5 tips for mastering your online review process

by By Caitlin DeWilde, DVM

12 min read

Dealing with online reviews has long been a thorn in the side of veterinary practice owners and managers, but it doesn’t have to be. When practices spend proactive effort optimizing their online review profiles, make it easy for clients to leave feedback, implement a process to earn reviews, and respond to reviews in a timely manner, they’ll be on their way to celebrating that five-star ranking in no time. Here’s how to master your online review process.

1. If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em

Here’s the thing: You’re NOT going to beat Google, Yelp, Facebook, or Nextdoor. If you choose to not create an account in an attempt to prevent reviews from coming in, Google and Yelp will create a listing for you. Clients will be able to leave a review for your practice, but you won’t get notified about it. You’ll also be unable to respond to it, or submit a flag or report to the platform in the instance of an undeserved or erroneous review.

Without an account, you’ll miss out on the opportunity to fill your profile with the photos, videos, brand assets, and messaging that best reflect your practice. Your veterinary practice won’t be able to share the most current and correct practice hours, contact information, and online booking links. These platforms and those that rely on them for information (such as Google and Apple Maps) may be providing clients with incorrect information. By trying to avoid problems, you may inadvertently create others while driving — potentially good — business away.

Cover your bases and ensure you have accounts for the following sites, and that notifications go to a regularly checked email address:

2. Make it easy for customers to leave reviews

Don’t inspire a client to leave an online review, only to have them go through a million steps to share their experience. Eliminate the need for clients to figure out how to leave a review by giving them a one-click option that takes them directly to the review page for various platforms. You can create a direct, clickable link to your Facebook page’s review section and Yelp’s “Write a Review” area, and shortened links are created for you by both Google and Nextdoor in their user dashboards. Take advantage of these and share them everywhere!

Key placements include your:

  • Website
  • Social media channels
  • Email signature
  • Practice app
  • Practice communications (e.g., newsletter)

3. Be proactive, not reactive

The veterinary industry spends a ton of time trying to put out the fires of negative reviews, but a disproportionate amount of time  building positive reviews. While nobody wants a single 1-star bad review, it doesn’t sting so badly in a sea of 100 5-star reviews. Overall ratings and star rankings won’t drop as easily, and suddenly, the problematic negative review’s credibility tanks. We can’t prevent negative reviews — warranted or unwarranted — but we can prevent them from making a big dent in our reputation.

In many cases, client feedback is a good thing. If it’s positive feedback, then we know we are doing a good job and our teams can take pride in our meaningful work. Everyone needs that affirmation, especially when times are tough, so working to earn more positive reviews is well worth the effort.

Even when the feedback isn’t so great, it can be constructive. Perhaps there’s a workflow change you can make to help meet client needs, or set client expectations to promote understanding.

When we proactively reach out to clients for feedback, we give them an opportunity to privately share feedback and impart valuable insights.

Consider setting up a proactive review system with one or more of these ideas:

  • Use an app — An app like Vet2Pet can be used to send review requests, giving you an opportunity to push positive reviews online and the opportunity to address negative reviews before they’re publicly visible.
  • Incorporate a review request in post-visit surveys — When your clients are filling out their surveys after an annual visit, for example, encourage them to publish their review (with the exception of Yelp).
  • Share positive reviews — Share recent positive reviews regularly on social media, with a direct link to your review site encouraging viewers to also share their feedback.
  • Call your clients to action — Embed links to your review sites in your email signature with a call-to-action phrase, such as “Share your feedback!” or “Tell us how we did!”

4. Put a process in place

When days are crazy and schedules are tight, responding to reviews often gets pushed to the wayside. But when new and existing clients see that the practice only responds to negative reviews, they don’t see that your practice values good feedback. We’re inadvertently rewarding and reinforcing the wrong type of clients and feedback with our attention. Ensure you give those positive reviews some love, too! Whether you prefer to create a weekly task or respond to reviews as they come to your inbox, write out a protocol so everyone on the team knows who is responsible for monitoring and responding to reviews, on what channel, and how frequently.

Do you find it hard to come up with creative responses to positive reviews? Keep a Google Doc template of five to six response frameworks to get you started, and swap out pet names, owner names, and your plans to share the review. Examples include, “Thanks for sharing your story! We’re honored to care for Fido and look forward to his next visit!,” or “We love getting feedback like this! We’ll be sure to share this with our entire team at this week’s staff meeting—it will make their day!”

5. Be thankful and celebrate the wins

Focus on the positive and don’t let the bad reviews get you down. By being proactive about earning reviews and making it easier for clients to leave them, you’ll have more “wins” and gratitude to share with every team member. Here are a few ideas to ensure that these positive reviews can make an uplifting impact on the entire team:

  • Show them off — Print out all the positive reviews and display them on a bulletin board or in the breakroom.
  • Cherish good reviews — Add reviews that specifically mention a team member to a notebook or digital photo book as a keepsake.
  • Include the team — Share the reviews on team communication channels (e.g., staff-only closed Facebook group, Slack channel).
  • Share the love — Read the top five reviews at your next team meeting!

Struggling to manage your online reviews? If online reviews are a practice pain point you’d like to solve, turn to technology to help. Schedule a demo of the Vetsource platform.

Caitlin DeWilde, DVM

Caitlin DeWilde, DVM

Caitlin DeWilde, DVM is a practicing veterinarian graduate from the University of Illinois and is the founder of The Social DVM, a consulting firm devoted to helping veterinary professionals learn, manage and grow their social media and online reputation.

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