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Effective Ways for Veterinary Practices to Manage Their Reputation Online

Effective Ways for Veterinary Practices to Manage Their Reputation Online
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As in any business, a good online reputation is important for the success of your veterinary clinic. The digital age has changed the way we make decisions about what products or services we’re likely to purchase. Often, our first impression of a business is their Google listing, their website, and/or their social media profile. You can be sure that potential clients will research what others are saying about your practice online, and while you may feel confident about the quality of your service, that might not be reflected in your online reviews. 

The good news is that there are several ways you can build and protect your online reputation.

Why does your online reputation matter?

Because so much of our lives revolves around the internet, your online presence is typically the first impression you’ll make on a potential new customer. 

Choosing a veterinarian to care for a beloved pet requires high levels of trust, and pet owners want to do everything they can to make the right decision. That means they will likely do a fair amount of online research before choosing a veterinarian. Today, due diligence consists of checking sites like Google, Yelp, Angie’s List, and social media sites like Facebook or Instagram to compare different clinics and find out what other people have to say about them.  

Your online reputation can guide people’s opinions of your practice and determine whether they  will want to do business with you. This means that negative reviews can sully your reputation and drive business away. And negative reviews are not an uncommon problem for vet clinics. In veterinary medicine, emotions can run high. In the throes of a difficult or painful situation, people may leave a strongly worded review of your clinic that is without context, or just plain untrue. And due to the phenomenon known as negativity bias, it only takes one bad review to outweigh a handful of positive ones. 

Here are some ways you can take control of your online reputation and put your best foot forward. 

Claim your business listings

First and foremost, claim your business listings on Google, Yelp, Microsoft Bing, Facebook, and other relevant directories (though Google is the most important). For one thing, claiming your online profiles ensures that your name, address, phone number, and business hours are accurate and up to date. Outdated online information about your business can make you look out of touch or unreliable; this alone can be enough to cause potential customers frustration and result in lost business. But more importantly, claiming and setting up your profiles allows you to monitor what is being said about your business. Once your profiles are set up, monitor them regularly for new reviews. 

Ask for reviews

One of the best ways to build your online reputation is by getting reviews from your happy clients. While negative reviews and comments can be powerful, they become weaker when overwhelmed by positive ones. You can ask in person, in an email, in digital newsletters, or put a sign in the lobby of your office. You can even send out post-visit texts with links to online review sites. 

Testimonials from your existing clients are extremely valuable, so it’s worth making the effort to obtain them. Positive reviews, particularly on your Google business profile, will not only instill confidence in potential clients, but will also help your business to rank in the ever-competitive search results. What’s more, feedback from happy pet parents can and should be shared with your entire team to boost morale and show them how much their work is appreciated. 

Note: You should never incentivize reviews or solicit them from friends and family, as this is a violation of many review platforms’ terms of service. 

Respond to negative reviews (and positive reviews)

It’s practically inevitable that you’ll receive negative feedback at some point in the life of your business. In fact, 1 in 5 veterinarians have been targeted or have worked with someone who has experienced negative online feedback on social media. Negative online reviews and comments can be painful; people are much more brutal on the internet than they tend to be in real life. It can hurt to see your name, your business, or your staff dragged through the mud, especially if you feel the criticism is unfair. When this happens, it’s important that you do the following:

  • Stay calm.
  • Stay professional.
  • Don’t ignore it.

While you might be tempted to ignore the bad review, or to fight back against the person who posted it, your best bet is to acknowledge it in a professional manner. While you may not be able to win over the disgruntled client, other potential clients will see that you value feedback and care enough to respond. How should you respond to a negative review? While every situation is unique, the general rule of thumb is to keep a professional yet compassionate tone, and to attempt to move the conversation offline in order to resolve the problem (if applicable). Of course, it’s best to avoid getting into specifics in an online forum. 

If an online review or comment crosses the line in a manner you feel is abusive, constitutes harassment, or otherwise violates a platform’s content standards, you can attempt to flag it for removal. 

Respond to positive reviews, too! Thanking your clients in a timely manner when they leave positive feedback shows that you care and that you’re responsive.  

In some cases, a negative review can alert you to legitimate problems within your practice, and give you the opportunity to to address them. Even if there aren’t glaring issues, providing superior customer service consistently is one of the best ways to safeguard your reputation. Treat customer service as the responsibility of every member of your staff, from doctors to the front receptionist. 

Improve customer service

In some cases, a negative review can alert you to legitimate problems within your practice, and give you the opportunity to to address them. Even if there aren’t glaring issues, providing superior customer service consistently is one of the best ways to safeguard your reputation. Treat customer service as the responsibility of every member of your staff, from doctors to the front receptionist. 

Positive content

Your online reputation is about more than reviews alone. You can tell the world about who you are by sharing content about your business, your employees, and the people and pets you serve on social media or on your website (with appropriate permissions of course). You might write a blog about seasonal pet care tips; post staff spotlights to introduce your audience to the caring humans on your team; or share photos of your own pets. This kind of content will allow you to connect with potential clients and curate your online identity. 

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