Negative reviews on Yelp: The Physician perspective

Posted By American Med Spa Association, Friday, May 27, 2016

Your office provides excellent customer service. You offer every arriving patient a cup of coffee, tea or water. They never wait more than five minutes to see the doctor. You offer full price transparency online prior to the visit. The doctor encourages patients to email questions before a surgical procedure. The evening after the surgical procedure, the doctor calls to check on the patient, making sure the patient has the after-hours cell phone number to reach the doctor instantly via phone, text or email. No operator, no intermediary, straight to the doctor. That’s all you can do. It’s more than what most doctors do, but it’s also the right thing to do. And even still, you get a negative review. Why?
Gaming the System
By and large, these negative reviews are from patients who were unreasonable from the very beginning. Either you didn’t give them enough postop pain medication because their demands weren’t commensurate with normal postop pain control but rather, more related to drug-seeking behavior; or you didn’t provide them with a free Botox touchup (even though you told them during the initial appointment they needed more, but they weren’t willing to pay for the appropriate amount, so you warn them that touchups won’t be “on the house.”) Typically negative reviews, after you’ve provided all of the niceties mentioned above, are from folks gaming the system, and in a way, extorting you to give them more of what they want for free…or else! Of course some negative reviews are legitimate and will be discussed below but I would argue they are the exception, not the rule.
Should You Respond to Negative Yelp Reviews?
It’s time for doctors to recognize that sometimes the best option after receiving a negative review on Yelp is to do nothing. The customer isn’t always right and they don’t always deserve a response since their review often reflects deeper issues motivating their anger, issues that have nothing to do with your service. Most importantly, it’s very difficult to win an online verbal dispute. You can come off sounding defensive, unsympathetic, mean and accidentally reveal protected health information in the process.
One interesting aspect, specific to Yelp, is their algorithm. If the person writing the review, positive or negative, has only one to two prior reviews, all of their reviews are “filtered.” This means the reviews are moved to another page on the Yelp site where they’re deemed “not currently recommended.” Most consumers don’t visit this page. This is great if it’s a negative review but also frustrating if legitimate good reviews are filtered. The filtration algorithm is meant to ensure, in an automated fashion, that only the most credible reviews are left unfiltered for all to see. Because this is an automated process, many legitimate positive reviews are often filtered which is probably the single greatest source of small business owner’s animosity towards Yelp. 
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