Best Practices for Handling Negative Online Reviews the Right Way

It’s something you’ve been dreading: a bad online review of your practice. No matter the platform it was left on, it’s now public record. But worst of all, negative reviews generally only tell one side of the story, leaving you to deal with the fallout. 

Don’t despair. These things happen to just about every business from time to time. But as long as you take the right approach, you can still maintain your business’ reputation. So remember, take a deep breath and know there are plenty of things you can do about it.


1 | Decide if the Review Needs a Response

There is a difference between a review with minor complaints that can often be ignored and those that are downright vicious. 

  • If what they are saying is completely false, some platforms allow you to have it removed, such as Google. It’s important to note that you should not rely on disputing reviews alone as you might need significant evidence for the removal to actually happen. 
  • However, if what they have posted is mostly true and there is some wrongdoing on your part, this might be the one to publicly reply to. (Just don’t get into the he said/she said scenario.) 
  • If what is said is true and it’s something that is of genuine concern, own it and commit to changing. Then follow up by reaching back out again at a later date. 


2 | Gather the Facts and Collect Your Thoughts

So you have determined that the review needs your response. It’s key that you don’t reply in the heat of the moment, but instead take time to gather the facts and collect your thoughts, including getting input from others involved. Jot down your notes of the situation so that you have the story straight on your end. 


When crafting your reply:

  • Thank the person for bringing this to your attention.
  • Address legitimate concerns and work to constructively resolve the issue.
  • Leave emotions out to help de-escalate the situation and show yourself as level-headed and professional.
  • Put a name with your reply as well as contact information so they can get in touch if necessary, or ask to direct message you if the platform allows it.


3 | Reply: Privately vs. Publicly

Now it’s time to actually reply to the review, but you need to decide if you reply privately, publicly or both. 


Replying Privately:

Sometimes a minor issue can be resolved with a quick phone call or email as long as you are comfortable with this approach and how good you are at keeping your cool in the moment during a heated situation. Some sites, such as Yelp, allow you to reply directly to reviewers, which is also good for minor issues. Just remember to use your best judgment.


If a resolution has been reached, mention to the person that you’d appreciate it if they would update their review accordingly, but never ask them to take the review down. This can feel pushy and like you want to sweep it under the rug. 


Replying Publicly:

Public replies can have pros and cons. A drawback of a public reply is that it can easily trigger the reviewer to continue to reply in an even worse manner; some people just don’t want a resolution. On the other hand, public replies can give you an opportunity to show others reading the reviews that you care enough to fix the issue. 


It’s important to understand that with public replies, winning the argument is not the goal. Instead, aim for a resolution that satisfies the complaint, remedies your online reputation, and doesn’t lash out at the reviewer. Some tips for writing a public reply:

  • Keep it professional, and thank the reviewer for reaching out
  • Don’t get personal
  • Address legitimate concerns
  • Keep it short and sweet
  • Provide a way for the reviewer to get in touch with you to continue the discussion


Final Thoughts

Online reviews can be especially helpful with marketing when they are positive, but sometimes people can just be plain mean. If you have a lot of positive reviews, one negative one will barely affect you. If you are having issues getting positive reviews on platforms, reach out to your current patients and ask them to review your practice. You might even consider setting up automated emails that go out after an appointment to make it easy for current patients to review you while their last appointment is fresh in their mind. 


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