Dental practices large and small today need to think differently about how they grow their business. Dentistry has become increasingly competitive, driven by aging demographics, consolidation and bundled offerings featuring multiple disciplines under the same roof.
Attracting new customers and retaining existing ones means focusing not only on quality care, attentive customer service and positive patient experiences. It also requires a focus on reputation management.
Reputation management is a form of marketing that monitors online reviews and ratings, collects and manages positive reviews from customers and repurposes that information for maximum impact. It’s an approach that recognizes the changing role of consumers today in driving the message. You need your patients to be spreading the word, not just verbally but also via digital channels.
Potential customers are looking at online reviews for dental care just as they are to find a good restaurant or bicycle helmet, by doing lots of research on the internet. According to a recent study, an increasing percentage of people are using reviews to choose a medical provider. Among the findings:
Managing your online reputation requires some up-front work and ongoing management. Here are some of the most important steps.
1. Claiming Your Online Space
Having your domain name registered is an obvious first step for any business. However, you also need to gain ownership of your online presence on sites such as Yelp, Facebook and other review sites, both those that are broadly available and those that are specific to health care, such as Vitals, RateMDs and HealthGrades.
Local online directory management is important too. You want to ensure that your business listing is correct in Google, Bing and other search engine sites. Having accurate local business listings ensures that your current and accurate information is displayed when people search for your practice specifically or in broader searches like “dentists near me.”
You want your listings to be consistent across all search engines. NAP (name, address, phone) consistency ensures that search engines that cross-reference against other search results know it’s your business.
2. Facilitate Review Generation
Your current patients are an invaluable part of your online marketing and reputation. Find ways for your patients to easily leave a review, either via in-office tablets, follow-up emails and surveys. Search engines look at not only how many reviews you have but also how recent those reviews have been created. That’s why it’s important to have a consistent process in place to methodically ask patients and thank them for leaving reviews.
You often need to comply with guidelines on review sites to ensure you are feeding reviews appropriately. And, of course, you want to remain HIPAA-compliant and protect patient confidentiality when asking for reviews.
3. Respond to Online Reviews
Where appropriate, you’ll want to respond to reviews. However, there are some clear do’s and don’t’s when it comes to responding. Most importantly, think of a negative review as a learning experience and an opportunity for your practice to get better.
Some other Do’s:
Understandably, some dentists may are reluctant to encourage online feedback. However, seeing this work as an opportunity has many benefits. “Making patient experience data publicly available has the potential to improve quality and engage patients as better-informed consumers,” wrote researchers about their recent study of views on rating websites. “Patients clearly desire this information.”
Making sense of online reputation management is imperative for dentists today. At NOVA Computer Solutions, we help dental practices make sense of the technologies available for sound practice management, data and system security and best practices. See how NOVA can help your practice develop the right IT solution and schedule an initial consultation today.
As a consultant to dental practices, I help my clients maximize what can be done with their technology to maximize production and profit.