Let’s face it: In today’s world, information is king. Post-pandemic, many professionals are working from home, organizations have had to change their business models, and the internet has become our connection to the world. And although managing an online reputation has always been important, it’s now more important than ever.
Why? Because of perception. Perception is a broad term, but when it comes to marketing, perception is the way a consumer will organize, identify, and interpret any bits of information to create meaning. Taking this definition into account, when a patient is looking at reviews for a new or unfamiliar healthcare provider, you can see how the perception of positive or negative experiences can quickly develop with just a few short clicks!
The rule is simple: The healthcare industry must have a strategy for online reputation management to gain and retain patients, improve brand awareness, and stay relevant. The Mayo Clinic did a study and found that while many doctors with negative reviews online had similar patient satisfaction as those who had good reviews, the number of patients they received or returned for another visit was much lower.
Take this statistic into account: 79 percent of patients consider online reviews before choosing their healthcare provider.
This means that more than three out of four times, your potential patients’ first interaction with you will come from online reviews. The amount of revenue lost in that equation based on bad reviews can be staggering for a healthcare system. Reviews are the written form of the patient voice.
Change the perception: What is planned online reputation management?
In short, planned online reputation management is a way to strategically and proactively manage — and respond to — the online conversation your consumers are having about you. How you plan is through regular reviews of metrics to develop deep insights into what the patient feedback is telling you. Some of the metrics you can use include Net Promoter Score, Customer Satisfaction Score, and significant key driver analysis to predict what changes you can make to maximize ROI.
Managing how you’re viewed – and on which channels – is a job that takes consistency and dedication. The rewards, though, are endless. Through this feedback, you can learn more about yourself, determine holes in your strategies and models, and drive your potential revenues higher.
As many healthcare organizations are focusing more on patients at the center of their care — even to the point of acknowledging employee grief when dealing with patient loss — it’s imperative to better understand the relationship between perceptions of service through online reviews versus the reality of how you provide care for patients.
Let’s look at an example. In 2008, Anderson and Home did a study with caffeine and found that the students who thought they were drinking caffeinated coffee were more alert, were higher performing, and had better reaction time. In reality, these students were drinking decaffeinated coffee, but the perception that the coffee was caffeinated – and it being confirmed to them for the experiment – was enough to create the same results.
The same is true for perception and the psychology behind it when someone is browsing online to make a decision. For many browsing patients, negative reviews equal negative care and vice versa. It’s all about the perception, and the perception of your healthcare facility could be affecting your revenue.
So how do you approach your online reputation and leverage it to your advantage?
A two-pronged strategy
A successful online reputation management strategy is going to utilize two different approaches: prevention and response. As in medicine, prevention is better than a cure – and so is prevention better than a response – but you must be able to do both. Planned online reputation management is a way to strategically drive positive reviews and patient experience.
Step one: Prevention
With prevention, the idea is to provide the best patient experience from the beginning, listening to the patient voice through feedback. You’re looking to stop negative reviews by lowering the number you get in the first place. How do you do this?
- Ask your patients for their opinions! Many providers don’t think to ask their patients to provide their feedback or direct them where to provide it. This is an amazing way to steer your reputation in a direction you can control At the end of the visit, ask the patient to share their experiences on websites of your choice. Many people are willing to share if they are asked to.
- Gather feedback during a visit. By asking patients how they feel about their service while in the moment allows you to immediately fix potential issues and boost patient experience – and in return, head off a potentially negative review. This, of course, takes engaged employees who are focused on providing positive experiences.
Step two: Response
Response is about efficiency, timing, and positive engagement. Negative reviews can happen and learning how to work with them is the second half of planned online reputation management. You may not catch every issue, or some factors may be out of your control, but your plan of action is the focus here. How do you respond to negative reviews when you get them?
- Respond quickly. Answering within 24 hours means a lot to the reviewers. Even in the event they do not respond to you themselves, the response time shows a willingness to make things better. A fast response also shows engagement and keeps the situation from escalating any further. It also allows those reading the review to see who you are: Your reaction is a great way to steer the voice of your brand.
- Listening goes a long way! Like dealing with patient grief, an empathetic ear is a powerful tool to de-escalate situations, create value, and rebound a negative situation. Many reviewers will change their negative reviews to positive ones when they are properly taken care of quickly and efficiently. You don’t want to get negative reviews in the first place, but you can sometimes turn them around.
Understand that within this second stage of your strategy, you’re not only helping the patient with a negative experience, but also demonstrating your care and compassion to those looking for their next provider. Take every one of these negative reviews as an opportunity for growth and a chance to recapture lost patients or boost overall patient satisfaction.
Do all reviews matter?
While all reviews matter, not all reviews are going to have the same impact on your reputation.
Why? It’s sort of like your credit score. Things farther back in your report have less weight on the current rating. In a study by Repugen, 27 percent of survey participants deemed reviews one or two years old as not relevant. This tells you that it’s important to manage all reviews, but you want to prioritize more recent reviews to target the ones most of your potential patients will focus on. By prioritizing, you are able to be more efficient with your responses and can triage where your resources are needed most.
Ready to improve the health of your online reputation? Connect with our experts today!