The Bumpy Rollercoaster of Emotions Dealing with Reputation & Yelp

First off I want to apologize for not posting sooner as for those who know me know that I am always connected, always working and I never shut down.  I spent 10 days in St. Maarten over Christmas and New Years and promised myself that I would not do any work while on vacation and I actually kept my word.  For my subscribers and for those who have emailed me I want to wish everyone a Happy New Year. I envision exciting things for Reputation Matters in 2015 and look forward to sharing them with you. If you like this let me know and more importantly tell your friends to subscribe.  Now onto this weeks blog post….

Happy New Year 2015

In my last blog post I talk about the roller coaster of emotions when dealing with reputation by describing real life experiences that occurred in my office from a negative perspective.  Now I want to talk about the great things that can occur when it comes to your reputation.  In the last post there was an incident that I related about a negative review left on Yelp by a patient of mine.  Unfortunately even though the patient had a limited presence on Yelp with only 8 reviews and zero friends her negative review never got filtered (or not recommended) by Yelp.  FYI , I will be spending a lot of time talking about Yelp and their business practices in future posts.   From my perspective the reason why it has not been filtered is that is a very detailed explanation of her visit regardless of whether it is true or not.  As I have pointed out before the best defense against a negative review is more positives.  When I receive a negative I start asking other patients who I know have had a great experience in the office to post feedback for us.  If you ask 10 you may get one or two to post.  In my office we actually use a software program that I helped develop to facilitate the process of collecting and sharing the reviews.  If you would like more information about it, please do not hesitate to contact me ( I will also talk about the software in future posts).  What I did not expect but it is great when it happens is that a loyal patient of yours comes to your defense and posts an unsolicited review in defense of your office.  One week after City L posted her negative Yelp review, Mike A posted a review in defense of me.  Here is his post….

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It felt so good when I was alerted via my numerous reporting software that Mike went out of his way to counteract the negative review left for my office. Yelp believe it or not filtered his review but I am working with a company has proven time and time again that they can get negatives filtered and positives out of the filter and a week later it appeared out of the filter and my rating went up from 2 1/2 stars to 3 stars.  You can see that Mike had 5 friends and an amazing 168 reviews.  He is what you would consider a Yelper (someone who is active on Yelp with a lot of reviews and/or friends).  These are the people you want to focus on when leaving reviews on Yelp.  If the reviewer has minimal friends and/or minimal reviews you can expect that the review will get filtered.  Like it or not you need to play by Yelps rules.  If you have a Yelp review that is not left by an actual patient for example a husband of the patient, friend, etc Yelp will take it down if you let them know as Yelp states that all reviews must be left by actual patients.  I have gone on a Yelp rant which was not the direction I was looking to take.

The point I was trying to make is if you make reputation a culture in your office and are active in social media your followers will come to your defense and help combat negativity that gets posted online.  I will repeat that you need to proactive and not reactive when it comes to reputation.

Almost every day a new patients come to my office and mentions to me that the reason they chose my office was because my “reviews”, I also mentioned that my reputation helps patients trust me more.  The same day the patient who left the negative Yelp review was in, a new patient came in and I want to show you how powerful reputation is.

When I reviewed Mel’s health history this is what I found….. for the question who may we thank for this referral , his answer…. All those who provided good reviews.

 

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A little background on Mel, he had not been to a dentist in almost 10 years and was coming in for an evaluation.  My hygienist saw him and as expected he had moderate to advance periodontal disease requiring scaling and root planing.  His insurance was very limited but after explaining to him what he needed done and reviewing the cost associated he said the magic work, no problem, whatever it takes, I trust you. When I hear that I always like to further the discussion and he told me he had done a lot of research before choosing my office and although my prices were higher mostly everyone who had written reviews about my office said the same thing and he believed them.  Mel proceeded to have his scalings done and a few days later he referred his wife to my office ( a personal word of mouth referral).  Turns out she chose not to have treatment done but would rather go back to India to save some money.  Mel also referred his brother to my office and he should be coming in this week for an initial exam and I would assume that he the trust factor has already started with him based on what Mel has told me.  At the end of the day regardless of the bad experience that someone had in my office my online reputation was responsible for getting patients to do treatment.  This is a daily event in my office and the same can occur in your office if you make reputation a priority.  I left that night with a smile on my face knowing that my reputation matters.

 

If You Build It They Will Come

I consult with many dentists about the power of reputation and building one of their most valuable assets and time and time again they want to know how I am so effective in getting my patients to write stories about their experiences online.  It’s very simple, my office culture revolves around reputation and simply stated I ask my patients for feedback about their experiences in my office.

I will use my recent trip to St. Maarten over the Christmas and New Year’s break as an example of how this idea of asking your patient, clients, customers, etc will pay dividends in return simply by uttering a few words.  I have traveled a lot for business reasons over the past 5 years but I have not really taken a long vacation other than some cruises where everything takes places on a ship and even most of the activities are scheduled through the shore excursions so when I had almost 10 days on an island able to make my own schedule I did not realize how important reputation was to those business until I got there.

The most important and visible site to these business is of course Trip Advisor and in my various conversation with the business owners of restaurants, attractions, lodging, etc this site could make or break their business.  Overall we had a fabulous time in St. Maarten although a couple of meals were substandard in my opinion.  Each and every time we went for a meal, snorkeled, zip-lined or went looking for that amazing pastry shop on the French side of the island we were either asked, given a card, emailed a request to post a review about my experiences.  I obviously had conversations with the business owners whenever possible about what I did other than practice dentistry.  Many of them were candid and upfront with me  that Trip Advisor would either make or break their business.  One business in particular, a company that charters snorkeling and tours of the island explained in detail a couple of instances where customers have had issues and left bad reviews and his ranking on Trip Advisor dropped and low and behold a couple of days he did not have charters, in fact the day that we booked, we ended up having our own private charter.  We had a great time (one of the best of our entire trip) and what do you think the very first thing I did when I returned from the activity was to post about my great experience I had while on the excursion.  All over this particular boat as well as in the office they had signs up asking to review the business.  The business owner personally responded to the review that I left and thanked me for describing my experiences which made me feel like he actually listened.  When we go back we plan to use his services again.    He also described to me a couple of instances where he had responded to some public reviews that were negative and it made things worse for his business.  It was interesting hearing this from him as it was something that i have been breaching to dentists forever.  I would never respond to a negative review as it could potentially harm your business more than the actual review itself.  The best defense against a negative review is to flood the internet with positives on reviews sites like Google and Yelp which highly rank when someone Google’s your business.

One of the more interesting ways a business asked or at least put themselves in front of you was a company that you could rent paddle boards and kayaks while on Pinel Island.  Here is what they handed out to customers who rented items from them.

As you can see from the photo I took they not only ask for a review on Trip Advisor but they cover almost every base of social media from Facebook, to checking in on Foursquare, sharing a photo on Instagram, pinning on Pinterest and joining their circle on Google +.  I think all business should be doing something like that as they are great ways to connect with your patients, clients, customers and continue to market to them via what Seth Godin termed “permission based marketing”.

Kevin Costner starred in Field of Dreams and the famous line out of that movie is “If you build it they will come”.  I love this when it comes to reputation marketing as if you make marketing your reputation a priority, gather a ton of reviews from your clients and basically overwhelm the internet with positivity about your business Google will rank you higher because they trust your business more and more than likely the phone will start ringing as according to many surveys 88% of consumers read online reviews before they choose to use a business.

I covered a lot of different ideas in this blog about not only asking for feedback, responding to positive but not negative reviews and building an amazing reputation that will attract a ton of new business.  The key to all of this is collecting the reviews and it all starts with a simple phrase that opens the door for many things.  The phrase that pays ….Can your provide feedback about our services ?  Give it a try the next day in your office and see how it goes. It will open your eyes like nothing has before.  Till next time which I promise will be sooner than later.  Remember reputation matters…

Cautionary Tales of Negative Reviews

I was recently alerted by my Facebook news feed (of course, many of my colleagues use it as their main source of news) that there is a dental office in London who is threatening to sue a patient who left a bad review on Yelp about her experiences in their office. If you have not read the story here is a link to it.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2934801/Patient-posted-bad-review-dentist-Yelp-sued-125-000-practice-legal-slammed-poor-substitute-customer-service.html

In case you do not want to read the story here is a recap of what the story is about (cliff notes version).

  • Dental customer Allison Dore posted a negative review of dental practice
  • Disappointed with the service, she posted a review on Yelp, headed ‘Terrible Service – Avoid at all costs’ and gave them just one star.
  • The dental office responded by suing her for £125,000 damages plus costs
  • The firm’s actions have been condemned by business listings and Yelp
  • B Dental, in Islington, disputed the review and claimed it was defamatory

Here is a screenshot of the review

As you can see from the screenshot above, Allison has never left a review on Yelp before and only has zero friends, she is not a Yelper and if I was consulting with this dental office as I am with almost 200 now I would have told them to relax, take a deep breath and don’t worry as it more than likely would have been “filtered” by Yelp as they from upon casual users providing feedback about their experiences. Even with all the commotion that this review caused Allison’s review was in fact filtered and is not even visible unless you click on the not recommended reviews which most won’t even look at. Now look at what has happened. Lawsuits, international attention, agita for all parties involved, …everything and anything you would not want.

Here is another review from their page:

If Erin had left the bad review as someone who has 40 friends and 123 reviews (in other words she is a YELPER) I would have been a little more concerned but the last thing you want to do is sue or threaten to sue a patient who has given you a bad review. This story has made national news and has brought a ton of negative attention to the dental office. If you look further into the filtered reviews you will see that they have 9 filtered reviews, a number of negatives have been left since Allison left her review and 6 positives that were older ones filtered as the patients were not Yelpers. The interesting thing is that 23 reviews have been removed completely as they have violated Yelp’s Terms and Conditions (most likely they were not patients and were only commenting on the actions of the the dental office). As more and more people hear about this story I can guarantee that number will rise.

When B Dental found this review what they should of done was try and contact the patient about the experiences they had offline as not to make it such a public spectacle. Instead they had their attorneys threaten to sue the patient and claimed “The review has had, and continues to have, a significant financial impact on our business. We cannot allow that damage to our business to continue”. They added ‘A review such as yours puts our practice and our employees at genuine risk. It affects the livelihoods of dentists, nurses and supporting staff. Nurses and staff with families, youg children and mortgages.’. Are you freakin kidding me? Absolutely amazes me that the office would respond they way they did.

Scared of being sued Allison took her review down but left a note that she did so due to the threat of legal action. She they received another letter demanding this note be removed too. ‘In return they offered to refund £185 of the initial £384 fee I paid as long as I agree never to mention B Dental again. But I felt bullied and couldn’t agree never to speak about them again.’

The damage this has caused is multi-factorial

The patient: states ‘When I left that review I did so honestly. But this has turned into an utter nightmare. There is no way I could pay these damages and the worry of it all has been so huge I am barely sleeping.’

The office has caused permanent damage to themselves and the livelihoods of the dentists, nurses ans the supporting staff that they talk about in the response from the attorney in my opinion by fighting free speech. They have caused the Streisand Effect for their office and have drawn unwanted attention whereas if they did nothing the review would have been taken down. Word to the wise….DO NOT EVEN CONSIDER SUING A PATIENT WHO HAS LEFT YOU A BAD REVIEW.

Future patients will be turned off by the entire story and worry that they will not be able to provide feedback or they will feel bullied into only writing something positive for fear of legal action.

Consumers in general will use this as a cautionary tale to anyone putting a review on a website that there might be a high price to pay for their freedom of speech.

Yelp’s comment about the entire case is interesting ‘Businesses that choose to sue customers to silence them rather than address their comments often bring additional unwanted attention to the original criticism. Litigation isn’t a very good substitute for customer service. I couldn’t agree more with them although I don’t like Yelp’s business practices in general I certainly don’t reccomend suing a patient.

On top of it all the dental office has not responded to anyone requesting comment. What a complete and utter disaster. I am curious to see what things look like in 6 months, 1 year and beyond. It would be a good case study to see the ramifications of a decision like this. As most know, negative reviews should not be a hinderance to your business. They make your other reviews looks real and authentic. The very best defense against a negative review is overwhelming them with positive feedback from your patients or customers to overwhelm that negative review. Being practive rather than reactice is the name of the game.

There have been other cases within the last few years of how this type of action has destroyed businesses in fact a dental office. Case in point……

Meet Dr Stacy Makhnevich – http://www.yelp.com/biz/stacy-makhnevich-dds-new-york, she called herself “The Classical Singer Dentist of New York”

Stacy Makhnevich, used a from called a Mutual Privacy Agreement from a company called Medical Justice, to make patients agree to assign the copyright on any online reviews they might later write over to the doctor or dentist. This struck many as of questionable legality and even more questionable ethically speaking. Medical Justice – after reciving much criticism – has completely changed its model (and name) and has urged doctors and dentists not to use its earlier forms. However, Makhnevich, actuallys end one patient an invoice for $100/day, claimed $85,000 in damages, and asked for $25,000 in “general damages for fraud” (sending the patient a prepared legal complaint with that amount” after he posted negative reviews on Yelp and other sites. The patient, Robert Lee, filed a class action lawsuit in response. Makhnevich also sought to force Yelp to take down the review with a DMCA notice, but the company refused to do so.

For more information about this case https://www.techdirt.com/blog/?tag=stacy+makhnevich

I can tell you that this dentist is no longer in business from this, her office has closed and she is nowhere to be found

http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/07/dentist-who-used-copyright-to-silence-her-patients-is-on-the-run/

This is the Streisand Effect gone bonkers.

To make sure everyone is clear….

DO NOT sue a patient for a negative review

DO NOT make your patient sign a mutual privacy agreement or anything else that gives your business copyright over reviews online

DO ask your happy patients for feedback about their experiences

DO make reputation a culture in your office

DO welcome criticism

DO remember that reputation is your most valuable asset and you can take control of it

There are tons of other examples of businesses that have handle negative feedback poorly and I hope that you follow what I recommend rather than what Stacy and B Dental did which is to bring unwanted attention to their business with drastic consequences for their livelihoods. They should have called me or at least follow my advice. If you have any questions on how to take your reputation to the next level send me an email or call me, I would be happy to help and as always please remember that Reputation Matters.