We all have a love-hate relationship with reviews. They can be difficult to read and reply to as a business, especially when they are negative reviews. But the fact is that 90% of consumers read online reviews before visiting a business. That means your clients want as much information as possible before making a decision on where to take their pet, and if you have reviews with no responses, you’re not giving current and potential clients the full picture of their possible experience with your clinic.
Here at DoveLewis, we try to think about our reviews as opportunities for education. It is a time to address any miscommunication with clients or to thank someone for their kind words, but it can also be an educational opportunity for your audiences and internally with your staff as well.
As you may have seen in our Using Online Reviews as Educational Tools (Part 1), we had a negative/neutral review stating:
With reviews like this, our Client Relations Specialist and I will take the time to review the case and see what was happening around the time of their visit. In this situation, the pet was said to be stable while more critical patients were also coming in around the same time and there was a lack of communication with her about our triage process. This means that if she didn’t know about that process while she was waiting, others also may not be familiar with it too. People are not very familiar with veterinary medicine and its processes so it is important to educate audiences on every platform you can.
Typically, you can draft a response like this:
“We are sorry that you are not happy with your recent client experience, [Client Name]. As an emergency animal hospital, we often need to triage our most critical patients ahead of our more stable patients. We apologize if this was not communicated to you while you waited. If you have some time to discuss your experience in greater detail with our Client Relations Specialist please call ____. Thank you again for your feedback.”
To make it more personal add some information about the case that is mentioned by the reviewer. This not only makes the reviewer feel like they are being heard but also educates anyone who is taking the time to read through reviews too.
We also received a negative review around this same time in our survey saying:
“Better communication with me, and better communication between staff. I was at DoveLewis for 8 hours with a dog in stable condition. The end result was blood tests and urinalysis came back fine, and they weren’t able to get a stool sample. I had to wait several additional hours for the vet to have time to tell me that... Now, after waiting 8 hours I still have to wait for that test to be complete...”
In situations like both reviews above, it was clear to us that our update process with clients was not sufficient. More consistent updates were needed to be built in to ensure that clients felt like they could ask more questions about their pets, know their pet’s status, and exactly where in the process their pet’s care was.
As your practice gains more and more reviews, it is important to think about how you are being perceived if a potential client went in and read your reviews. If you are not replying or writing the same response over and over, that may show a lack of care for their opinions and time. While we do receive positive reviews that are great to share with the rest of the staff, we all naturally fixate on negative reviews. So, we wanted to change our overall perspective on reviews and see them as a way to educate audiences on the processes and systems in our hospital as well as what we may need to do internally to continue to improve.
Reviews as Educational Tools
With reviews, it is all about the work moving forward. For DoveLewis, I monitor and reply to online reviews and our Client Relations Specialist handles our survey feedback as well as clients brought to her attention by staff members. Depending on our interpretation of the review after looking into the case and discussing with the associated staff, we determine if our Client Relations Specialist needs to directly reach out to the client alongside my online reply telling them that she is doing so. Taking the time to review the case also helps to see if the experience needs a full medical review or showcases gaps that may be happening that we can close with new training with our staff.
For our Client Relations Specialist and I, we think of our reviews as stepping stones for internal and external communication. After looking and understanding the case, the client’s experience from their review, and our notes about the communication with them, we try to have the question: “What needs to be done next?” This helps guide how we reply and best educate our external audiences but also what may need to be done internally as well. This can include:
- Direct contact with the client, if needed
- Bringing training that addresses themes to new hire orientation
- If someone specific is mentioned, managers will speak with them to see their perspective
- Discussions with CSRs on the overall common themes being seen so they are aware of the overall experience clients are having with us
- If a review required a full medical review of the case, that is a training opportunity for the CMO and staff on what we can do to improve situations like those stated in the reviews
Tracking Review Themes
To help identify if there is an issue that needs to be addressed and whether training plans should be made is by tracking the overall themes you are seeing in your reviews. Since we have a couple of people handling reviews, our Client Relations Specialist and I use the same tagging structure to label our reviews and meet as often as we can to discuss what we are seeing. Themes such as improve communications, wait time is too long, etc. Creating three to five tags that reflect typical themes is a great starting point to begin identifying common elements between reviews. Our tags help us as we meet to see if situations then need to be passed on to management and allow us the opportunity to begin incorporating new trainings that better address these issues.
Currently, we utilize Google Sheets to consolidate our online reviews. That way we can also share the document with management and staff so everyone is informed of our current review status. Using Google Sheets or Excel is a great way to track the overall themes and helps the tagging process when we look at our online reviews alongside our survey responses.
Having reviews on an Excel sheet like this provides insight and evidence into client experiences and what we can do as a practice to help continue or improve our services for our community. Reviews are an opportunity to not only educate audiences but also develop new skills and training internally to help future negative experiences from happening.
All in all, reviews can be difficult. But taking the time to review cases and reply to reviewers with education about your clinic alongside the sharing of information and overall themes internally can help improve your processes. We want all of our clients to walk away feeling good about their pet’s care and experience with us so using reviews as tools for education is an important aspect of building the best overall client experience.