Monday, January 30, 2012
What is your virtual reputation? If it is bad, that’s bad. If you don’t know, that’s worse. Currently, the number two consumer use of the internet is searching for health care information. Number two… that’s not a typo. What does that mean? If you’re a provider organization in a competitive market, what your customers (consumers, stakeholder groups, etc) can and cannot find about you online (“your virtual reputation”) will play a huge role in your future sustainability and success.
In the near future, online brands and virtual reputations will garner a lot more attention than they do now. Why? Consumer empowerment and consumer-driven decision-making are transforming the marketing landscape. And, we’re all still figuring out how to make it work. Earlier this month, we ran a story on how a service provider’s negative online review went from bad to worse (see Suit Challenges Health Care Professionals Right To Block Negative Online Patient Reviews of Their Services ). And similar stories—where an organization requires a pre-service privacy agreement, the customer posts a negative review anyway, everything descends into a mess of lawsuits—seem to be common these days (see Customer Bites Retailer? That’s the Argument in The New York Times).
Obviously the best way to eliminate negative online reviews isn’t to force customers to sign confidentiality agreements—it’s to make sure your customer had a good experience and was satisfied with the services you provided in the first place. However, we all know that it isn’t possible to satisfy everyone all of the time, so unhappy customers are going to be a part (hopefully a rare part) of doing business.
The best way to avoid negative online reviews is to address customer concerns before they have a chance to go home and log onto their computers. Taking the initiative and the time to address customer concerns at the time of service is an extremely effective customer service practice. Even if the customer didn’t have a positive experience, they will leave feeling as though you are concerned about their needs; in most situations, this is enough to make a customer happy.
However, if you do receive uncomplimentary comments online, remember that reacting badly serves only to amplify the customer’s complaints. If you find yourself as the recipient of a negative online review, keep these points in minds:
This is an opportunity: Just because the review is negative, doesn’t mean you should react negatively to it. Accept it as honest “medicine” that can help you improve your services.
Elicit constructive feedback: If the reviewer cared enough to post a negative review, they may also be willing to offer you constructive feedback. Developing a further relationship with the customer may lead them to soften their initial review.
When all else fails, focus on good reviews: No one wants a bad review, but lots of good reviews can help alleviate the potential damage and make that negative review look out of place, and untrustworthy.
If receiving anonymous, possibly unrealistic negative reviews still seems unfair – maybe it is. But it is the new reality for health care service provider organizations as more and more customers are measuring performance (see I’m Shocked That Looks Really Matter all members).
Marketing Manager, OPEN MINDS
P.S. If you want to learn more about creating a positive relationship with your consumers, join me in June in New Orleans for the OPEN MINDS Planning & Innovation Institute for my session, “A New Way To Consider Marketing: How To Use ‘Sticky Marketing’ To Engage Consumers.”