Reputation Management – Protecting Your Physical Therapy Practice

Your clinic’s reputation is its most valuable asset. If it’s tarnished, you could lose patients. This article shows how negative reviews are not always what they seem and what you can do about it.

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Many Physical Therapists stand or fall on their reputation. A single therapist or practice can spend many years, and much money, building up a positive reputation through staff training, physician relationships, customer service policies, clinic culture development, customer (patient and physician) feedback and community relations.

Despite everything practitioners can do, a reputation is a delicate object that can easily be smashed into a thousand pieces by a few ill placed words. Never has this been more true than in this modern technological world of internet review sites and mobile digital technology, where damaging reviews can be published to the entire world in a matter of minutes.

But will one bad review really have an impact on your clinic? If this is the first contact a potential patient has with your company, how is it going to look to them? Are your online reviews really the first (and most lasting) impression you want to give those seeking a physical therapist? How much harder will it be to overcome not-so-positive comments and reviews, especially at the start of a patient relationship?

Managing how your clinic is represented online is very important, especially as the internet is becoming an increasingly popular way to search for and research the background of healthcare providers. And if you are in an area with many other Physical Therapists, a bad online review may drive potential patients to explore the next clinic or PT listing, rather than reinforcing a word-of-mouth referral from a family member, friend or physician.

Because millions of opinions can be accessed and read in seconds from online review sites, social media chat topics and buyer reviews, it has become necessary to be aware of and pay attention to your online reputation. So in order to keep an overall positive web presence, you should guard this reputation and take proactive steps to repair any damage you may find.

WHO MIGHT DAMAGE YOUR ONLINE REPUTATION?

It’s always possible that a patient might be prompted to publish a bad review of your clinic. Of course the first thing you want to do is read and understand the feedback. Whether there is any actual truth in the comment or not, clearly that person believed the reason was real to them and was compelled to let you (and consequently the rest of the internet) know how strongly they felt. So, while the negative comments may not always be 100% truthful, you need to remember at all times there is a real person behind them. You need to ask yourself: “What really motivated this person to write  these things?”

Patients

People love to tell businesses ‘The customer is always right’, regardless of whether they are being unreasonable, over demanding or have expectations that are greater than can possibly be met by the clinician. They have grown up with this ‘I am right’ culture. So when things do not go to plan, they feel they have the right to say something. You need to look at the patient’s experience on an individual basis to see whether they have a genuine complaint before you decide to take any action.
[note_box]Take a look at negative comments about physical therapy practices on review websites. More often than not, the complaint is about billing. “They didn’t tell me it would cost this much,” or “They ripped me off and didn’t tell me about my bill…” etc. Keep this in mind when dealing with patients. Money is often the issue especially when it comes to health care complaints.[/note_box]

Competitors

Unfortunately, it is true that some unscrupulous competitors can employ dirty tricks by deliberately writing and publishing fake negative reviews. It can be very difficult to prove that a review is not real. Sites like YELP, which actively target false positive reviews, are starting to try to identify and remove these false negative ones, but until it is shown to be a fake review, you must deal with each one as if it were a real customer regardless of any suspicions you may have.

Employees

Whether they are current or past employees, if one of your workers has a grudge or is unhappy, they can end up putting out a load of negative comments or reviews. But it isn’t always those with a grudge who cause a problem. In this day and age, everyone within your company has the potential to stir some negative online press. It could be a staff member’s controversial online statement, photograph, behavior or profile that is somehow connected back to your business. As tempting as it may be to terminate staff employments or launch a counter attack, that type of action will usually  lead to bigger problems.

[blockquote]So…what can you do if you do come across negative comments in social media, on a blog, on a review site, or even within the comments sections on your own website?[/blockquote]

AVOID DAMAGING YOUR ONLINE REPUTATION FURTHER!

Although it is perfectly normal to feel angry or upset about negative comments others may be saying about your business, you need to avoid doing any of these things at all cost…

  1. Don’t Try To Erase All Trace…Resist the temptation to delete bad reviews. The unfortunate truth is that once someone has published something into cyberspace, it is very difficult to remove it completely. Deleting comments tells potential patients that you have something to hide or that there is something wrong with your clinic. If you have made a mistake, don’t be afraid to own up and then take positive public steps to make it right. People respect the fact that you have owned up and are committed to getting it right. It builds confidence in your clinic’s motives and ethics.
  2. Don’t Lash OutWe often take these negative comments as a personal attack. In order to ensure a positive outcome, you need to think before you respond. Because nothing ever truly disappears off the internet, it’s best to delay an upset reaction with time. A response written in haste and in the heat of the moment has a good chance to come back to bite you again and again. Begin with a draft, then leave it for a few hours until you can review it in a more composed frame of mind, and soften any overly harsh words.
  3. Don’t Put Good Words In Someone Else’s MouthYou may think, “If they can write a bad review about me, then I can write a good one!’ It may SOUND like a good idea, but a lie is a lie. You may be saying truthful things about your clinic or services, but by pretending to be someone else, or by getting someone else to leave a good review written or prompted by you, you ARE being deceitful. Just remember: All businesses get bad reviews. But not all businesses lie to their customers. If review sites like YELP and search engines like Google realize that “fake” good reviews are being placed on their sites, not only will they remove the offending review but they may lower or even remove the ranking of the offending business so that they don’t show up in searches.

HOW CAN MY PHYSICAL THERAPY PRACTICE BE PROACTIVE WITH OUR ONLINE REPUTATION MANAGEMENT?

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  • Reputation management isn’t just about responding when a problem arises, but involves building up a strong foundation in the minds of potential patients. The best way is to get online and start building up relationships with your current and new patients on social media, Google+ and other places where you or your clinic can be an active participant. By building up a strong positive reputation for your practice, you will be better equipped to weather any negative comments that come your way. Become a voice that is respected and well thought of in the Physical Therapy community as a whole, then people will be less likely to be swayed by one negative opinion.
  • Don’t be afraid of feedback – in fact as someone in the ever-changing healthcare industry, you should openly invite patients to give feedback as often as possible. This shows that your are practicing as an open and transparent therapist, which cares about the concerns of its patients.
  • If you do find a negative review or have to reply to a complaint publicly, try to maintain a professional but helpful attitude. Try to resolve any legitimate issues amicably. You may want to take your initial communication with the person off the review site or forum, but publish the results publicly. Even invite the complainant to re-evaluate their original comments.
  • Monitor Your Reputation – Don’t wait for someone to bring their negative comments to you. You need to be proactively searching to ensure that you can address and comment whenever you come across a bad review. While it can be difficult to constantly read through all the social media comments, there are apps that can help you to monitor what is being said out there in cyber space – apps like Google Alerts, ReviewPush and others. By keeping your finger on the pulse of the internet, you need never be taken by surprise by what others are saying about you.
  • Follow this simple formula (originally from from Jeffrey Gitomer) React, Respond, Recover, Plus OneReact by acknowledging their anger or frustration.  Respond by restating the problem and clarifying the cause of the complaint.  Recover by offering a solution such as suggesting the unhappy reviewer call the office to resolve the matter.  Plus One :  if at all possible, do one extra nice thing that is beyond what is expected when resolving a complaint.

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No Physical Therapist or clinic is perfect, and that’s why you need to be aware of – how you can heal the wounds a hit to your online reputation may cause. Look calmly and rationally for a means to resolve things in a way that reflects well on you and your practice. If not, you will only succeed in scarring your Online Reputation even further.

[info_box]Action Items
1. Be aware that all feedabck may not be positive.
2. Think out your response to negative feedback before you respond.
3. Be proactive with your clinic’s online reputation.
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