Stack of Celebrity Tabloid magazines

There is an old saying in marketing that says, “There is no such thing as bad publicity“. While this may be true for celebrities and big business, it is not necessarily true for small businesses such veterinary hospitals and these usually come in the form of bad reviews. A quick Internet search will reveal some of the most recent “bad publicity” in the celebrity world. It seems like each week someone else is in the news for something bad, but it only seems to last until the next celebrity does something bad. In fact the celebrity tabloid is an entire business on its own.

Getting a negative review on social media such as Facebook, Yelp or even Google, can be frustrating. This can be especially frustrating when it is not an accurate review, such as the client has never even been to your facility. So how do you deal with responding to reviews, especially when it is a patient that you haven’t seen?

To start with, take the high road. Even if you are 100% correct, anything other than the high road will lead to more negativity and bad publicity. And again, there is such thing as bad publicly.

First of all, don’t lose sleep over this. I believe you should reply to all reviews and posts. One you have posted the facts from your view point, don’t engage anymore. If they are angry and want to start a “Facebook War”, let it go. I would suggest that you state things in such a ways as to not put blame on anyone including your hospital, your staff or the client.

Once you have stated your facts, future viewers will read your response, if they even see it, and will come to their own conclusion. Most will see this as either a big misunderstanding, your hospital as being in the wrong, or the client being in the wrong. If their conclusion is that your hospital was wrong, you will be okay without the reader as a new client.

You could start your response with something such as “I am so sorry that you had a bad experience. We clearly need to do a better job of explaining our service and the cost associated with those services. Our Doctors and staff always operate with the goal of pet care as a top priority.” and then go from there. I would still keep it short and to the point.

This is never an easy thing to deal with but sympathize with them and don’t place blame. Most people will respect your stance with taking ownership and the high road. Remember; don’t get into a battle online. Once it’s there, it never goes away.

Think of yourself and the client as two people who have to go to court. One is the plaintiff and the other is the defendant. When the judge asks the plaintiff to provide his side of the story and the defendant to provide his side; and you hear two totally different stories. You may think to yourself, “are they even talking about the same incident?” Or, “okay, someone must be lying?” Well, it is likely that neither of these options is true. What actually happened is probably somewhere in the middle. It is up to the judge to determine what is the most factual; what really happened.

If you’ve ever watched one of those judge shows on television, you may have noticed that someone may be winning their case, but they continue to talk and end up changing the judge’s mind, prior to him/her making a decision, because either additional information the judge didn’t ask for came out, or the judge makes a decision that that person is being untruthful on another item and decides that if he’s untruthful here, he has lost credibility.

no matter how flat you make a pancake it's still got two sides

When you are “telling your side of the story” (your hospital’s side) keep it short, and to the point. Don’t provide information that is not necessary. The more you say, the more likely you are to come across as arrogant, righteous, condescending or accusatory. Or, as in our court example above, you may discredit yourself and the reader will then make some assumptions. Say what you need to say and then leave it alone. Leave it up to your current clients to “defend” you and your potential clients to make up their own mind about the situation.

Of course, sometimes the court system gets it wrong, and some potential clients will as well. You can’t continue to dwell on these negative reviews. State the facts from your perspective and allows to “judge” the situation.
View these as opportunities and really learn from them.

Even if you’re a small practice, you likely have thousands of clients and one or even two or three clients isn’t going to affect you greatly. For a way to solicit positive reviews, read our article on Getting 5-Star Reveiws. The negative comment will affect your 5.0 rating on Google or Facebook, but sometimes a 4.9 rating brings some authenticity, or credibility to the rating. Some people are leery of a perfect score. People want to know that you have flaws. Who wants to deal with someone who thinks they’re perfect? We’re all human and we can’t please everyone, no matter how hard we try. Continuing to comment will only keep that review at the top. If you leave it alone, just like a wound, it will eventually heal. While you may not ever forget it, it will become easier to not think about.