’ll explain what social customer service means for your practice, who should be in charge of responding to online reviews at your office and offer a few tips to craft responses that are HIPAA compliant and will save you from pulling out your hair.  

The State of Social Customer Service and Reviews

Worldwide, there are nearly 2 billion active users on Facebook including 1.28 billion who log in daily and spend an average of 35 minutes on the social platform. Twitter, although significantly smaller than Facebook, has 328 million users. According to Social Bakers, more than 80% of customer service requests on social are happening on Twitter.

Whether you like it or not, Facebook encourages your patients to make recommendations and leave online reviews. Just like visiting an online dating site to connect with a potential partner (15%+ of all singles do this nowadays), your potential patients are actually doing something very similar by researching your practice peeking around on Healthgrades, Vitals, RateMDs, Yelp and Google before they even book their first appointment. Heck, once you’ve been on your first ‘date’, more often than not, patients are discussing how things went to their friends and even rating the experience online, especially on Facebook and Twitter. If you’re really unlucky, they’ll even tell their distant relatives about the experience (these are the typical online physician review sites you know and love).

Not all relationships last and not all dates go as planned. So when the patient’s appointment doesn’t go as well as they may have liked, it’s pretty reasonable to think that they’re going to air their grievances publicly and not particularly care how you feel or what your side of the story is. Relationships, right?

You’ve Got a Following and Reviews. Now What?

Listen and respond. It’s important that you pay attention to what your patients are saying online. Common, recurring complaints could be symptoms that something is actually in need of improvement at your practice; or, the patient could just be upset and is venting (happens all the time). Either way, in most cases, it’s important that you respond because no response is still a response.  And, considering 92% of all consumers admit to allowing online reviews to shape their purchasing and service decisions, patients are paying attention to your negative reviews and it’s impacting your ability to attract new patients.

It gets even better… Facebook actually tells people how long it takes you to respond.  It’s called Page Responsiveness and you get a badge when you consistently respond to messages 90% of the time and within 15 minutes. We had a client call recently where we discussed her process for responding to reviews. The client shared with us that sometimes it takes her 2-3 days to research a particular complaint and get to the bottom of what happened.  Our suggestion is to post an immediate response and then try to drive the conversation offline. You don’t need all the facts before you respond.  

The Most Common Complaints Aired on Facebook About Medical Practices:

  • Long wait times
  • Front office staff
  • Poor follow up
  • Unnecessary tests
  • Differing of opinion (commonly shows up something like this: ‘The doctor doesn’t know what he’s talking about’)

Who Should Manage the Online Review Process at Your Office?

Managing your medical practice’s social media presence generally falls to the marketing department (or outside consulting agency), but responding to online reviews and managing customer service inquiries typically require somebody with an operational role within your practice to review the patient’s records and investigate what actually happened with staff and, sometimes, the physician.

The relationship between marketing and customer service has very quickly gone from casual to an official marriage. The process will be different for every practice but it’s vital to actually have a process when the reviews come in – and they will. To give you some food for thought, Twitter published a 122-page Twitter Customer Service Playbook.  

A Few Tips to Respond to Negative Reviews

  • Respond quickly.  Nothing is worse than a negative experience left festering.  Acknowledge that something has been said and try to move the conversation offline.
  • Put together a handful of ready-to-use responses so that you don’t need to start from scratch or reinvent the wheel every review. Tweak and customize these as necessary.
  • Have a point person within your office that you can include in your responses.  For example, “Call Jessica, our clinical director, at 555-555-5555 to discuss your experience offline to protect your patient privacy.”   
  • Stay calm. This is a customer service issue being managed in a very public place. Keep this in mind when you are crafting your response and remember the old adage that the customer is always right (even when we know they aren’t).