It happens. Despite your efforts, good or bad, you get what you feel is a ‘bad review on Google‘ or another consumer website, like Yelp. So the first thing you might ask yourself, your Administrator or business development team for your doctors office, dental practice or veterinarian service, is what can I to remove a “bad review” from Google?
Here is a brief overview of the DOs and DON’Ts of removing customer reviews from Google.
Firstly, you need to NEVER react when you’re angry about not getting a perfect review. If you work in medicine, no doubt you are an over-achiever on many counts. It takes so many years to get through medical school or other professional training regimes, that primarily only dedicated perfectionists get through.
What this means to a perfectionist: Google, Facebook or Yelp reviews that are less than 5-star reviews might sting. But they are actually your customer’s legitimate experience with you. This is information you DO not want to dismiss, get angry over or react negatively to — this information is gold. It can help you not only retain the currently dissatisfied client, patient or customer, but it can improve your service levels so get fewer of them in the future.
NEVER react to a bad review from a customer from ego and anger. You will only make it worse.
You’ll also decrease your legitimate options for a revision
Remember, when you use a rating system such as Google, the whole intention of the review system is that it is consumer driven. It relies on honest feedback of a variety of experiences, from a variety of consumers — not just the ones who love you and who you seek out 5-star reviews from. This means that customers get to hear from the public, not the owner, about what their customers thought of them and their service levels.
Platforms such as Google’s review system loses all credibility when a business owner attempts to ‘manipulate’ legitimate reviews. You can’t only ask for 5-star reviews and then intimidate, harass or attack anyone who doesn’t give you 5-full-stars.
The fact is that no two clients are alike, no two experiences are alike, and a dissatisfied client is exactly that. Here’s your chance to turn it around and leave them with a good impression – not reaffirming they were correct in leaving you a less than 5 star review.
These consumer rating situations are important for getting client feedback. But to try to filter your ratings, using what’s called a gating or ‘gatekeeping’ approach – insulting customers, threatening them with defamation lawsuits and more, is not only against the rules of Google’s rating system, it’s against consumer laws and most likely, the Communication standards and Codes of your Governing body.
Rule #1: So the first rule is to NEVER react to a less-favourable review in anger.
If you fly off the handle in irate anger at your customer, you will only worsen the situation. You’ll have less chance of the review being revised, and you could be in breach of numerous Ethic Codes, Communication Codes and more with your Board of Governors (the Medical Board, Dental Board or Veterinarian Board). Or whatever industry you serve, hairdressers, beauty salons, cosmetic injecting clinics, plastic surgery clinics, and more.
Instead, the first rule for handling customer reviews you’d like to see removed or revised, is this.
Delegate it to a customer service expert, one who isn’t likely to inflame the situation. If your team isn’t trained to do this, then you’re going to be in strife. The person who contacts the customer should be in an elevated position, and ideally the owner if the practice is less than 20 staff members.
But the person who interacts with an already upset customer needs expert training and experience in customer service excellence.
They need expertise and experience in handling customers who were so frustrated or disappointed with your services (or anything else about your business) that they wrote a review, because they felt they were not served or perhaps they felt they didn’t get the promised value of your products and/or services.
Or were misquoted and surprised at the bill (this happens a lot and can be prevented with good communication about ‘quote estimates’ versus ‘it will cost you this.’ The best thing you can do is to set a fixed price, and some may take you less time and some more, but it evens out in the longer run. If you do this, then you’ll avoid about 50% or more of ‘bad reviews’.
You need someone who will NOT inflame the situation. Ideally that’s you, the Practice Owner. You have the best chance as the client mostly wants to be heard by the top member, or get an apology (often the solution is rather easy, but people who are angry dig in and worsen the situation. This not only doesn’t work, it could lead to legal ramifications, Google penalties, and more.
But if the complaint is about your personality, sometimes your top customer service member will have a better chance of listening to the customer and easing the situation than you will. In surgery clinics, for example, Surgeons can sometimes be blunt. But these blunt Surgeons may have very sharp and clean surgical utensils, and they might be excellent Surgeons. Sometimes some of the best Surgeons are the best at surgery, but not 100% at customer relations (clients, today, expect both, so if this is you, you should work on your soft skills through formal training in patient-doctor communication methods).
Patients want both excellence in surgical techniques as well as excellence in ‘bedside’ manners. Both are important.
Customer Service Excellence: Being the Best Surgeon, Doctor, Veterinarian or Cosmetic Injector
But some Surgeon’s seem incapable — or unwilling — to take time to improve their communication skills or tact. They should never stop trying to learn them, though. Patient-Doctor communication is a PIVOTAL component of a successful surgery and successful reputation.
In these cases, which are not uncommon; the Practice Manager often is the better customer liaison on a review or phone complaint. But only if the Practice Manager is an expert in consumer relations and patient rapport.
In this case, someone other than the owner might be able to possible inspire the patient or customer to revise their review. But it’s actually against all codes and regulations to try to coerce customers in relation to their reviews; or to actively attempt to manipulate Google’s review system.
These systems only work if the reviews are honest; not if they’re being ‘gated’ by a company of firm. The system, to work effectively, is there for the good and the less than good reviews.
That’s what makes a service rating system by consumers accurate versus a ‘gamed’ and ‘gated’ review system controlled by the business owner or Surgeon.
If someone has over 60 reviews, and they’re all 5 stars? Beware. It’s a sure sign of gaming the system and manipulating reviews. If you see this, check out their competition.
If other practices in that person’s sector have a few 4-star, 3-star, 2-star and 1-star ratings, it shows these other practices are confident enough to not manipulate the system using intimidation tactics or abusing and threatening customers who leave less than favourable reviews.
Average Customer Reviews – How many stars?
- On average, a person will get at least one three-star or four-star review for every 20 to 30 reviews
- This is still quite favourable, even a 3 star review is simply that the service wasn’t great but wasn’t the worst it could be.
- It can vary depending on the industry, sometimes it will be at least one 3-star or 4-star review for every 5 or 10 5-star reviews
Note: Don’t assign this task to a junior staff member or a person who isn’t superbly experienced at building customer rapport and handling reviews and/or customer complaints.
If you have a temper that is uncontrollable, you need to make sure someone else is with you when you phone the client, and guides you and helps interrupt if you become defensive or angry and threatening (which has legal ramifications also and can get you totally kicked off of google).
Rule #2: Reach out and try your hardest to listen to the review and feedback from your customer’s perspective.
This is hard for perfectionists to do. Yes, someone telling you they didn’t feel your services (or customer service, as is often the case) isn’t perfect can be confronting for people who can’t accept honest feedback.
But your first aim is always to understand the customer from their perspective. They must be heard, and you must listen, without defence. Sometimes a simple apology and explanation will do — most often all the customer wants is an apology and recognition their expectations weren’t met.
But listening and understanding the patient and/or customer’s perspective is an absolute requirement if you hope they’ll be inspired to revise their review.
And again, this is NOT recommended. Attempting to manipulate a customer review system is known as gaming the system. It’s against Google’s code of ethics and can get you into major strife with Google. Other review systems like Yelp and Facebook are much the same.
Instead, it does pay off to let the customer know you do care, and don’t be ‘penny wise and pound foolish’ by digging in. Most educated customers reading reviews will get suspicious if they see too many 5-star reviews and not a single 4-star or 3-star. They know that in the real world, despite people trying to do their best, things happen.
Keep your perspective. Keep service in mind, keep the lifetime value of the customer and the people they might refer to you if you ease their pain and peace of mine using respectful approaches to their review.
Only communicate with the client when you are calm and ready to listen from their perspective. Never phone or email a client in a harassing, intimidating or threatening way — learn to calm down, talk with or email the client very respectfully, and allow them to express themselves further so that you understand (a) what their initial review relates to, in terms of a service gap or misunderstanding about a price, etc.; (b) what they’d most appreciate from you to ease their mind; and (c) how you can retain them as a customer if they are a reasonable person who is open to that idea.
Ask the customer what they want; and see if you can provide that.
Often it’s a simple apology, or instead of a refund if they feel they were overcharged, offer them a gift of a product or service (or a gift voucher) towards a product you have a good profit margin on. Or that may have the extra benefit of converting them to that product or service as well as your other products or services.
Most customers who write reviews that aren’t as favourable as you’d like, simply want acknowledgement that the expected service levels weren’t provided.
If you can’t accept that NO professional service will be 100% perfect all of the time, and that not every customer will share your views about yourself — then you’ve got a serious syndrome that indicates you should probably consult with a professional therapist. Service excellence is important; but that means recognising not every customer will feel they’ve gotten perfect service — and if you handle the situation properly, they’ll become even MORE loyal, so it’s well, well worth a try.
Can you legally ask a client to remove or revise a bad review, or less-favourable review?
No, not really. They have every legal right to express their experiences. To seek revisions (gatekeeping public reviews from customers) is actually against all platform codes, the spirit of the review system, AND most Consumer Protection laws.
If you do want to gently probe about a revision, then you should preface it by humbly acknowledging that you are not legally permitted to ask them to revise a review, but if they felt they could reconsider it, you’d be most appreciative.
To demand, threaten, intimidate or harass a person for a less than 5-star review of your Medical, Dental, Veterinarian or Cosmetic Surgery clinic can have ramifications you’d rather not experience.
Rule #3: Get your team professionally trained in customer service excellence and in handling a phone complaint or request for additional service.
Of the rules, this is probably the most important one, from a preventative perspective.
And as a medical professional, dentist, cosmetic injector, plastic surgeon or veterinarian, we all know PREVENTION is always a better approach than a CURE (especially if you fly off the handle and worsen the situation versus simply listening to your customer, acknowledging their perspective, communicating respectfully and seeing what can be resolved or solved with simple polite conversations).
Again, a lot of less-than-favourable reviews are related to dismissive team members who fail to listen to the customer or empathise with their experience; and quite a few relate to unexpected costs of services and/or the service delivery experience including timing and depth of communication. This is a generalisation across all industries, by the way.
For instance, in elective surgery practices, many less-than-favourable experiences and reviews relate to the patient having far higher out-of-pocket costs for their surgical procedure, despite being Insured, when undertaking a major surgery procedure. While sometimes this is an unexpected occurrence beyond the Surgeon’s control, surprise expenses can be often be prevented (avoided) by clear, up-front consideration.
This indicates your practice is likely to need to review its pre-surgery consultation methods. It indicates that your practice may need better upfront communication so the client or patient knows exactly what to expect in terms of costs.
While every surgery is different – some take hours, some take minutes – it will balance out if you can come up with a fixed-fee estimate and clearly state the other charges (Fluids, Anaesthesia, dressings, follow-up visits, etc). I strongly recommend quoting and delivering most surgeries at a fixed and fair cost; knowing some may take more of your time, and some less of your time, and that the hassles it saves you in terms of your professional reputation are well-worth this approach.
But the other half of reviews often has to do with how the customer feels they have been treated, often by front-end staff OR by the professional practitioner. It’s either been “I feel special and cared for as a client” or “I felt dismissed or ignored as a client” or somewhere inbetween. If it’s not the former (feeling special, cared for and respected) then you need to review your service levels.
And most likely, you need to review your staffing and personnel training. Do you have adequate numbers of personnel on the clock to handle your patient’s needs without them feeling overwhelmed and stressed, and unlikely to be at their best when communicating with your patients? Have your team been trained and incentivised to offer the highest excellence in terms of service levels, honest communication and patient respect?
And let’s face it – medical, dental, veterinarian clinics and cosmetic surgery centres are often very busy.
It’s easy for an overwhelmed staff member to be inconsiderate, inappropriately dismissive, or rude to your patients and clients. Buf if you have adequate numbers of personnel (inadequate personnel often leads to higher levels of complaints and/or less than favourable reviews), you have trained and rewarded them for customer service excellence, then you’ll probably have fewer issues with an unfavourable review.
You’ll have fewer opportunities to follow these rules in relation to gently suggesting, after hearing the customer’s experience and doing all in your power to retain them as a client; a review revision.
The most important things you can do about a less-than-favourable review, in summary, are:
- Accept that even the most excellent of Surgeons or Medical Professionals are not perfect at communication; or delivery; and you WILL have customers who felt their expectations for service quality (or product quality, costs or time delivery) weren’t met.
- When you’re calm, respectfully and pleasantly attempt to engage with the customer (and have your Customer Service expert with you on that call) and first seek to UNDERSTAND, not to be understood.
- Gently acknowledge you are not permitted to request a revision of their review; and in no way use intimidating language, threats, or other forms of coercion. You could gently and humbly mention you would be most appreciative if the customer considered if their review might still apply; but you cannot ask for this to happen.
- Gaming the system is simply not on, and trying to intimidate an unhappy client is against your practice codes and against the spirit of ALL online customer review or online service rating systems.