I’ve seen a bit of talk recently on various forums about reviews, especially on Facebook and Google. Typical criticism of reviews comes in the form of:
- Why should I care about reviews? I know that I am good and I don’t need other people to tell me.
- Seeking out multiple reviews is narcissistic in the extreme.
- I’m not bothered about reviews, I have a real life which doesn’t exist on social media.
I absolutely understand these criticisms looking for reviews, we should absolutely be confident in our own abilities without needing other people to tell us… However that is missing the point of reviews altogether, especially as they often appear in the search results!
In order to understand this we need to understand a little about the theory of professional relationships.
Dentistry falls into the category of high credence professions. These are professions that provide a product or service with:
“…qualities that cannot be observed by the consumer after purchase, making it difficult to assess its utility.”
The ultimate high credence profession is a surgeon, not only is it often difficult to tell whether a surgical procedure was good or not, as a consumer of that service one is also usually asleep… This brings about certain issues with trust!
Dentistry has similar issues, for example a typical patient would not know if a root treatment had been done well or not, similarly, even if a patient did assess that the dental treatment wasn’t quite good enough the dentist always has the ability to justify what they do by quoting clinical knowledge which the consumer (patient) will almost certainly be unable to counteract.
This puts the provider of high credence services in a very strong position, conversely consumers of these services can feel as though they are in a weak position.
So what does this mean for a dentist?
It means that your primary source of marketing should be about building trust with patients. After that the next focus should be about reducing risk… As a sidenote, this is why I dislike the concept of sales within dentistry, this goes against the basic principle of high credence relationship marketing!
Building trust and reducing risk helps to overcome the inevitably weak position that new patients will feel in when they visit a new dentist for the first time.
So if a patient cannot assess your services directly, how do they?
Because a patient cannot identify good quality dentistry from bad quality dentistry (on the whole) they will look for extrinsic clues, such as:
- Your surgery decor. Is it clean, is it well presented, is it modern, is a professional, is it up-to-date?
- How you present yourself. Are you professional, do you explain yourself well, do you take time?
- Your team. Are they knowledgeable or do they transfer to other people all the time, are they responsive, are they well presented, do they give good customer service?
- Your communication. Is it easy to read, is it relevant to the patient, is it helpful?
- What other people say. Do other people like you, are other people happy with your services? These will often be seen by Google my business or on online review sites. This is digital word-of-mouth marketing and social proof!
And the final point is where reviews fit in, as business owners they form a vital part of your strategy to reduce risk and increase trust for new patients… Without reviews other people have no way of knowing what other people think of you, and therefore have limited ways to assess your clinical dentistry. Without this information it also limits their buying decisions and the power to decide that they want to come and see you, all deep psychological stuff!
These extrinsic clues are what the patient will use to determine your dentistry! Perhaps it shouldn’t be that way, but it is. Get over it!
Google and the search engines are becomingly increasingly good at local search results and showing customer reviews. Your dental practice will almost certainly be a local business on Google, even if you do not put it there yourself patients may be giving you good reviews… Or they may be giving you bad reviews!
Sites like yelp even allow patients to create an account for you and leave a review without you knowing anything about it unless you monitor the Internet.
Dealing with negative reviews
If you are unfortunate to get a couple of negative reviews, here is how I recommend you deal with them.