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Welcome to 2014.  With the New Year I’m sure you’ve looked at many different ways to improve your practice.  Protecting your online reputation should be at the top of that list.  A lot of ophthalmologists I speak with express massive frustration with the current online review landscape.  Would you agree?

No matter how good your LASIK marketing is, if a handful of previous patients (or not even patients at all) post bogus reviews, they may strike fear into the hearts of potential new patients.  Driving them into the hands of your competitors.

This just isn’t right.  And I’m writing today to give you some actionable items to help you manage and protect your reputation online.

There are a number of online review sites out there that you need to keep an eye on.  But for the sake of this post, I’m going to map out a plan for the biggest online review site you have to deal with, Yelp.  In my opinion, they’re online bullies to local businesses.

Don’t believe me?  Just look at their own Yelp rating from small business owners of just 2 1/2 stars here:

lasik marketing

And here’s why:   If you have a negative LASIK review that you in fact know is false, contacting Yelp to have it removed is almost impossible.  If you try to reach anyone at Yelp by phone you’ll get a machine that says they don’t offer phone support.  And if you’re lucky enough to get a response from an email, they’ll refer you to their FAQ page.  Which pretty much says, “tough luck.”  And “respond to it.”  As taken from their own site:

lasik marketing

So unless that false patient admits to not having LASIK at your practice or uses a racial slur, that negative review is not coming down.

How To Take Back Control Of Your Practice From Yelp.

1.  Claim Your Ophthalmology Practice.

Search your name and practice name on Yelp.  For example search both, “Dr. John Doe,” and “Doe Ophthalmology.”  If you find your practice, and you have not claimed it, click the “claim this business,” button and follow the prompts.  You’ll want to claim your business so that you can get the notifications to reply to a negative review right away.

If you search your practice and don’t find yourself, set one up.  This is far better to do than not creating one at all.  Otherwise, a Yelp reviewer can actually create a business profile for you, just to leave a negative review.  Ridiculous, I know.  The main reason to set this up is so that a negative Yelp review doesn’t sit there for months before you even know it exists.

2.  Fill Out Your Yelp Business Profile Accurately.  

Filling out your Yelp business profile with the correct name, address, phone, etc. ensures that your practice is found by those who are looking to post positive reviews.  You also want to double check you have an active email address set up for the alerts to be sure you’re notified every time a new review comes in.  Either positive or negative.

3.  Respond To Reviews Immediately.

It’s important to respond timely.  However, do allow yourself some time to cool down first.  Someone just bad mouthed how you make your living.  Of course it’s going to upset you.  Take a walk.  Clear your head prior to going to the keyboard.  Because there’s nothing worse than getting into an online scuffle publicly, let someone else read your post prior to submitting it.  Most of us can’t see that our words are snarling.  Even after we’ve tried to tone it down.

4.  Use The Sandwich Approach When Responding To Reviews

When you do respond be sure you’re sandwiching the rebuttal between positive notes from you.

For example,

  • Begin the post positive by first thanking them for coming to your practice.
  • Then write your rebuttal.  Remain positive, but don’t be afraid of calling them out on what was incorrect about the the situation.
  • End on a positive note.  Let them know you welcome the opportunity to serve them again.

Other Yelp users will see this and regain their trust in you.

Follow the above steps to take back control of your online reputation from Yelp in 2014.

To your practice,

Nick

PS – A lot of doctors ask when it’s time to take legal action against a negative review.  I’m not an attorney nor do I play one on TV.  So I unfortunately don’t have the ability to help you there and if you do have legal questions about online reviews, I would just suggest speaking to your attorney.

PPS – Have you had any issues with online reviews?  Leave me a comment below and let me know!